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 (22)

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

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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

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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 38 reviews

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

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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 60 reviews

Side effects of a facelift

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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.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Very few significant side effects after facelift

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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 11 reviews

Many but rare facelift risks

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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.

Gregory Turowski, MD, PhD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

Facelift Side Effects

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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

Carlos O. Chacon, MD, MBA
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

What Are Potential Facelift Complications?

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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 101 reviews

Facelift risks

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Most of my patients are surprised that a facelift doesn't hurt as much as you might think and the recovery not as lengthy as you may believe.  There are risks to every operation. Such as bleeding, infection, and nerve injury.  Fortunately, there are rare.

Ronald J. Edelson, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Side Effects Following Facelift

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Facelifts are frequently performed cosmetic procedures that are associated with low complication rates.  The incidence of complications appears to be related to the aggressiveness of the surgical procedure.  When more extensive procedures are performed, a greater incidence of complications can be anticipated.

Although facelifts are considered to be extremely safe, complications may occasionally occur.  These include bleeding, hematoma formation, skin discoloration, wound healing problems, wound breakdown, loss of tissue, excess scarring, seroma formation, infection, asymmetry, numbness, facial nerve injury, ear malposition, hair loss, cardiac and pulmonary complications.

Several steps can be taken to minimize complications.  These include utilizing an accredited outpatient surgical facility, a board certified plastic surgeon and a board certified anesthesiologist.  Although, these steps won’t totally eliminate complications they will hopefully decrease their incidence.

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 90 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.