What Are Potential Facelift Side Effects?

i expect side effects would be pain but what about swelling and others from the face lift?

Doctor Answers 24

Face lift side effects will depend on the type of...

Face lift side effects will depend on the type of facelift that is performed. Face lifts exist on a continuum from the mini-facelift which can be performed rather quickly and with minimal morbidity to more extensive face lifts for more extensive aging changes. Though the risks are generally the same with any face lift, the degree of the risk varies with the more invasive the face lift.

  • Infection - anytime that the skin is broken and surgery is undertaken infection is a risk. Infections risk in the face is generally minimal and most surgeons will place their patients on antibiotics for a time around surgery to help prevent this complication.
  • Bleeding - there will be bleeding with any face lift procedure but generally is not severe enough to warrant blood transfusions or other such interventions. There is a bleeding risk anywhere from the day of surgery to several days after. At times, if bleeding occurs after surgery, the wound will have to be reexplored and the bleeding stopped. At other times, a bruise may form which may prolong healing but generally does not change the overall cosmetic result.
  • Scar - anytime that the skin is broken, a scar is created. By making the incisions in areas which hide them, face lift scars generally will heal without being able to be seen.
  • Redness of the incision lines - while healing, the inicison lines can be red for a time period. Generally, this can be hidden after the initial week or two of recovery.
  • Facial nerve injury - depending on the extent of the facelift, injury to the facial nerve can occur up to 1-2% of the time. The facial nerve is the nerve that provides motion for the face. Should injury occur, a temporary or possibly permanent asymmetry to the smile and facial expressions may occur.
  • Numbness - numbness can be expected in the areas operated on and the ear. This numbness is generally temporary, though it can be permanent.
  • Change in ear position - changes in the position of the earlobe and tragus have been reported after face lift surgery.
  • Nausea and vomitting - these can occur for the first day or two after surgery depending on the type of anesthesia administered.
  • Pain - pain does occur but is generally minimal. Most surgeons will prescribe narcotic pain medicine for several days after surgery. Most patients though describe the pain to be minimal to moderate after 1-2 days.
  • Hair loss - hair loss in the incision lines can occur. This is generally temporary but can be permanent.

As always consultation with an experienced surgeon is necessary as there are variations in the risks with each procedure and with each patient.


Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Facelift Informed Consent

Choosing a local reputable surgeon board certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery or the American Board of Plastic Surgery is a good start in having a good experience and an excellent outcome.

Informed consent is part of any procedure and involves a thorough explanation of common and rare complications associated with a procedure. The first point I discuss with my patients is the perioperative phase, which involves swelling, bruising, sutures, and wound care. Pain is typically minimal after Facelift. Nausea vomiting: we minimize use of narcotics in the intraoperative and postoperative phase, we avoid use of inhalational gases in surgery, and encourage patients to take emend (anti nausea: expensive but worth it) both before and after the procedure to minimize nausea. These are not complications, but are an inevitable part of the initial healing process.

The possibilities of bleeding, infection, and scarring are discussed. In Facelift surgery, no major blood vessels are encountered and there is minimal blood loss. Infection is very rare. A local reputable Facial Plastic Surgeon will consider your result his/her billboard and has a vested interest in minimal scarring and your satisfaction with the result. Hematoma (a clot that can occur under the skin flaps) can and does happen, even in the best of hands. If addressed promptly, it is only a temporary setback. If not addressed, adverse scarring can occur.

Facial nerve injury is the one complication that makes every patient sit up in their chair during the discussion. The analogy I describe to patients is that of the Florida Power and Light engineer that comes out to my house knowing where the power line is...... and he/she stays away from it. I give the same respect and consideration to the facial nerve, which is in a very deep plane and fairly easy to avoid injuring.

Numbness or loss of sensation in the neck and around the ears can be expected for several weeks and up to several months. Return of sensation is usually heralded by a sense of itchiness or fleeting sensations. Loss of hair in or around incisions is a possibility but should not happen with delicate tissue handling and appropriate skin tension.

Anesthesia risks: Facelift is a procedure for healthy patients. Preoperative screening, and preoperative medical clearance are a good first step. Use of an experienced Anesthesiologist or CRNA will help minimize potential problems. I currently work with a board certified Anesthesiologist for cases requiring sedation.

When considering Facelift, weigh your desires in the face of potential risks, ask questions, and make an informed decision.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 54 reviews

Potential side effects from a face-lift can be related...

Potential side effects from a face-lift can be related to the anesthesia, such as nausea and vomiting in the first 24 hours after the surgery.

Other complications include:

  • Hematoma or puddling of blood beneath the skin in the neck
  • Motor and sensory nerve loss
  • Infection
  • Poor healing

Each one of these occurs less than 1% to 2% of the time, and an experienced face-lift surgeon can minimize the potential for this occuring.

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 69 reviews

Side effects of a facelift

A facelift acutally causes very little pain. The potential risks have been well described by the other doctors. In the hands of a Board Certied Plastic Surgeon who is a facelift expert, these risks rarely become reality. Make sure you thoroughly check out the doctor and that they have been doing this for a long time as there is a steep learning curve.

Very few significant side effects after facelift

There is obviously some swelling and possibly bruising after a facelift. This is not offensive but a giveaway that an operation has been done. Surprisingly, facelift patients don't complain of much pain. So that's seldom an issue.

The incisions are well hidden and seldom a significant issue. With time, the become almost invisible. Seldom is scar revision needed after a facelfit.

Temporary numbness of the face is inevitable and slowly returns over several months. This is annoying but seldom worse than that.

Infection almost never occurs. Occasionally a hematoma needs drainage. This is not a danger but requires a trip back to the operating room.

Vincent N. Zubowicz, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Many but rare facelift risks

Facelift is a surgical procedure to improve the visible signs of aging on the face and neck. Every surgical procedure involves a certain amount of risk and it is important that you understand these risks and the possible complications associate with them;

1. Bleeding: it is possible to experience bleeding episode during or after the surgery.

2. Change in skin sensation

3. Damage to deeper structures: there is a potential for injury to deeper structures including nerves, blood vessels, muscles during any surgical procedure.

4. Skin contour irregularities: visible and palpable wrinkling of skin can occur. Residual skin irregularities at the end of the incisions are always a possibility.

5. Skin discoloration/swelling: bruising and swelling, skin near surgical site can appear lighter or darker than surrounding skin.

6. Skin sensitivity: itching, tenderness or exaggerated responses to hot or cold

7. Scarring

8. Sutures

9. Delayed healing

10. Hair loss

11. Asymmetry: there can be a variation from one side to the other in the results obtained from a facelift procedure

12. Nerve injuries

13. Seroma

14. Pain Cardiac and pulmonary complications

All of these are rare but the risk is there. Our role is to keep these risks to minimum.

Side Effects

Hello.  This is a very important question.  It would be possible to list all the potential complications here but I really think this is a question that should be put to your surgeon.

In my opinion, select a surgeon whom you feel comfortable with; one who is able to display multiple before and after photos of patients with concerns similar to yours.

Hope this is helpful.  Best wishes.

Anand G. Shah, MD
San Antonio Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Facelift side effects

Swelling and bruising is normal after a facelift and, on average, lasts about 14 days. Of course, that is an average and there are people on either side of that number. There are younger patients who only bruise for 5-7 days and there are older individuals who bruise and swell for 6 weeks but on average, 14 days is what most people get.

The amount and duration of the swelling and bruising depends on several factors such as diet before the procedure, medications, herbal supplements, activity after the procedure, age (vessels are more fragile as one ages), the extent of the procedure, other concomitant procedures adding to the bruising, habits such as smoking, and envirnomental factors such as heat, excessive sneezing or coughing, etc.

You can help bruising by increasing your intake of pineapple, arnica montana, and papaya extract; all of these have been shown to minimize bruising formation. To improve an existing bruise, consider lympatic massage by your surgeon's office, topical arnica montana, and topical vit K in addition to increasing intake of green leafy vegetables.

Hematomas, a collection of blood under the skin, even when cleared still leaves behind a residual amount of blood under the skin and can prolong the bruising period. In the end, bruising always goes away, but can be a nuisiance when it doesn't resolve as expected.

Scarring is a feared complication of facelift and your choice in a facelift specialist is especially important to minimize the stigma of a facelift.  For example, our Natural facelift is performed in a manner to decrease scarring so a person can wear their hair anyway they want.  

Other less expected risks include injury to the facial nerve, especially the branches that control the forehead and corner of mouth.  This can be avoided by going to a facelift specialist who performs facelifts every week.  Numbness is a side effect and can last up to 6 months but it is temporary and is something that every facelift patient experiences.

Mike Majmundar, MD
Atlanta Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Facelift Side Effects

Let me say this first: setting realistic expectations of any chosen procedure is one of the most important things when considering plastic surgery. I want to assure you that most face lift side effects are not life threatening, but are rather mild in occurrence.

The following are the most common face lift side effects:

  • Bruising and Swelling - These side effects are obviously noticeable during the first 24 to 48 hours following surgery but will gradually subside for the next 10 to 14 days. These are normal responses to surgery and part of the healing process. You can sleep with your head slightly elevated for a couple of days to reduce swelling. In addition, you might want to avoid activities that involve a lot of bending forward.
  • Pain and Discomfort - Mild to moderate pain is normal for a couple of days following surgery. This can be easily alleviated with oral pain relievers.
  • Tingling or Numbness Around the Surgical Site – Several face lift patients have reported tingling or numbness in the surgical site and neighboring areas of the face. These side effects are quite normal and will most likely subside over the next few weeks, in rare cases months.
  • Scarring -Scarring is a reality of any surgery. In a face lift procedure, the scar will appear pink or red for the first few months and will gradually turn into a less obvious white color. Choosing a highly experienced face lift surgeon is one of the key elements to scarring that is less noticeable following surgery.
Strict adherence to pre- and post-face lift instructions is crucial to reduce the severity or potential for the aforementioned effects.

All the best,

Dr. Carlos Chacon

What Are Potential Facelift Complications?

Facelift surgery like any other surgical procedures is expected to have some discomfort, swelling and bruising. These are not considered side affects rather normal process of healing. The degree of post-operative discomfort, bruising, and also any potential complication such as hematoma or delayed healing depends on the type of facelift and patient’s physiology. A mini-facelift that is performed with local anesthesia and oral sedation takes a shorter time to perform and has minimal complication. A full facelift under general anesthesia takes longer to perform and prone to more complications.
Most common complications associated with facelift are as follow:
1-Hematoma and seroma
2-Prolonged numbness
3- Infection
4- Delayed healing

Each one of these occurs less than 1% in my practice. In the hands of a Facial Plastic Surgeon who in is a facelift expert, these risks are very rare.

Kevin Sadati, DO
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 118 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.