Neck lift surgery, or rhytidectomy, is a cosmetic procedure. This surgery aims to tighten and lift the skin around the neck to reduce visible signs of aging.

A neck lift can change a person’s profile and jawline. This may make the person’s skin appear tighter or younger. It is a popular procedure as the neck often does not respond well to diet or exercise.

Plastic surgeons performed around 160,000 neck lifts in the United States in 2020.

This article outlines what occurs during a neck lift procedure. It also discusses preparing for the surgery, recovery, and possible complications.

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Neck lift surgery is a cosmetic procedure. A surgeon typically performs this surgery to alter the visible signs of aging in a person’s neck and jawline.

The procedure commonly aims to tighten and lift the skin around the neck. Another term for a neck lift is a lower rhytidectomy.

During the procedure, a cosmetic surgeon can treat:

  • excess fat and skin relaxation in the lower face, which may cause jowls to form
  • excess fatty deposits located under the chin
  • loose neck skin
  • muscle banding in the neck, which can cause contours to form

The loss of skin firmness and elasticity is a natural part of aging. Some factors that can cause visible aging signs in the jaw and neck area include:

  • heredity
  • gravity
  • environmental conditions
  • stress

If a person wants to alter the visible signs of aging in their face, they may opt for a neck lift. It may also be an option for people who do not want to have a full facelift.

A cosmetic surgeon will often perform a neck lift as an outpatient procedure. It usually takes place under general anesthesia or IV sedation.

The procedure may take place as follows:

  1. The plastic surgeon will often begin by making a small incision behind each ear. They may also make a third incision underneath the person’s chin.
  2. The surgeon will then tighten the neck muscles through these incisions. They may also tighten the underlying tissues.
  3. Once they have tightened these tissues, the surgeon may remove excess, sagging skin. This helps create a smoother and more youthful appearance to the neck.
  4. Once the surgeon has finished lifting the neck, they will then close the incisions. They may do this using sutures, staples, or both. They may then place an elastic dressing around the face and neck.

Before surgery, a surgeon will examine a person’s face and neck. They will also measure the person’s height and weight to ensure it is safe to perform the procedure.

If the person has overweight or is planning to become pregnant, the surgeon may suggest they delay the operation.

Before a neck lift procedure, a surgeon may ask a person to prepare by:

A person will often go home on the same day as their surgery, but they may also stay in hospital overnight. If the person does go home on the same day, they should ensure a responsible adult stays with them for the night.


After the procedure is complete, a person may receive antibiotics to help keep the wound clean. A surgeon may also place drainage tubes in the neck to help drain away any fluid or blood.

A healthcare professional will remove these tubes when the fluid or blood has stopped draining. This commonly occurs before the person goes home but may also take place 1–3 days after the procedure.

In some cases, a person may wear a compression garment around their lower face for up to 1 week after surgery.

A person may experience some pain and soreness after surgery and may alleviate these symptoms with over-the-counter pain relief.

Recovery time

Bruising and swelling around the neck are typical. This initial bruising and swelling will often resolve on their own, which may take several weeks.

A person will experience a feeling of tightness around the neck that can last from a few weeks to a few months after surgery.

The recovery time after a neck lift can vary based on the individual and the extent of the surgery. Generally, people return to daily activities and work within 2 weeks of the surgery.

There are several risks associated with neck lift surgery. These include:

  • Scarring: A person may develop scars from the surgery. These scars will often fade to become paler over 12–18 months. In some cases, a person may need to have surgery to correct them.
  • Bleeding: In some instances, a person may bleed during surgery. They may require a blood transfusion or another operation to stop the bleeding. Small areas of bleeding can also cause irregularities in the person’s skin, which usually settle in the months after the operation.
  • Loss of blood supply to the skin: Neck lift surgery can cause the loss of blood supply to skin, which can cause areas of the skin to die. If this happens, a person may need another operation. This complication can also affect the final result of a person’s surgery.
  • Skin color changes: After the surgery, a person may develop some change to the color of their skin where the procedure took place. A person can usually cover this change with makeup.
  • Infection: A person may develop an infection in the wound after their operation. If they do, they may require antibiotics to treat the infection.
  • Swelling: In some cases, a person may experience swelling after the operation. This can cause some discomfort.
  • Asymmetry: This occurs when the sides of the face and neck are not symmetrical. Minor areas of asymmetry are common and often settle over time. Sometimes scarring can change the appearance of the ears.
  • Changes in sensation: Neck lift surgery may alter the sensation in a person’s face and neck. This most commonly occurs as numbness near the scar. In some rare cases, this change may be permanent.

As with all surgery, there are also risks associated with anesthetic use. These risks include:

  • Allergic reactions: In some very rare cases, a person could have an allergic reaction to the anesthetic.
  • Chest infection: A person is also at a small risk of developing a chest infection. This risk is higher if the person smokes.
  • Blood clots: Blood clots may form in the leg. These can cause pain and swelling. A doctor will often treat these clots with blood-thinning medication.
  • Heart attack or stroke: If the surgery places strain on a person’s heart, it may cause a heart attack or stroke. A surgeon will assess the person’s risk of this before the surgery.

During a neck lift, a plastic surgeon will tighten and lift the skin around the neck. This procedure aims to alter the visible signs of aging.

This is a fairly common cosmetic procedure, and people often return to daily activities and work within 2 weeks of the surgery.

Possible complications of neck lifts include scarring, bleeding, changes to the skin color, and complications associated with anesthesia.