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What’s the Difference Between a Facelift and a Mini Facelift?

To understand the difference between a facelift and a mini facelift, we must first define the term facelift. The procedure involves making incisions around the ear and sometimes under the chin to remove fat, tighten the muscles and lift the fascia so the rear face looks rejuvenated. When we age, the face becomes bottom heavy instead of the youthful look of a top heavy face. The facelift restores this symmetry. 

There is not much difference between a facelift and a mini facelift. In a mini facelift, our incision is a little bit shorter and the dissection, how far we go under the skin, is a bit shallower. It only enables us to tighten the fascia, but we can’t lift under it to provide as deep and as thorough a lift as the full facelift. For that reason, I’m a bit more of a fan of a deep plane facelift. However, patients like the idea of mini anything. So if I give them the choice between a mini facelift and a facelift, they’re going to tend to say, “I want the mini facelift.”

Here’s the caveat. When a patient goes through the healing and pays the fees involved in the surgery, I want them to have a procedure that is going to last several years. Every patient is different and that is what really determines the results they get from a facelift versus a mini facelift. Some patients have only a little bit of aging. They don’t have too much extra skin, too much sagging of their fascia, and/or too much looseness of their muscles. This makes them the perfect candidate for a mini facelift, but a deep plane facelift would last longer. So for them, they’ll get great results but it’s a matter of how quickly they want to come back.

On the flip side, a patient with more aging would do better with a deep plane facelift that gives a bigger lift and that lasts for more years. I’ll often see a patient from another office who is three years post facelift surgery, but they’re not happy because it’s fallen a little bit. For them, I like to perform a deep plane facelift to give them something that not only looks good but that looks good for a long time.

Patients always ask me how long it takes to heal. Many patients look at healing as happening all at once, as if they were unhealed after surgery, and then one day they were healed. That’s not how it happens. Patients improve day by day. Healing is a process. Pain usually subsides within 48 hours and I tell most of my patients that they could go back out to work in about 10 days to a week. They won’t look great, but they’ll look okay.

In three to four weeks, they look really good, but they’re still not finished. In six weeks, they look very, very good, but again, they’re not finished. I generally tell patients to wait six weeks to go to an important event that requires pictures, such as a wedding. Patients might still experience some numbness at six weeks but will continue to heal and look even better. 

How long after a facelift will I look normal?

The timing of when you’ll look normal after a facelift depends on what your idea of normalcy is. Patients who work from home and only have to be seen on screen should be okay within 7 days. Those venturing out to the market might be better to wait 10 to 14 days.

It really depends on whether the patient had a facelift or a mini facelift and whether we added any other procedures, such as an eyelid lift or brow lift which adds more trauma resulting in more healing time. Everyone heals at different rates, so if I perform the same procedure on two different people, they will heal at different speeds. What I try to do is give people the range so that they can work with it and know what to expect.

Facelifts are fabulous procedures if you want them and if they’re right for you. I’d love to hear from you. Call my office so that I can look at your face and we can decide together on what is the best treatment for you.

About Dr. Jonathan Sykes

Dr. Jonathan Sykes is a world-famous expert plastic surgeon who performs all cosmetic and functional plastic surgery procedures on the face and neck. He is a past president of The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and served on their Board of Directors for over 10 years. He is also a Professor Emeritus in Facial Plastic Surgery from UC Davis Medical Center, and the former Director of Facial Plastic Surgery at that institution.

He is known as the expert’s expert, and is often called to consult and advise other plastic surgeons in both Northern California and Beverly Hills. He has a special interest in eyelid and browlift surgery, facial rejuvenation surgery including facelifts, and rhinoplasty. He also has a particular interest in facial feminization surgery. Have questions? Email Dr.Sykes at: [email protected]