What is the difference between a neck lift and a face lift?

Face lift and neck lift are two procedures that are nearly always done in a single operation. Today I’m going to talk about the difference in the two operations, and when you might only need one vs. both.

  • Face lift: addresses only the mid-face, which is the area from your jawbone to your cheek bone (outlined in blue on the photo below). I’ve spent time in another post discussing exactly what happens during a face lift, but to summarize, the skin anterior to the ear is elevated using an incision that starts just in front of the ear and continues around to the back of the earlobe. The underlying layer of muscle and connective tissue is then tightened using suture. This is the actual “lift” that occurs. Then the skin is re-draped and any excess removed before closing the incision. face lift and neck lift locations
  • Neck lift: addresses only the anterior neck, from the just behind the ears to the midline (outlined in purple in the diagram to the left. A neck lift is done through nearly the same same incision as a face lift. The only difference is that the incision continues further behind the ear to remove the excess skin over the neck. There is also an additional incision under the chin. This incision is used to tighten the muscles along the front of the neck, and to remove any excess fat. The excess skin is then removed and the incision is closed.

From the description, I think you can see why face lifts and neck lifts are usually done together. If you have laxity (loose skin) along the jawline, then you very likely have laxity under the chin as well. I do see the rare patient, often younger, who only has laxity along the jawline. And in this patient, it may be appropriate to only do a face lift. The other time I will do only one of the two procedures is in a patient who has had prior surgery. In this case, it is common for only the neck or only the face to need a touch up.

 

Do you have a question about face lifts or neck lifts? I would love to answer your questions in the comments section.

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Disclaimer: This webpage is for general information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical illness, or give any specific medical advice. Because medical knowlege is constantly evolving, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of any information in this blog.

2 thoughts on “What is the difference between a neck lift and a face lift?

  1. Hi, I have a blob of fat just directly under my chin. I am 48. I have had it all my life, and so do my girls. We are not over weight, But it gives me the double chin look in pictures. I am very unhappy with it! Is there a simple procedure that might just suck out the fat or did I need an entire neck lift?

    Thank you!
    Dawn N.

    • Dawn,
      Thanks for your question! Liposuction is a great treatment for fat under the chin when there is not a lot of excess skin. There is also a new medication on the market, called Kybella, which dissolves fat under the chin. I don’t have any personal experience with this medication yet, but as soon as it becomes available in our area I’m sure I’ll be writing a blog post about it!

Questions? I'll do my best to answer any questions left in the comments!