40 going on 30? Gauteng plastic surgeon on R65 000 go-to mini facelift for 'natural-looking results'

The mini facelift is slightly cheaper, safer and has better results than the traditional facelift.
The mini facelift is slightly cheaper, safer and has better results than the traditional facelift.
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  • The first facelift took place over 100 years ago and has since had a long and interesting evolution.
  • As younger people gravitate towards facelifts, the medical aesthetics industry has continued to adapt to demand.
  • Enter the S-Lift, or mini facelift, which is slightly cheaper, safer and has better results. 

The facelift, a surgical procedure that reduces sagging skin, was first pioneered a little over 100 years ago by German surgeons Eugen Holländer and Erich Lexer. Since then, the common cosmetic procedure has evolved over time, with people seeking means to future-proof their faces through slightly cheaper and less invasive ways.

And, while facelifts (known as a rhytidectomy) have traditionally been considered treatments for older people – those in their 60s and 70s – the rising number of people opting for the procedure is also being bolstered by younger people, who are now seeking to have the procedure done in their 40s and 50s.

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Enter the 'mini' facelift: also referred to as the S-lift, it is particularly recommended for those in their 40s and 50s. This is according to Dr Bruce Lelala, a plastic surgeon at the Specialist Laser and Cosmetic Institute (SCIN) in Hyde Park.

Lelala says it's beneficial to have a facelift done when you are younger: a quicker recovery time is expected; less tissue repositioning and adjustment is required, and patients can expect a more youthful ageing process.

"When patients over the age of 60 get facelifts, they typically try to reverse ageing by 20 years at once. Doing this can lead to dramatic results compared to those aiming for only five or 10 years," he says. "Because of this, younger people tend to enjoy more natural-looking results which also last longer."

Standard facelift vs mini facelift

So how does a facelift compare to the more modern, mini facelift? Lelala explains:

Compared to a standard facelift, a mini facelift is a less invasive procedure than a full, extensive surgery. The mini facelift [also] typically requires half the recovery time of a traditional facelift.

Lelala, who recently completed his fellowship in microsurgery at the Nottingham Breast Institute in the UK, and has been involved with the Smile Foundation SA by performing cleft palate surgeries, adds that the main benefits of an S-Lift procedure are that patients are left with minimal complication risks, minimal scars, and no hair loss.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, a facelift, which involves elevating the skin and tightening the tissues and muscles, can cause complications and have long-term or permanent risks. These risks, while rare, include scarring, nerve injury (causing uneven facial appearance or expression), hair loss and skin loss. Like any other type of major surgery, this procedure also poses a risk of bleeding or infection, it adds.


The cost difference between a mini facelift and a regular facelift does not differ hugely, with the former costing approximately 10% less. The difference is the recovery time and extent of the incisions that must be made. 

According to doctors at the Hyde Park SCIN, the cost for a standard facelift can be in the region of R90 000 to R120 000, while a mini facelift ranges from R65 000 to R75000, depending on the doctor and hospital.

Getting a mini facelift done

Lelala says that an S-Lift is performed using a special anaesthetic solution, which is injected into the area forward of the ears. This fluid gently lifts the skin from the underlying tissue. 

Operating on one side of your face at a time, the plastic surgeon excises a narrow "S" shaped section of skin from the area in front of your ear. The skin is lifted, and the surgeon tightens and repositions the underlying muscles and tissues. Excess fat is also removed before the opening is then closed using fine stitches. 

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The procedure normally takes about two hours and treats the lower third of the face and neck. The position of the brow and forehead, as well as the eyelids' appearance, are not affected by the S-Lift, he adds.

"The incision made for the S-Lift is hidden within the hairline and in front of the ear, resulting in a well-concealed scar after recovery," says Lelala.

The changes following an S-Lift can be dramatic. He explains: "After your procedure, you will go home and rest for at least 24 hours. There may be some minor bruising and swelling for a day or two - along with some minor discomfort, which can be controlled with painkillers - and you will wear a small bandage over the incision site for the next two to three days. 

"After that, you may take a shower, wash your hair, and shave. The stitches will be removed after 6-7 days, and most patients resume normal activities after four or five days."

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