Do I Need A Mini or Full Facelift?

Thinking about facial rejuvenation? With the variety of procedures under the “facelift” umbrella, you are wise to learn about your full range of options! Surgical facelifts are known for turning back the clock about a decade, but there are also mini facelifts and other variations for those who want a lasting solution but simply aren’t in need of more substantial lifting. Below, we explain how each procedure is performed, and the concerns that may make you a good candidate for each.

What is involved in a full, traditional facelift?

A full or “traditional” facelift typically involves lifting in the mid- to lower face and neck—although each patient is unique and often a brow lift or eyelid lift is added to rejuvenate the upper face at the same time. For a traditional facelift, incisions are placed near the hairline, extending down to the temple area and ending at the bottom of the ears. The deeper layer of facial muscles is repositioned and sutured in a firmer, more youthful looking position, reducing excess skin and raising drooping facial features.

Combined procedures:

  • It’s wise to include facial fat grafting to replace lost volume in the cheeks and other areas given plump, healthy tissue is a key marker of youth.
  • Laser skin resurfacing can top off results by improving skin quality and texture.
  • lip lift may be desired as part of a facelift to address a sagging upper lip and help it appear more youthful, prominent, and shapely.

Candidates for a full facelift

Men and women who are suitable candidates typically have significant drooping skin, jowls, lines, and wrinkles on the face and neck; these may be present throughout the face as a whole or solely visible in the mid to lower face and neck. Patients may be anywhere from their late 30s to their 70s and beyond.

What is a mini facelift?

In a mini facelift, tiny incisions are made by the ears. Through these incisions, your facial plastic surgeon lifts the skin, improving the appearance of the jowls, mouth, and jawline. This process creates beautiful, subtle enhancements that look very natural. A mini facelift is a less complicated procedure than a full facelift: the lower face, jaw line, and nasolabial folds are lifted. This procedure can also address a small amount of laxity in the neck, if needed.

Candidates for a mini facelift

You may be a good candidate for a mini facelift if your signs of aging are primarily located in the jowls, chin, and around the mouth (the “nasolabial” folds). If you still have decent skin elasticity—meaning your skin bounces back somewhat easily—then a mini facelift is typically sufficient to rejuvenate your look and can take about 5 years off of your appearance. However, if you want a significant reduction in loose skin or improvement in your neck, then a mini facelift may not be sufficient for you.

What’s different about getting a mini vs. a full facelift?

Facelifts are typically performed under general anesthesia, so you are asleep for the duration of surgery. Incisions are often made from the hairline down to the base of the ears, and recovery can take about 2 weeks away from work.

With a mini facelift, incisions are primarily located around the ears, and it is not always necessary to use general anesthesia; instead, you may have a mini lift under local anesthesia with a sedative pill and anesthetic injections to numb the surgical area. Further, avoiding general anesthesia’s side effects helps to speed along recovery, which, after a mini facelift, only takes about 1 week total.

While the recovery time for a mini facelift is somewhat shorter than a full facelift, avoid overly weighing a matter of days’ difference in recovery. Consider the long-term effect of the procedure you choose and base your choice of procedure on what you really want: a few more days of downtime won’t matter if you enjoy the results for decades!

Who is a good candidate for a facelift?

As with any plastic surgery, it’s important to be a non-smoker with realistic expectations for what a facelift can do: the full facelift is said to “turn back the clock” by about 10-15 years, and the mini by about 5 years. If you have the surgery when you are younger, your results tend to be more resilient than if you have the surgery once signs of aging have progressed and significant skin laxity is present. Remember that your skin will continue to age—though the effect of turning back the clock should help you to continue to look younger than you would have without a facial plastic surgery procedure.

Other types of face lifting

While mini and full facelifts are the most talked-about, there’s more nuance to the variation in facial rejuvenation procedures! Every single person’s face is unique, both in its anatomy and the physiology of aging. Because of this, we also sometimes perform what we call mid-facelifts and lower facelifts, depending on your goals and anatomy—or the newly popular technique called the “ponytail facelift.”


Using similar techniques to the mini facelift, a mid-facelift addresses any hollow or lax areas around the cheekbones and the upper jaw and jowl areas. We define the mid-face as the area beginning at the lower eyelid and including the nose, cheeks, and ears.

Lower facelift

The term “lower facelift” refers to a traditional facelift tuned to treat the lower face, including the lips, chin, jowls, and neck. (This is distinct from full-face rejuvenation with added procedures such as facelift and brow lift, which is often necessary for a balanced, natural-looking result.)

Ponytail facelift

While it is not yet a ‘textbook’ procedure, and therefore may be used to refer to various techniques by different surgeons, a “ponytail” facelift usually treats wrinkles in the lower- to mid-face and jawline, similar to a mini facelift. A ponytail lift is usually less extensive, with minimal scars and a shorter recovery. It is ideal for younger patients with limited signs of aging who do not yet need neck or brow rejuvenation as part of their lift.

Schedule your consultation with the pros! The board certified plastic surgeons at Plastic Surgery Associated in Santa Rosa and Marin County have decades of combined experience providing the most natural-looking results. They are ready to spend time meeting with you, learning about your concerns and goals, and discussing your face lifting options. Schedule your personal consultation today by calling 707-532-2381, or contact us online and one of our friendly staff will reach out to you.

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