What Can I Expect from a Cheek Lift

Dr. Mark E. Richards

by Dr. Mark E. Richards | August 16, 2010 @ 03:00PM

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In plastic surgery, there are procedures targeted at restoring the structure or contour of the face and those designed to tighten the skin. This is an important difference. When we are young, the cheek fat is situated high in the cheeks by the cheekbones. As we age, the fat and soft tissues beneath the facial skin gradually fall. They come to rest in undesirable locations. In the cheeks, the tissues that were once on the cheekbones slide down to the folds by the nose and mouth (the "nasolabial" folds). This makes the cheeks appear flat and the folds by the nose and mouth deepen. The same process pushes down the corners of the mouth, making it appear sad or angry. The downward pull of the cheek fat stretches the lower eyelids as well, making them appear drawn, sunken, and tired.

A traditional facelift will not address these concerns adequately and is frequently more surgery than is needed.

A cheek lift, or mid facelift, will correct such aging in the cheeks. Repositioning the facial fat restores the fullness and contours of the cheek. It gives the face a more youthful balance and restores curves to the cheeks so as to make your face oval in shape once again. All of this is accomplished by work beneath the skin through small incisions inside the mouth and within the hairline behind the temples. There is no need to shave or trim your hair. The incision will be carefully made to minimize any disruption of the hair follicles. The skin is not tightened or adjusted. Elevation of the cheek tissues lifts the lower eyelid skin back to where it should be positioned. Since the lower eyelid skin has been stretched by the downward descent of the cheeks, the eyelid skin is treated with a resurfacing laser to smooth and shrink it. The laser shrinks the lower eyelid skin approximately 30 percent so that it is smooth and taut once the cheeks are in proper position.

This is a more conservative approach to restoring the facial architecture and gives you a more refreshed look without a radical change in appearance. The best candidates for a cheek lift are women or men who are bothered by these typical complaints:

  • Deepening of the folds or creases by the nose and mouth
  • Flattening of the cheeks
  • Sunken or fallen facial appearance
  • A sad, angry, or down turned appearance of the mouth
  • Hollows or bags beneath the eyes

This procedure can be performed alone or in conjunction with other procedures of the face, such as a facelift or eyelid surgery. Everyone's face ages at a different pace. Factors such as family heritage, sun exposure, and weight changes may influence facial aging. Typical patients range in age from 30s, 40s, and  upward. In your initial consultation, the plastic surgeon will evaluate your health, determine the changes that have occurred in your face, and carefully assess your skin tone. Be sure to tell your surgeon if you smoke, and if you're taking any medications, including vitamins or other drugs, or using products or prescriptions on your facial skin. Be frank in discussing your expectations with your surgeon. Communicate your complaints about the changes in your facial appearance. He/She will be equally frank with you, describing your alternatives and the risks and limitations of each.

It may be recommended that you condition the skin of the lower eyelids and/or cheeks prior to surgery to shorten your recovery and maximize your results. For patients with certain skin types, the pigment cells need to be stabilized and calmed prior to surgery to prevent discoloration after surgery. Your surgeon will discuss what needs to be done and the time frame for such treatments.

When evaluating your face, the surgeon may suggest treatments or procedures that you may not have considered. Remember, it is important to view the face as a whole. Each part of the face ages differently. The treated areas need to balance with the rest of your face. When you adjust one area, those adjacent sometimes need to be addressed so that the face blends together. Listen to your surgeon's suggestions and reasons for the timing of your procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If I am having a facelift, why do I need a cheek lift?

A: A facelift addresses aging changes in the lower third of the face, along the jawline. It removes jowling and gently tightens neck and facial skin. A traditional face lift does not lessen the lines by the nose and mouth or restore the curves in the cheeks. These goals can only be accomplished by a cheek lift. A cheek lift can be performed alone or in conjunction with other facial procedures, such as a facelift.

Q: Is the recovery for a cheek lift as prolonged as the recovery for a facelift? When can I resume my normal activities?

A: The recovery for a cheek lift is much shorter and much easier than the recovery for a facelift. Since there is no skin tightened or adjusted during cheek lift surgery, there are no lengthy incisions. Most patients return to normal activities in a week to 10 days.

Q: Will it be obvious to other people that I have had facial surgery?

A: Since a cheek lift gives you a more refreshed look rather than a radical change in appearance, and because there are no visible incisions, friends and acquaintances will know you look more attractive and youthful, but will not necessarily know you had surgery unless you tell them.

Q: How long will the results of a cheek lift last?

A: Your face will continue to age. It took many years for your cheek fat to slip downwards before your procedure. It will take many years for it to do so again. Significant weight changes, smoking and sun exposure may accelerate the aging of your cheeks.

Direct Inquiries to: ageless@erols.com

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