The effects of time, gravity, and sun exposure can significantly age your appearance. If you are frustrated that the way you look no longer reflects the way you feel, you may be a good candidate for a facelift.

Dr. Michael Zenn is one of the most experienced board-certified plastic surgeons in the country. As the former Vice Chief of Duke University’s Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery division and Director of the Duke’s Plastic Surgery Residency Training Program, he has trained hundreds of aspiring plastic surgeons, many of whom currently practice in the Raleigh and Cary area. His background is somewhat unique for a plastic surgeon, as it includes a fellowship in head and neck procedures at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC, following plastic surgery training at the Mass General Hospital in Boston. Patients benefit from his extensive knowledge of and experience with intricate facial anatomy and advanced surgical techniques.

What Is a Facelift?

A facelift is a plastic surgery procedure that does 3 things: 1) re-supports the deeper tissues of the face that have fallen 2) re-volumizes the face with fat grafts, and 3) eliminates excess skin in the mid to lower facial regions. This powerful combination causes the face to appear more youthful, soft, and rested. Facelift procedures are performed under general anesthesia and specifically target the areas of the cheeks, chin, jaw, and neck. Facelifts that are “mini”, “lunchtime”, or performed under local anesthesia cannot accomplish the same results. Be careful because not all facelifts are equal and all plastic surgeons are not equally skilled.

A facelift procedure targets aesthetic concerns in the mid-to-lower face by eliminating excess skin, restoring youthful fullness to features, and re-supporting the underlying structure of the face. Patients often have the surgery in combination with brow lift, eyelid surgery, and other treatments to get more comprehensive rejuvenation.


Benefits of Facelift

Patients choose Dr. Zenn for their care based in part on his expertise and his artistic eye. His guiding principle with a facelift is to provide a subtle, natural-looking result designed around the patient’s individual aesthetic goals while maintaining the highest level of patient safety.  Facelift represents the most involved and delicate procedure in plastic surgery.  The face has critical structures like muscles, nerves, and blood vessels and intimate knowledge of the anatomy and experience operating on the face are paramount. Not all plastic surgeons have this level of expertise.

To achieve this result:
  • Dr. Zenn lifts and repositions the underlying facial support structures that have sagged over time.
  • He avoids an unnatural-looking “windblown” effect by creating a proper foundation over which the skin can be gently re-draped—not tightly overstretched.
  • He harvests fat from unwanted areas of the patient’s body and uses it to restore youthful fullness to facial features.

This combination of facelift techniques creates a smoother, youthful appearance and restores more youthful contours to the face as they existed at an earlier age. Elevating the supporting structures of the lower face also aid in giving patients a more defined neck and jawline. Keep in mind the procedure “facelift” is not uniform and is performed significantly differently by different surgeons. This is a great example where less is not more.


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“Dr. Zenn’s kindness and skill has changed my life. It is amazing to me that someone who is so talented and skilled and confident can also be as approachable, kind, genuine and nice as Dr. Zenn is.”
-Happy Patient


Is a Facelift Right for You?

When you meet with Dr. Zenn for your initial consultation, he will learn about your aesthetic concerns and discuss different treatment options, which may include a facelift. As part of your visit:

  • Dr. Zenn will conduct a thorough examination of your face. He will assess your skin and the supporting tissue to determine whether a facelift is the right solution for you.
  • If you are a good candidate for the procedure, Dr. Zenn will show you before and after photos of similar patients.
  • Contrary to popular belief, a facelift is not a full-face procedure. Instead, it specifically addresses sagging, lack of fullness, and excess skin in the mid-to-lower face. Depending on your desired improvements and specific areas of concern, Dr. Zenn may suggest a brow lift, eyelid lift, or other procedures along with or instead of a facelift.

Dr. Zenn will create a personally tailored treatment plan based on his aesthetic evaluation, your desires, and the amount of downtime you have available for recovery. When you are ready to move forward, you will schedule your pre-operative appointment and surgery.


What to Expect During a Facelift Procedure

For your safety and comfort, your facelift will take place in an accredited medical facility in the Raleigh and Cary area. Dr. Zenn will review your treatment plan with you on the day of your surgery and answer any questions you might have. In a typical procedure:

  • For maximum safety and prevention of complications, Dr. Zenn only performs facelifts with a general anesthesia at accredited facilities, not in an office OR.
  • Dr. Zenn will use liposuction to harvest body fat, which will serve as natural filler for facial features that have lost volume. There is often an aesthetic benefit at the site of harvest.
  • He will lift and reposition the underlying support structure of the mid-to-lower face and remove and excess skin that exists after. This approach promotes a smooth appearance without tension or a “windblown” look and does not rely on simply pulling the skin, which does not last.
  • Dr. Zenn will carefully place incisions in the natural folds of the ears and at the hairline. This will help conceal and minimize scars.

What Is the Recovery From Facelift Like?

Facelift is an outpatient procedure and most patients will be able to leave their surgical facility after an hour. For the first week after your procedure, you can expect to have some soreness, swelling, and bruising. Discomfort is minimal. You will want to rest at home, sleep on your back, and avoid wearing makeup while you heal. After a week, you should receive clearance from Dr. Zenn to ease gently back into your normal routine. Patients can return to work two weeks after surgery. Full activity, including use of the gym, is not recommended for the first 4 weeks after facelift.

Although patients all heal at different rates, most people can be back to work or public facing in 2 weeks. If you don’t mind people seeing you with bruising, that can be closer to one week. While final healing can take anywhere from 2-6 months, residual swelling during this time can look good, minimizing fine wrinkles. The entire process has remarkably little pain and most patients do not require narcotics for more than a day.


What Is the Average Cost of a Facelift?

Not all plastic surgeons in the Triangle perform facelift surgery. And those who offer the procedure, only a few have deep experience in the procedure. Why? Because the surgery is complex and there is no way to hide a bad result. At Zenn Plastic Surgery, we take the time to understand your desires for seeking a facelift and then with his decades of experience, Dr. Zenn works with you determine what procedures will get you there. Quoting one price is deceiving because that “facelift” can involve many possible components of skin removal, deep support, fat grafting to replace volume, eye rejuvenation, among other possibilities. The average cost of a facelift really depends on how much will be done, how much time in the OR, and the associated surgical facility fees and anesthesia fees.

Often the internet or phone quoted prices at many offices end up being much more at the office. At Zenn Plastic Surgery, the package price is the price. It also includes the consultation, photos, scar gel, garments, and all follow-up appointments. Why is the package price at Zenn Plastic Surgery a little higher that most? Because who does the surgery matters and no one in the Triangle is more experienced than Dr. Zenn.

In order to make this procedure more accessible, Dr. Zenn offers several convenient payment options and financing through Care Credit and Alphaeon Credit.


Facelift Q&A

  • What Are the Risks?

    The risks for facelifts are skin loss, bad scarring, and injury to deep structures like the nerves to the face. This is why many plastic surgeons do not even offer facelifts. Beware of unqualified surgeons who are not board-certified in Plastic Surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or are not even plastic surgeons (ie. ENT, Oral Surgeons, Opthalmologists, Dermatologists). Dr. Michael Zenn is a highly skilled and very experienced plastic surgeon. Not only is he board-certified by the ABPS, he did an additional fellowship in head and neck surgery and his knowledge of facial anatomy is unsurpassed. Patient safety and prevention of complications is a priority for Dr. Zenn. While at Duke, Dr. Zenn co-directed the facial reanimation service that cared for facial nerve injuries, so you are in great hands. Every patient has different anatomy and different goals and it is Dr. Zenn’s 25 years of experience with all of the techniques available for your facelift that makes him so successful and your results so natural.

  • Do Facelifts Last Forever?

    Facelifts can help turn back the clock, but they don’t stop it ticking entirely. Natural aging and gravity cannot be stopped! That said, Dr. Zenn’s years of experience and evolution of technique lead to the longest lasting results of all. The placement of fat grafts not only adds back natural softness but the stem cells present in the fat grafts make your skin more youthful due to the growth factors they produce. Older techniques commonly used rely on skin pulling only and these cause more distortion (think about the bad results some Hollywood stars have). Because skin will relax, these techniques do not last nearly as long.

  • What Will My Experience Be After the Surgery?

    Facelifts are an outpatient procedure, and patients are seen the next morning in the office. After that, patients are encouraged to stay home and rest for one week. There will be a one week and two week office visit for suture removal. With most patients back to work at two weeks, follow up after that is generally for your “after” pictures in 2 to 3 months. Dr. Zenn will have some more specific instructions in consultation and after the surgery.

  • Can a Facelift Improve the Appearance of Sagging Cheeks and Jowls?

    Many patients are concerned with the appearance of sagging cheeks and jowls. Luckily, a facelift by Dr. Zenn is a great way to correct these common signs of aging. Skin starts to sag as we age because the body decreases production of elastin and collagen, two crucial proteins that keep the skin taut and smooth. Without these building blocks, your skin thins out and begins to droop down. The jowls and cheeks can also droop and sag if you have lost a lot of weight, smoke consistently, or have been exposed to excessive amounts of sun throughout the years.

    For an experienced cosmetic surgeon like Dr. Zenn, using a facelift to correct these issues is the best approach. This often requires an incision along the hairline by the ear, which will allow Dr. Zenn to reduce the amount of excess skin and tighten and reshape the cheeks so they appear more youthful. Because Dr. Zenn lifts and repositions the underlying support structures of the face during facelift procedures and does not rely on simply skin pulling, his patients do not have that “windblown” look so many patients fear when first thinking about facial surgery.

  • How Visible are Scars After a Facelift?

    Because Dr. Zenn has years of experience treating patients, he has become extremely skilled at the placement of his facelift incisions. He knows the exact locations to target to reduce both the appearance and size of scars. Dr. Zenn minimizes the appearance of scars by choosing discrete and inconspicuous places for the incisions such as the natural folds of the ears, the hairline, or under the chin. That way, scars end up in your natural creases or obscured by your hair. After the initial healing is complete, most patients can’t even tell where the incisions were. Best of all, the scars will continue to fade over time.


A facelift can give you back a smooth, youthful appearance by subtly revising signs of aging. Patients can contact Zenn Plastic Surgery online or by phone at (919) 480-3885 to schedule an initial consultation.