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History of the Facelift

By dustinheringer on September 30, 2018


A woman's face in profileThere are many ways that you can look your best. When it comes to removing wrinkles and tightening sagging skin, facial plastic surgery is ideal. A facelift can reduce facial sagging and restore your overall appearance in the process. It’s still one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures at our Scottsdale, AZ office.

Many patients take for granted the history behind facial surgery procedures such as the facelift. With that in mind, Dr. Dustin Heringer and the team at Arizona Ocular and Facial Plastic Surgery would like to consider the evolution of the facelift. As you’re about to find out, the surgery dates back more than 100 years.

Precursors to the Facelift

Though technically not a facelift as we know it today, a surgery that is essentially a precursor to the facelift was performed in 1901 by Eugen Hollander in Berlin. Hollander was asked to rejuvenate the features of a Polish aristocrat, particularly lifting the skin of the cheeks and the corners of the mouth.

Hollander removed an elliptical piece of skin around the ears to tighten the skin. While the facial skin was tightened, the facial features were not technically lifted. It would take some time before such innovations were made.

1916: The First Facelift

German surgeon and former sculptor Erich Lexer is credited with performing the first facelift in 1916. Lexer’s procedure involved lifting the sagging skin of the patient’s face from the underlying layers of fat. The skin was then rewrapped and drawn back, with excess skin removed to reduce sagging. The result of this technique was a true lift, with greater results than the previous described surgical procedure.

Lexer’s technique became the prevailing facelift method for the next 60 years. While it was the best option available, it did unfortunately cause patients to have a kind of wind tunnel look about them. Regardless, it was preferable to having visible signs of aging.

Medical Innovations Thanks to WWI and WWII

As the facelift was just beginning to be performed, we should note that a number of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery innovations were made treating the wounded following WWI and WWII. Skin grafts, facial reconstructive techniques, and innovations with materials following these tragic worldwide conflicts proved essential in the evolution of aesthetic surgery as well as the advance of medical science.

1960s: The SMAS Technique

Even though Lexer’s surgery was the standard for decades, a French surgeon named Dr. Paul Tessier would help bring the facelift another step further. Tessier was the man behind the superficial muscular aponeurotic system (SMAS) facelift. This technique involved cutting deeper than the superficial layers of the skin, adjusting the muscle layer as well. This led to longer-lasting and more appealing results for patients.

1990s: The Deep Plane Facelift

Going deeper than the SMAS technique, Dr. Sam Hamra was credited with developing the deep plane facelift in the 1990s. Again, deeper adjustment of tissues meant greater potential results.

Of course, the risks of complications increased with the deep plane facelift given the work involved. Regardless, this new innovation provided even more flexibility and possibilities for plastic surgeons trying to reverse the aging process.

Where Facelifts May Be Headed in the Future

Interestingly, trends in cosmetic procedures show that patients are tending toward non-surgical facial rejuvenation first before they consider facial plastic surgery. Cosmetic injectables, skin resurfacing, and laser treatments are showing increased numbers as patients seek other ways of looking younger. That said, the facelift will remain a popular procedure, and one that plastic surgeons will continue to refine with time.

Contact Dr. Dustin Heringer

To learn more about the facelift and your many other options for facial rejuvenation and enhancement, be sure to contact an experienced cosmetic surgeon. We at Arizona Ocular and Facial Plastic Surgery are here to help. You can reach our offices in Scottsdale, Peoria, Phoenix by phone at (480) 949-5990.

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