What is the difference between a mini-facelift and a traditional facelift?

By: Dr. Sean Delaney


Generally speaking, a facelift is a surgical procedure that aims to resuspend the tissue of the lower face and neck and remove excess loose skin using incisions strategically placed around the ears. The popularity of facelifts has risen meteorically in recent years. A report by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery showed that the number of facelifts performed in the United States increased by more than 50% from 2020 to 2021.

With the increasing popularity of facelifts, multiple other variations of facelifts have begun to appear, such as the "mini-facelift," "ponytail lift," and "weekend facelift." These novel terms are typically more marketing than anything else. They do not have set definitions, which makes it difficult for someone interested in a facelift to decide what type of facelift would be best for them. Below, we will clarify some of the differences between a mini-facelift and a traditional facelift.

Traditional Facelift

A traditional facelift addresses the lower face, jawline, and neck, whereby the skin over these areas is elevated and the SMAS layer underneath the skin is suspended. The SMAS layer is the real workhorse of the surgery, and the suspension of this layer is essential for long-lasting results. The incisions for a traditional facelift are typically placed in front and behind the ears and sometimes under the chin, accounting for minor variations between surgeons.


The "mini" in mini-facelift refers to a more minor procedure than a traditional facelift. It entails less dissection and smaller incisions, typically in front of the ear and around the earlobe. While the definition of a mini-facelift varies from surgeon to surgeon, a mini-facelift is less aggressive than a traditional facelift. Mini-facelifts usually only address the lower face and involve less SMAS tightening. Because less work is performed on the SMAS layer in a mini-facelift, the results tend to be less dramatic and do not last as long as those in a traditional facelift. Naturally, when compared to a traditional facelift, the mini-facelift has a quicker recovery because less work is done. Typically, the downtime for a mini-facelift is about one week compared to two weeks for a traditional facelift.

How to decide between a mini-facelift and a traditional facelift?

You can think of a mini-facelift as being more preventative in nature and is generally best suited for younger patients with early signs of aging and isolated lower face skin laxity. The traditional facelift would be more of a corrective procedure that is more appropriate for those with advanced signs of facial aging, such as heavy jowls, deep marionette lines, or significant neck skin laxity.

While a person's age can sometimes help in choosing between the two types of facelifts, it's truly a case-by-case consideration. For example, although individuals in their 40s usually will not have as much skin laxity as those in their 60s, some people in their 40s may prematurely exhibit advanced signs of aging due to their genetics and would benefit more from a traditional facelift than a mini-facelift. Conversely, there may be individuals in their 60s who demonstrate only mild lower face skin laxity and would only need a mini-facelift. 

If you have been contemplating a facelift, you don't necessarily need to pick out a type of facelift before your consultation. Instead, during your consultation, your surgeon will perform a comprehensive exam and work with you to determine the type of facelift best suited for your rejuvenation goals.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.