SMAS vs. Limited Incision Facelift: Which is Right for Me?

Posted June 03, 2021 in Facelift


The facelift is one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries on the market, and usually the go-to option for patients looking for a transformative way to restore signs of aging. If you’re considering a facelift, you’ve likely seen that there are actually a few different options available. It can seem overwhelming trying to determine which one is best, and the right facelift for you can be dependent on a few different factors like age, cosmetic goals, and your long-term plans for facial rejuvenation. This means the best way to begin with cosmetic surgery is by meeting with an experienced facial plastic surgeon who can recommend the best approach. Here’s what to know about the two most effective options for facial rejuvenation and which one is right for you.

What’s the Difference Between a SMAS and Limited Incision Facelift?

The SMAS facelift, or superficial muscular aponeurotic system, is one of the most advanced facelift techniques available. It effectively addresses sagging skin and tissue through repositioning and lifting the deeper tissues of the face rather than pulling the skin. During surgery, specialized sutures are used to tighten this superficial layer of muscle and tissue while also releasing ligaments that tether the tissues together which, in turn, allows for tension-free adjustment of the skin. This drastically reduces the risk of a “wind-blown” look in areas like the lower face, jaw, and neck. It also produces some of the most natural-looking results possible with a facelift.

On the other hand, the limited incision facelift (or mini facelift) accomplishes facial rejuvenation but with a much smaller (and shallower) incision. The mini facelift can still achieve skin and tissue tightening, but targets the surface-level tissues instead. The results are great for candidates who don’t need much and want a shorter incision.

What Incisions Are Used?

The deep plane facelift incisions begin in front of the ear and then go around and underneath the earlobe before ending in the hairline of the neck.

Untitled-design-3 SMAS vs. Limited Incision Facelift: Which is Right for Me? Nashville, TN

The limited incision facelift follows almost the same pattern but does not extend as far. The mini facelift is sometimes called the S-Lift for this reason – some other names for the mini facelift include:

Untitled-design-4 SMAS vs. Limited Incision Facelift: Which is Right for Me? Nashville, TN

What Can I Expect After My Facelift?

The recovery for both options is virtually the same. In fact, many patients return to their regular schedules within 7-10 days with a full recovery after a few weeks. Swelling can be expected with any facelift surgery, but you’ll generally experience less swelling with a limited incision facelift. It’s recommended that you avoid strenuous activity or exercise in order to recover and prevent further swelling, but many patients are surprised to find their recovery is fairly quick and easy!

What About Results?

This can greatly depend on factors like your age, cosmetic goals, and degree of skin laxity. However, both options can achieve comparable results! Each option can effectively reduce laxity, restore a youthful look, and last for years. In either case, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your look, with a more youthful and refreshed profile. Either option can help you look as young as you feel, but with different approaches!

Which One is Right for Me?

Your goals and current concerns will determine which option is right for you. However, the limited incision technique can be great for patients who still have good skin laxity and are looking for a minor procedure to rejuvenate their look – or as a regular procedure to undergo every 10-15 years to combat signs of aging. Additionally, the limited incision option can be an effective way to “touch-up” your look after a more invasive facelift like the SMAS, or deep plane facelift. Finally, the SMAS option is often recommended if you have concerns with neck laxity and could also benefit from a neck lift or platysmaplasty. Your age can also be a determining factor – the limited incision facelift is most popular with patients seeing signs of aging in their 40s, while the SMAS facelift is most beneficial for patients in their 50s and beyond. During your consultation with Dr. Gilpin, you’ll discuss the best options for you and your goals for a customized approach to anti-aging.

What Are My Other Options?

The vertical restore facelift can be a more extensive treatment that addresses the entire face. Facelifts can also be combined with non-surgical options like laser skin resurfacing, RF microneedling, fat transfer, or a combination of fillers and Botox®. There are many different options for surgery beyond the above listed like the vertical restore lift, the Ponytail Lift, and the MADE Lift. 

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The best way to learn more about your facelift options is by meeting with our team and Dr. David Gilpin. To get started, we invite you to contact our Nashville office by calling or filling out our online form.

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