As a person ages, their skin tends to lose collagen and become looser. While some areas are easy to pass on, areas like the face and neck feel like the center focus of attention. What we often coin as a “double chin” has become the enemy in today’s beauty standards, and while we’re here to remind you that those standards are flat out ridiculous, if you so choose to pursue a solution, a neck lift presents itself as an option. Below, we break down everything there is to know before scheduling a neck lift procedure.
Meet the Expert
What Is a Neck Lift?
A neck lift is a cosmetic plastic surgery procedure that involves improving the look of the neck by removing excess fat in the area, tightening the muscles of the neck, and removing excess skin. “When people talk about a neck lift, they are generally talking about the surgical procedure that addresses fullness under the chin, platysma banding (the vertical “strings” that can appear in the neck with time), and excess skin in the neck,” Dara Liotta, MD, says. “In general though, a surgical neck lift usually also involves tightening of the lower face, and improvement in the area of the jowls and jawline.”
The invasive procedure should, of course, only be performed by a well-trained, experienced, and board-certified surgeon and requires quite a bit of recovery time. More on that later.
Before considering a neck lift, it’s important to understand the financial commitment that comes with it. “The average cost of a neck lift is $5,774 per the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2020 statistics,” shares Smita Ramanadham, MD. “This does not include facility or anesthesia fees. Factors that can cause variation in pricing are surgeon experience, geographical location, and complexity of the surgery based on the anatomy of the patient.”
Liotta shares that cost can vary enormously, “because there are many different things that may be required to achieve the end result. Surgery may include skin excision only, liposuction under the jaw, platysmaplasty, lower facelift, and even chin implant, or laser to the jaw and neck.” She notes that it can go up to between $50,000 and $60,000, marking the importance of research and consultations prior to committing.
What Are the Benefits of a Neck Lift?
- Repositions soft tissue
- Removes extra fat
- Tightens loose skin
- Reduces signs of aging
- Gives a natural-looking fix that fillers and Botox can’t provide
- Provides a long-term solution to a cosmetic issue
“Filler, Botox, and lasers can only go so far in the area of the neck,” Liotta says. “With time, adding filler to the jawline and lower face looks unnatural, and there reaches a point where none of these procedures give the same long-lasting, dramatic, natural results of surgery.”
While we are well aware that not all plastic surgery looks “natural,” the results of a neck lift tend to be the perfect amount of subtle to the average eye but satisfying to the recipients. “A neck lift truly addresses the changes that we often see in the neck with aging,” adds Ramanadham.
How to Prepare for a Neck Lift
Like any invasive surgical procedure, preparation for a neck lift is necessary. Ramanadham explains that your surgeon may require a clearance letter from your primary care doctor and basic blood work, including a normal pre-operative blood pressure. “Most would require smoking cessation for a minimum of four to six weeks prior to and after surgery, and cessation of herbal supplements or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen,” Ramanadham says. “It’s also important to plan for your recovery and ensure that you have a support system and have taken the appropriate amount of time off work so you can heal fully.”
“No alcohol for 10 days [prior],” adds Liotta.
What to Expect During a Neck Lift
As expected, prepare to be uncomfortable. Neck lift surgery can be done under general anesthesia, or depending on your exact procedure, under IV sedation. You should expect the procedure to last multiple hours, and to wake up “wrapped up like a mummy,” Liotta explains.
Often, tiny tube drains are needed after surgery to help the healing process. “We recommend 48 hours of nursing care after the procedure,” Liotta says of her practice. “And you should expect to visit the office two or three times in the week following your procedure for checkups and removal of drains and stitches.”
During the actual procedure itself, you should expect nothing more than a medically induced nap. Luckily, Liotta notes, most patients don’t complain about pain post-surgery, but rather a feeling of tightness in the following weeks. Ramanadham adds that your surgeon will likely provide a pain regimen to make you feel more comfortable in the immediate recovery period.
Before and After
Neck Lift Treatment vs. Face Lift Treatment
“The line between a neck lift and a face lift is a blurry one,” says Liotta. “Face and neck surgery are both tailored to what is required to achieve the end goal: a younger, natural-looking lower face and neck.”
While they're easy to mix up, Ramanadham notes that “oftentimes patients think that a neck lift is automatically included in a face lift. This is not always the case. The face lift addresses the changes we see in the face itself and lifts and tightens the skin and underlying supporting tissues. It does not address the neck.”
Potential Side Effects
Surgery is surgery, so unfortunately the risk of side effects alway pose threat. “As with any surgical procedure, risks include bleeding and accumulation of blood at the surgical site after surgery that may require additional procedures, infection that may require treatment, and surgical scars that may require revision,” Liotta explains.
“Risks of the procedure can include recurrent vertical banding or skin laxity, and residual fullness or laxity,” Ramanadham says. “Patients may develop fluid (seroma) or blood (hematoma) collections under the skin or may have skin loss itself. There may be nerve or saliva gland injury as well. There are many vital structures in the neck, which truly underscores the importance of seeing a surgeon who is board-certified in plastic surgery or facial plastic surgery.”
Aside from the neck-lift-specific risks, surgery risks always include long-term pain, hemorrhage, infection, injury, and death. On that note, we’ll spare you any further infomercial-esque side effects, understanding that any time you go under the knife, the list of potential issues is technically endless.
Immediate aftercare may include round-the-clock nursing care for the first 48 hours, a system many surgeons including Liotta abide by. “This is not because the procedure is particularly dangerous, but because the care you receive in the first 48 hours after surgery can be the difference between a quicker recovery and longer bruising and swelling,” Liotta says.
Once you leave supervision, your surgeon will typically give you very detailed postoperative instructions. These often include when to remove any bandages and how to clean and care for the incisions. Ramanadham explains that additional instructions may include no turning of the head or other quick, abrupt neck/head movements. They may recommend sleeping on two or three pillows without allowing the neck to flex or extend.
“Aftercare includes frequent icing, care for the incisions and drains, and maintaining appropriate dressing on the neck and face,” adds Liotta. It takes a full three to six months to heal after surgery. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be bruised and swollen for that long, but encompasses the amount of time it takes until the “final” results of surgery. The timeline simply depends on how your body heals, which can vary from person to person.
The Final Takeaway
As someone who finds the thought of surgery quite terrifying, my final takeaway has a few layers to it. Are the risks worth the reward? Truthfully, it depends.
If your neck is something that causes insecurity and you’re looking for a semi-permanent solution, this is it. Results typically last 10 years, which makes it a solid option. On the contrary, it can take almost a year to see final results.
“Unfortunately, of course, the aging process will continue,” Liotta says, explaining that a neck lift can do a lot, but defy time it can not. “Some patients are happy with just the one procedure throughout their life, and some patients feel that as the aging process continues, they want to have another lift later in life.”
Our final piece of advice: With this procedure, like any other, do it because you want to, not because society tells you you should.