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Facelift Surgery Before and After Photos

I'm considering face lift surgery, and I want to talk with a few different surgeons. What should I look for in facelift before and after pictures? How will I know what is good?

Doctor Answers (38)

Face lift before and after photos

A good result from a facelift is a patient who looks natural, and not like they had had a facelift. There is a link to my facelift before and after gallery below.

There is no denying the fact that 'before and after' images are the most powerful and effective means for a surgeon to communicate their aesthetic sensibility. They give the prospective patient an immediate sense of what that surgeon envisions as a favorable postoperative result, and thus allow an individual to make a relatively quick decision as to whether or not that surgical practice is one that they should investigate further. 

Prospective patients have a host of issues to consider when evaluating pre-op and postop images of cosmetic surgery patients. An outspoken plastic surgeon who is known for some keen observations is often quoted as saying that "A photograph is merely reflected light". Another telling maxim regarding cosmetic surgery photography is "Almost anything can be made to look good from at least one angle." Both of these observations speak to the fact that while such photographs should ideally communicate the true nature of a surgical outcome, there are inherent limitations to the two-dimensional nature of photography.
Look for Consistency
For this reason, as a consumer you should insist on consistency in preoperative/postoperative photography. The positioning of the subject and the size or 'aspect ratio' in the photographs should remain consistent. If one photograph appears to be taken from five feet away and the other from eight feet away, there is no way to meaningfully interpret the 'transformation'. The lighting and color saturation in all of the images should also ideally be identical, or at least comparable. If the pre-op image is in shadow and the postop image is well-illuminated, there is no way to determine how much of the postoperative 'improvement' was provided by surgical technique and how much is just better lighting. A bright flash can conceal a whole host of flaws.
You should also insist on seeing images from multiple angles, as this is the only way to get some idea of the quality of a surgical result in three dimensions when reviewing two-dimensional photographs, and to confirm that it isn't just from one direction that the result looks acceptable. The photography set-up and photographic background should be consistent. Images taken in the pre-op area in front of a bare wall with an exposed electrical outlet and the patient's gown pulled up but hanging down into the image should not inspire much confidence. Body position and facial position should also be consistent. I have seen breast lift (mastopexy) before and after photographs in which the patient's arms were at her sides in the 'before' images, and then the arms were lifted above the head in the 'after' images. Raising the arms overhead produces an instant 'breast lift', so it is impossible to objectively assess the effect of surgery in photographs where body position is inconsistent.
Likewise, if the pre-op image of a facial rejuvenation surgery patient shows a sleepy-looking person in a hospital gown at 6:30 a.m. on the morning of surgery, and the postop image shows that person in full make-up at 2:00 p.m. on the day of a follow-up appointment several months later, you have absolutely no way of accurately determining what in the 'after' photo is due to surgery and what is due to a good night's rest and some make-up. You may not be aware that all board-certified plastic surgeons receive training in photography as they are trained as surgeons, so that they have a means to accurately document and communicate their surgical planning and the results of their handiwork. I personally believe that a surgeons's photographic technique and documentation provides a person who is considering surgery a very clear statement of how organized, meticulous, compulsive and attentive to detail that surgeon is. If I were a prospective patient I would not expect any of those qualities in the operating room if I did not see them in the 'before and after' photographs. I believe that consistency and quality in photography is a reflection of consistency and quality in one's approach to patient care.

When evaluating photographs, also keep in mind the fact that many examples you see of a particular procedure may not look like you. Part of what makes the practice of plastic surgery so interesting and rewarding for me is the fact that no two patients are exactly alike, and thus each patient requires a fresh and personalized approach. Rather than trying to dissect how a particular result relates to you personally, view it in terms of that patient's particular 'starting point', and whether or not the surgical enhancement is aesthetically pleasing and natural-appearing.
Don't limit your investigation to an examination of photographs. Review the content of a cosmetic surgeon's website thoroughly, and get a feeling for that doctor's individual approach and practice philosophy.

Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

Look for the incisions in "before and after" facelift photos


A major skill in face lifting is to make inconspicuous incisions that only the surgeon and a very observant hairdresser can see, because they are hidden in the hair and not visible. Some doctors will show face lift results where you can only see the improvement in the neck and the face, but you can't see the incisions because they have the patient's hair pulled down to cover them. You should be able to clearly see the front of the ear and behind the ear in all photos so you can judge if you'll be able to wear your hair up after surgery. The careful surgeon can hide your incisions within the hair and will also preserve the hair so you don't lose your normal hair tufts.

Russell W. H. Kridel, MD
Houston Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Facelift Photos


Good for you ..a great question. And a simple answer. Look at the photos and if the patients look just like themselves but fresher, more rested, happier and more youthful with NO distortions of the natural features, you have found the facelift artist you want.  If anything about the patient after surgery photos looks like they had a facelift, say thank you and move on. If you see pictures that look like Bruce Jenner or Kenny Rogers or Wayne Newton to name a few.....RUN, don't walk, for the nearest exit.

Ronald V. DeMars, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

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Facelift pics


Its critical to look at multiple angles of the same patient before and after surgery. All should be taken with the same camera, the same lighting, and the same background.  At least a front, both sides, and oblique photos should be used.  If you only see 2 front views (before and after) a scar or asymmetry may not be visible on one of the side views.  Dates are important.  Patients often look great several months following surgery because some residual swelling can efface wrinkles.  The final result should be visible at 6 months to 1 year.  Good luck!! 

Jason R. Hess, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

facelift surgery before and after photos

 It's important  to critically look at the before and after photo gallery of your surgeon.  Here are some tips to look at when viewing a photo gallery:
1. make sure your surgeon has performed the surgery shown in all of the photographs!
2. make sure the lighting is the same in the before and after photographs
3. make sure the position of the patient is in the "chin neutral position", not with their chin down in the before pictures chin up  in the after pictures
4.  make sure the distance is the same from the camera to the patient in both the before and after photographs
5. make sure the  before pictures  have not  stripped the patient of their makeup, and after pictures are "glamorous shots"

 For many examples of our work, please see  the link below tour facelift  photo gallery

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 55 reviews

Just as in surgery, photographic technique is important


When reviewing a surgeon’s facial photo gallery, you should pay attention to the technical details of the photographs - are they cropped the same, is the patient angled the same, are they looking at the same point in the distance, is lighting the same?  Not every pre and post operative photo set will be the same due to some uncontrollable variables (patients may wear different color clothing in the pre vs post op shots, which will effect automatic exposure control and lighting on the pictures), but in general you will be able to get a feeling if the surgeon is trying to be uniform with their pictures and honest with the results. Once you see uniformity in photos, then you can assess their work.  Watch out for “cheaters” - if you notice all post op pictures have patients wearing makeup, looking upwards to improve their neck appearance, or smiling to flatten the jowls, then keep looking for other surgeons.


Michael A. Bogdan, MD, FACS
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Facelift photos


Do not get a face lift by anyone who can't show you books of results that you would be happy to have yourself. I can't even imagine asking someone to let me do their facelift and not showing them dozens of patients similar to them in age and aesthetic concerns. Any good and successful facelift surgeon has loads of good results and happy patients and should be thrilled to share them with you, if not make a quick exit to someone else. Look to see that all the patients had a "natural" looking result. Make sure the overall result addressed any noticeable aging problems. Make sure nothing looks too extreme and that all the parts seem to fit together in age and character..i.e. eyes, cheeks, brows, neck etc. You need to say to yourself " Gee, I'd love that result!", after you look at the surgeons pictures.

Richard Galitz, MD, FACS
Miami Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Beware of before and after photos


Be very careful of before and after photographs. Although they can tell you what type of work a surgeon performs, they can be quite misleading. Sometimes, surgeons will show generic before and after photographs, possibly not even patients they have performed surgery on. The photos will be of a limited number of patients and will only show the surgeon's best work. A better choice would be to see 5-10 consecutive patients. Unfortunately this is unreasonable as patients are understandably wary of sharing facial photographs.

Results from a surgery will be dependent on a number of factors including the person's age, underlying medical conditions, intrinsic and extrensic aging factors, the actual procedures performed, and the postoperative care provided the patient. To match all of these factors is very difficult.

In summary, although before and after photographs can be rather alluring, they don't tell the entire story.

D.J. Verret, MD
Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Pre & PostOperative Pictures When Selecting Plastic Surgeon


It’s important to evaluate pre and post-operative pictures whenever selecting a plastic surgeon.  It’s unlikely that you will find another patient who has your aesthetic issues, but you should be able to form an opinion of the surgeons abilities based on these pictures.

Pre and Post-operative pictures should be carefully evaluated for consistency.  It’s important that the lighting, backgrounds, patient expression, patient make up and positioning be consistent.  In addition, it’s important that pictures be shown from multiple angles including frontal, lateral and oblique views.

Finally it’s important to look at the quality of the surgeons work.  The surgeon’s attention to detail and sense of aesthetics are important.  Look for a natural refreshed look rather than a stretched, tight, wind blown look. 

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 73 reviews

Facelift Before and After Photos

When seeking a facelift consultation it is important to discuss the procedure and technique that the physician uses to perform facelifts.

Terms like quick lift, weekend lift, lifetime lift, band-aid lift, etc,  etc. etc, are just marketing terms that do not specifically tell you what time of procedure is performed. There are several different techniques that can be used for facelift surgery. Most of the modern facelift techniques involve the SMAS (the muscle layer of the face).  More advanced techniques such as the deep plane facelift will go further into the muscle layer and actually treat the fallen ligaments of the face, restoring them to a more useful position. 

Other then understanding the surgeon's technique, it is very important to see before and after photos of that surgeon's work.  Not just one or two photos, but many photos that show consistency in what you are looking to achieve.  Also, the photos should be at least 3 months after surgery or longer.  If the photo is too soon, the swelling will make things look better. By 3-6 months the swelling is mostly all gone and you can see the true results of surgery.

Again, choose a qualified surgeon that performs facelift surgery commonly and specializes in it.  Facelift surgery and recovery is a partnership between you and the surgeon, so make sure you are comfortable with them.  View many before and after photos that show results at least 3 months after surgery if not longer.  If necessary ask the surgeon if you can speak to any of their patients that had the surgery done. This should be no problem for a surgeon to provide you if they do many facelifts.  This will help you make an informed decision about your facelift surgery.

Jacob D. Steiger, MD
Boca Raton Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.