What’s the Difference Between a Neck Lift and a Facelift?

Woman sitting on couch reading magazine

In 2006, writer Nora Ephron published a collection of short stories titled I Feel Bad About My Neck, which included an essay lamenting the sagginess of her neck skin. The collection was a bestseller in part because her self-consciousness is shared by women (and men!) who believe their necks make them appear older than they are.

If you’ve been researching ways to improve the appearance of your neck, you’ve likely seen many plastic surgeons who discuss facelifts and neck lifts as a single procedure. As a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon who specializes in facelift surgery in Denver, I can assure you that not all neck lift patients also need a lower facelift—even though they are often combined.

Patients I consult with who have complaints about their necks may be good candidates for a standalone neck lift or even a nonsurgical treatment. Sagging skin and jowls, fullness under the neck, submental (under the chin) fat, neck banding, and the loss of definition along the jawline are specific concerns that require personalized treatment plans.

Neck Lift vs. Facelift

Even though these 2 procedures address some of the same concerns, a facelift involves repositioning tissue and muscle in the cheeks and jowls but won’t necessarily tighten neck skin. A neck lift is focused more exclusively on loose neck skin and doesn’t involve the cheek area.

When I perform neck lift surgery, I tighten the skin and soft tissues along the jawline. The technique is the same one I use for facelift patients—elevate the skin off the underlying soft tissue, remove excess skin, and then re-drape it without pulling it too tight. Only a single incision made beneath the chin in a natural crease is necessary for a neck lift. You can see some of my neck lift and facelift patients’ results in our photo gallery.

Do Nonsurgical Neck Tightening Treatments Work?

The development of nonsurgical alternatives to cosmetic plastic surgery is one of the most significant aesthetic trends today. That’s a positive thing because it’s best to provide the least invasive option when it’s the right approach for the patient. But it’s also important to understand that nonsurgical procedures can’t duplicate the results of cosmetic surgery.

Nonsurgical skin tightening procedures use ultrasonic or radiofrequency energy to stimulate the production of collagen, an essential element of smoother, tighter skin. For skin with significant laxity, however, these treatments may leave the patient disappointed in the results.

Is Neck Liposuction an Option?

Patients concerned about fullness in their necks, rather than loose skin or wrinkles, may be good neck liposuction candidates. Liposuction is a surgical procedure but can be performed using a local anesthetic in many cases. Neck liposuction has a number of advantages compared to nonsurgical fat reduction procedures, including its more dramatic results that are seen nearly immediately. If a patient’s neck skin is loose, though, liposuction will make the sagging appear even worse.

With many people continuing to work at home and use platforms such as Zoom to meet with colleagues, the focus on the neck’s appearance is expected to prompt more people to seek treatment. In fact, the folks at RealSelf.com say that 2021 will be the year of the neck.

If you’ve been feeling self-conscious about the appearance of your neck and are looking for a facial plastic surgeon in Denver, contact us using the online form to request a consultation. Or you can call our office at (303) 253-7686 to schedule an appointment.

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