Cheek and Neck Lift: A Personal Journey

The best way to share our knowledge of facial plastic surgery is to tell an inside story. At age 47, Smith Cosmetic Surgery practice manager Lorayn Bowers recently went through her very own cheek and neck lift. Read on about her personal experience.

Why did I decide to have a lower facelift in my late forties? Several reasons. The first is I had watched my face change noticeably over the last year. The youthful fullness that once contoured my upper cheeks had begun to slide, creating fullness across my jaw line.

From heart to square face

facial plastic surgery patient after cheek and neck liftGone was my heart-shaped face. In its place was a square. The face smiling back at me in pictures was not the face I saw in my mind’s eye. True, others weren’t seeing it the way I was: “What, why? I don’t think you need a facelift!” they said.

But I saw the change, and Dr. Smith, when I asked for his honest opinion, agreed. With his stamp of approval and the support of the Smith Cosmetic Surgery staff my decision was made.

In Dr. Brent J. Smith I trust

Second, my trust in Dr. Smith was the catalyst in my decision. Without him I would have done nothing, because I wouldn’t have known what I needed or who I could trust.

I’ve had the absolute honor of watching firsthand someone I believe to be the world’s best facial plastic surgeon craft life-altering results for thousands of women and men in my more than eight years with the practice. To this day I am mesmerized by the way Dr. Smith can take a face that has given way to the inevitable effects of aging and meticulously revert it to the youthful face that the person once knew. Yet never into a face unrecognizable to them or to those who know and love them. And never, ever into a face that looked “plastic.”

A pioneer for our patients

Third, as practice manager for Smith Cosmetic Surgery I feel a responsibility to advocate for what we do. If our patients can see my trust in Dr. Smith through his work on my face then they will trust him as well. I believe that by pioneering this for others I am giving them permission to consider it for themselves.

If you’re shying away from the camera, avoiding mirrors or downplaying your importance because of your changing appearance then through me, and other members of our staff who’ve also had work from Dr. Smith, you will see that you can do something about it. Facial plastic surgery is okay, as long as it’s done right. Shouldn’t we all be able to maintain our faces the way we color our hair or change the shape of our body with diet, exercise and, yes, even plastic surgery?

Prepping and setting expectations for surgery

Having said that, it’s important to understand that facial plastic surgery is just that: surgery. And just like any surgery it requires thought and preparation.

Watching cheek and neck lifts performed on others every day certainly did not make me immune to its challenges, both physical and mental. Like everyone else, I expected to wake up in recovery transformed without that healing phase that goes along with surgery.

Now I feel confident telling patients that if they choose to move forward with Dr. Smith that I can essentially outline what their process will be. I had to walk myself through my own advice during my recovery, and I have done my best to outline those truths for you here—no longer through secondhand experience, but from my own. And guess what? As it turns out it was right on target with what I’ve heard others saying for almost nine years. So let’s begin.

Day of: You won’t like it, but you will survive

When you get home from surgery your head will be wrapped tightly. You won’t like this, but you will survive it. Eat something once you are settled into your healing position and take a pain pill.

This is not the time to count calories or to be stubborn about taking pain medication. Eat whatever you can tolerate and will fit into your mouth, which at this point isn’t opening as far as you’re used to. For me it was instant mashed potatoes and oatmeal. Consistency is the most important at this point. You need solid, but soft food. Chewing regular food again will come, so be patient.

Ice the exposed skin of your face and neck, which will bring you comfort. Aside from that, try to relax and sleep, getting up only to use the bathroom. And don’t be stalwart: Rely on your caregiver.

Days 1 & 2: The wrap is off, but feels like it’s still on

 

You tackled the first night and you get the head wrap off—hallelujah! But don’t be fooled. This is the beginning, not the end. It’s time to hunker down for the next few days and heal. You will be surprised that when the head wrap is removed you will have the sensation of still wearing it. Frankly this was shocking to me. It felt tight from my temple down to the base of my neck. This will cause you some anxiety, but trust me it will soften over the next 48 hours.

I’m still on soft, bland foods and brushing my teeth with a children’s toothbrush. I’m icing constantly and still taking my pain medication to help me relax. These first days are when positive reinforcement from yourself, friends and family, and our office is the most important.

At this point my goal is getting to day 3, when I get to wash my hair. Over the years I’ve always recognized this time to be a turning point in our patients’ recovery. I even begged Dr. Smith to let me wash it before day 3 but he said no. No special treatment—just follow your surgery booklet. It will guide you. Continue icing constantly at this point; it brings great comfort.

Day 3: A complete attitude change today

True to form, this is the turning point. I’m beginning to feel human again. My hair is clean and my appetite is returning. I can feel the tightness in my neck and around my ears beginning to soften. I have my first coffee since the day before surgery and I’m brushing my teeth with an adult toothbrush again.

I’m not chewing solid food yet, but I’m off the pain meds and taking Tylenol only at bedtime. It’s a complete attitude change. I’m still icing consistently. Typically at this point we’ll begin to see what kind of bruiser you are. Remember, everyone is different in this regard.

Days 4-6: Continued progress is comforting

I had my first latte—simple pleasures! I’m able to turn my head more each day. The swelling has gone down some, although in its place is a yellowish bruising on the sides of my face and neck.

I’m still icing, especially at night after using the muscles during the day. Sleeping at an angle is a bit of a challenge, but I understand the need and it keeps me from rolling over on my ears. At this point my energy level has improved, too, but I remind myself to take it easy to avoid any setbacks. It’s not an easy feat for someone who can’t sit still.

At this point I’m concentrating on cleaning my sutures and surgical clips. I know I have a ways to go, but I already love the shape that my face and neck are taking. 

Day 7: Stitches are out!

one week post-op Facelift

Voila! Stitches are out and half of the surgical clips have been removed from in front of and behind my ears. It didn’t hurt a bit and I cannot believe the progress in one short week!  I’ll look forward to the remaining surgical clips being removed in three more days.

2 weeks post op: Out to dinner

We tell our patients that they can be “go out to dinner ready” just two weeks after a facelift. Two weeks for me happened to fall on my husband’s birthday and sure enough we went out to dinner. At this point I am still aware of my healing—tightness at the jaw line and in the neck, numbness and soreness around my ears, but even though I’m slightly more swollen than I eventually will be, I look great!  Definitely not like someone who had a lower facelift two weeks ago. 

3 weeks later: Thinking about exercising again

I’m still sleeping elevated. My ears are tender and I don’t feel like I can put weight on them at night if I should happen to roll on to my side. This isn’t all bad. I should be sleeping on my back anyway. They say this will help with aging of the skin.

My swelling has subsided greatly and I absolutely love the shape of my jaw line. Added bonus: Dr. Smith gave me the cutest earlobes—the best they’ve ever looked!

We say that patients can begin working out again at three weeks, but honestly I can understand not wanting to start up again for another week or possibly two. I’ve needed to do some work around the office such as moving computers around. I notice that my neck and jaw line become tight as I exert myself. I am going to use my elliptical next week, but I’ll definitely be starting out slow.

Next up: having my grays covered and wearing earrings again, which is allowed one month following surgery.

My friends, I hope you find this insight into the healing process after a facelift helpful. I hope it gives you confidence to move forward. Because in the end, the sacrifices I made to feel more like myself than ever before were overwhelmingly worth it.