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Many Faces of a Face Lift Staff Report

Many terms are used to describe various types of face lifts. Even some plastic surgeons are confused by the proliferation of names, nicknames, trademarks and abbreviations used to describe facelifts. We present a handy chart, below, to ease the confusion.

With something like 11 million people yearly ponying up for some type of plastic surgery procedure, surgeons are always looking for ways to stand out from the crowd. One way is to offer a quicker operation -- including face lifts -- that no other surgeon seems to have.

Often those procedures are advertised as a “Weekend,” “Awake,” “Lunchtime,” “Mini,” “Scarless,” or “One-hour” face lift. Consequently, the terms can mean, and do, several things. Even the phrase, full face lift may not always be what you’re thinking.

“Always bear in mind, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all face lift,” says Valerie J. Ablaza, M.D. a board-certified plastic surgeon in Montclair, New Jersey. “Each procedure must be individualized to the patient.”

Face Lifts

For instance, the term, “full face lift,” may not be as full as it sounds because the procedure only rejuvenates the lower two-thirds of the face, tightening sagging skin on the chin, jowls and neck.

However, a face lift does not remove the wrinkles on:

  • The forehead
  • Between the eyebrows

Nor does a standard face lift remove drooping skin above and below the eyes. Additionally, the folds of skin running from the corners of the mouth toward the chin (the “Marionette lines,”) and the lines running from the outer edges of your nose to the corners of the mouth (“nasolabial folds”) are not rejuvenated. But those lines and folds are frequently associated with aging.

With dozens of names for different techniques and types of face lifts, it can be hard to know which is right for you.

Currently, quicker procedures are popular because they require less time out for patients who just don’t have two or three weeks to take off for recovery. Plus, many more people do not like the idea of being under a general anesthesia. Experts say it’s difficult to make hard and fast guidelines about recovery; the actual length of recovery from any procedure depends on the patient’s age, amount of skin tightened and the depth of the lift.

Says Dr. Ablaza: “While Contour Threads often advertises recovery in one to three days, I’ve seen patients who require seven to ten days before they look presentable to go back to work,”

Typical things a patient can do to speed the return to work:

  • Use camouflage makeup.
  • Hide the bruises with a new hairstyle and clothing like turtlenecks.

Some vitamin regimes also help while patients who workout and stay in good physical shape seem to recover faster. Recovery also goes better if smokers quit at least two months before the procedure. Smoking inhibits blood flow to the skin and can interfere with healing, causing the edges of the surgical wound to separate. If your hair is short, let it grow so the surgeon will have a lot to work with while looking for a hiding place for your scar.

Cosmetic Surgery Face Lift

“The rule in plastic surgery is, ‘You can’t get great results and have minimal recovery,” says Dr. Ablaza. “Minimal incisions and recovery times are for patients with minimal problems.”

For instance, most people who take advantage of quick recovery procedures are 30ish and 40ish-year-old patients who want a quick, refreshed look and a minimal incision. However, a 60 or 70-year-old with massive wrinkling would require a longer procedure, recovery and probably would have longer incisions.

In the early 1970s, the most common type of face lift pulled only the skin tighter but did nothing about the deeper structures in the face -- the natural fat pads, connective tissues and muscles -- which contribute to the aging effect.

Consequently, most procedures back then made the patient look “windblown” or overdone because the skin was pulled unnaturally tight. In some cases, tighter skin changed the appearance of the mouth and the eyes to such an extent, the person’s appearance was unrecognizably changed.

For actors, whose faces are their fortunes, that type face lift could be the kiss of death for a career.

Mini Face Lift?

Of course, you, like thousands of other savvy patients who read about plastic surgery, will iron out all the details of your face lift after you decide on a surgeon. (Speaking of which: please use the surgeon locator to help narrow your search.)

On your initial consultation, be sure and ask your surgeon exactly what he or she means about terms like “Mini,” “Weekend,” or “No scar,” face lifts. Experts say plastic surgeons themselves are often confused by names like a “Mini” or a “Weekend” face lift.

To get you started on your search for the facial rejuvenation that’s most appropriate for you, we’ve arranged some of the most common lift procedures for facial rejuvenation in a handy reference chart, just below, that tells you what’s included -- and what’s not -- in the most common face lifts.

Name What it does What it does NOT do

Thread lift

Various types of threads are inserted just under the skin and tightened to pull up and lift sagging tissues in the face and neck. Entry points through the skin are not incisions, but “stab” wounds.  Also known as a Feather, Contour or Aptos lift. Back to work: 3 to 5 days.                                             

Threads do not change deep lines in the forehead, the area between the eyebrows or sagging skin above and below the eyes. Some threads can be used on sagging jowls and necks.

Mid-Face lift

Performed through tiny incisions in the hairline, lower eyelids or in the mouth, the procedure gives a more youthful look by bringing fallen tissues back to the mid-face and cheek. Back on the job: four days to a week.

Same as above.

Forehead lift

Also known as a “Brow Lift.” Removes the deep worry lines on the forehead and between the eyebrows. It can be done with an endoscope. Recovery: ten days or less.

Does not rejuvenate the skin along the lower eyelids, the neck, jowls or midface. May improve the upper eyelids.


One of the “Gold Standard” face lifts, this lifts the area just under the eyes, down to including the jawline and neck. Presentable after two to three weeks.

Does not lift the skin on the forehead or midface.

Deep Plane


Also known as “subperiosteal,” the procedure separates all midface layers down to the deepest tissues from bone and places them higher where they heal in place. Offers great results but recovery requires three to five weeks.

Same as above.

*Short Scar Lift

Also known as the “Mini,” “Baby Boomer,” and “limited-incision” face lift, the procedure uses an incision that is one half the length of an SMAS Lift opening. Recovery: about two weeks.

Only helps the are below the cheek.


Refers to the shape of the incision behind the ears through which the surgeon does some form of SMAS lift. “S-Lift” can also be shorthand for a SMAS Lift. Recovery: two to three weeks.

Does not lift the forehead, the skin around the eyes. May provide some limited improvement in the neck and jaw.

Tumescent Lift

“Tumescent” (it means “swollen”) refers to lifting techniques performed under local anesthesia with I.V. sedation. The areas lifted can include forehead, eyes, mid face, jowls and neck. Recovery: depends on how many facial areas have been lifted. Usually one to three weeks.

  Depends on the areas the surgeon lifts. Experts say three hours is about the limit a patient can lay still.

Neck Lift

Removes a “turkey neck,” along with sagging skin on the jaw to provide a sharper angle under the chin. Sometimes includes liposuction and a procedure to tighten the loose muscles in the neck. Recovery: about a week.

Does not alter tissues above the jaw.

*Those terms are used interchangeably.

Sources: American Society of Plastic Surgeons; American Society of Facial and Plastic Surgeons

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