Facelift surgery requires the placement of incisions on either side of the face and, in some cases, beneath the chin in order to remove excess skin, tighten the skin, and redrape the skin and fascia of the face to produce a more youthful, wrinkle and sag-free appearance.
All skin, when cut, eventually forms scars. This means that every facelift surgery results in some degree of scarring.
Various means and methods exist of reducing the size and visibility of facelift scars as we will cover in detail.
Some of these methods are temporary (such as wearing makeup or a hat), while others are solutions to the long-term reduction of the appearance of scars (such as antibiotic ointments, and scar creams).
We will cover both temporary and permanent options.
Where facelift scars form
The incisions (and the scars that later form) of a facelift run from up by the temple where they hide within the hairline, down toward and around the ear on both sides of the face. These scars are likely to be from 2-4 inches long, depending on the size of a patient’s face.
The temple-to-earlobe scars are the most obvious of a facelift’s incision points, and the scar beneath the chin is naturally difficult to detect, providing the patient doesn’t tower above the average passerby.
But a very tall patient’s height may actually be a blessing in disguise when it comes to facelift scarring, since while the under chin scar may occasionally be visible, the scars on either side of the head are rarely met at eye level.
The average facelift patient, however, is looking for ways to reduce the visibility of their facelift incisions and scars for cosmetic and other reasons.
Following are the 12 best ways to hide facelift scars:
1. Understand these basics of scars and scarring
The first step in reducing the appearance of facelift scars is understanding a few important factors about them. A couple of key misconceptions will likely cause you to accidentally do things that will impact how obvious your scars end up:
- Scars form within 14-21 days after a facelift, but will continue developing for as long as two years.
- The rapid formation of scars makes immediate action important: Sun avoidance, antibiotic cream application, careful facial movements that don’t put pressure on incisions.
- The long-term development of scars makes consistent action equally important: Scar creams, a good skincare routine (hydrating lotions and creams).
Because your facelift scars are maturing for up to two years, your skincare routine throughout this time will significantly affect what your facelift scars ultimately look like.
If you are a male (or a woman not used to a thorough skincare routine) you will want to get a little obsessive about your skincare for the next 24 months in order to make the most of your facelift.
2. Choose the right surgeon: A board-certified facial plastic surgeon whose gallery you love
A “cosmetic surgeon” recently took heat for closing facelift incisions with staples. Staples, not sutures. Board-certified plastic surgeons called the process “barbaric” and said that should never be done, particularly on the face.
(Though staples are used in parts of facelift incision closure, it was the region this surgeon was using them that was wrong: Staples are never used on the face itself.)
While that’s an extreme example of the faults that can occur when a poorly-trained non-board-certified plastic surgeon is selected, it does help convey the importance of choosing the right surgeon.
Your facial plastic surgeon should be board-certified and should have an extensive facelift gallery that you connect well with. You should like what you see, and the gallery’s images should include profile views where scarring locations are visible.
No matter the surgeon you end up selecting, they will only play a partial role in what your facelift scars end up looking like. Nevertheless, the small role they do play is extremely important. Other factors involved in scarring include genetics, your postoperative care routine, your skincare routine, and the remainder of the points listed below.
“As a plastic surgeon I can prevent a scar from having small suture tracks around it (a result of leaving the stitches in too long), from looking jagged or uneven, or from being placed in a bad location. I can’t 100 percent prevent it from thickening or widening, however.”Dr. Anthony Youn, The Age Fix
3. Wear makeup
Both men and women can use makeup to hide their facelift scars. Of course, makeup on the male face is naturally less natural than makeup on the female face, but men do just as well with it.
The best way to choose and apply the right makeup to cover your facelift scars, men, is to visit any of the many makeup stores in a mall.
MAC makeup is a popular one, and if you’ll simply tell a makeup specialist there what you’re interested in and what you’re trying to do exactly, he or she can help you choose a foundation that blends in seamlessly with the surrounding un-scarred tissue.
It’s best to allow your skin to breathe as much as possible after a facelift (while carefully avoiding direct sun exposure), so you’re better off not wearing makeup all the time, but this is an effective way to cover facelift scars at social gatherings.
4. Grow facial hair
This option is clearly appealing only to male facial plastic surgery patients. The incisions of a well-done facelift are done in such a way as to leave one’s normal hair growth uninterrupted. This means that while some hair-bearing facial skin may be removed during facelift surgery, the skin will be redraped and matched up to the incision line in such a way as to allow the normal growth of facial hair to conceal the scars.
However, it is important to consider that you may want to delay the growth of your facial hair after a facelift in order to take other actions to reduce the appearance of scars.
Silicone tape is one such technique that is more effective if a facelift patient has no facial hair in the areas where the tape is applied. The closer the tape can come into contact with your scarred skin, the better a job it can do to reduce the appearance of scars.
For most patients, using facial hair growth as a way to conceal facelift scars is probably best reserved until after the other options covered here have been tried.
If later in life you decide that you finally want to shave your beard, you’ll be thankful of the fact you took the time and care to help your scars heal as best as possible in their very early life cycle, right after your facelift.
5. Wear a baseball cap of hat
Because facelift scars begin at the temple and run through a portion of the hairline on either side of the upper face, a baseball cap or other hat will help to conceal them well. Caps should not be too snug, and they should not be worn until the incisions have fully healed. For most facelift patients, wearing a not-too-tight baseball cap or hat should become an option about 14 days after surgery.
6. Apply topical scar cream
Creams are available to help permanently reduce the appearance of scars. Many providers agree that Mederma’s Advanced Scar Gel is an excellent option for facelift scars, though some facial plastic surgeons have their own unique recommendations, or even their own product line.
Silagen is another option that works for many patients. The 100 percent pure silicone gel is applied to the scars, where it creates a protective barrier that helps to hydrate, smooth out and soften the scar.
7. Use topical antibiotic cream
Topical antibiotics allow your facelift scars to run their natural course or healing, while reducing the likeliness of infection. For 10 to 14 days after your facelift, apply an antibiotic cream like polysporin or bacitracin.
“Antibiotic ointment is applied to the incisions twice a day for 7 days.”Deep Plane Facelift, Thomas A Mustoe, M.D., Eugene Park, M.D., and Sammy Sinno, M.D.
8. Avoid prolonged sun exposure
While avoiding sun exposure doesn’t exactly sound like an effective way to reduce facelift scars, it is actually one of the best and most effective things you can do to ensure that your facelift scars heal very nicely. In fact, avoiding sun exposure entirely (not just “prolonged” sun exposure) during the first 14 days of your facelift recovery will make a night and day difference in how obvious your scars end up.
9. Avoid placing any stress or pressure on your incisions
Two separate sections of your skin were sutured together during your facelift. That incision point is now under a certain degree of tension as the skin of your face settles into its new and more youthful position.
While your surgeon should never place your facial skin alone under too much tension (as it creates an unsightly windblown look, and worsens scarring), avoiding all tension is impossible.
As your skin is healing, the connection point is under pressure and you should avoid activities that add strain to it. For facial plastic surgery, even chewing regular foods adds tension to that incision line. This is one of the reasons that a soft food diet is recommended after facial plastic surgery.
“Tension free closure is a crucial aspect of minimizing scar visibility.”Facelift and Necklift: Incision Planning, Yash J. Avashia MD and James M. Stuzin MD, 2021
Other activities that can cause unwanted tension include opening your mouth very widely, laughing, and bending over, all of which are best avoided while your incisions are healing.
As you recover, you will go through a phase where the facial movements you make are very obviously causing some tension. After that phase pases, it may seem that certain motions are no longer causing tension. This is a time for increased caution and for maintaining the same preventative measures and precautions you were doing right after surgery.
Because it may no longer feel like you are creating tension, but until your face is fully healed, these motions will continue to tug at your incisions, leading to more obvious scarring.
10. Use retinoids
Retinoids are a common skincare ingredient derived from vitamin A. In scar care and reduction, retinoids help remove the unwanted texture from facial plastic surgery scars.
11. Apply vitamin E directly to your scars
Directly applying vitamin E to your scars is the most inexpensive way to reduce their appearance and help them heal. Vitamin E, which can be applied directly from the vitamin’s capsules, will help reduce the thickness of your scars. Apply twice a day or more often, by opening a vitamin capsule and applying it directly along the line of your incisions.
12. If all else truly fails, lasers may help reduce scarring
Your facial plastic surgeon or a med spa can offer laser skincare treatments that may help reduce the appearance of facelift scars. These treatments are generally at least slightly effective but they will not be an option until after you have fully healed from surgery.
Should you desire to go the route of lasers to reduce your scars, expect to be getting once-monthly treatments for anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Over the course of treatment, the color tone and the size of your scar should improve slightly.
Because laser treatments are by far the most expensive item on this list, many patients chose not to undergo the treatment and instead substitute with some of the many other effective treatments listed here that are less expensive.
13. Follow these 20 tips for better, faster facelift recovery
As a bonus facelift scar reduction option, follow these 20 tips for better, faster facelift recovery.
Points 2, 6, 8, 10 and 14 are particularly applicable to helping you get the best facelift scars possible:
- 2) Keep your head elevated
- 6) Don’t take blood-thinning supplements or medications
- 8) Keep your face and incisions clean
- 10) Drink adequate amounts of water
- 14) Apply ice indirectly and intermittently to your face