Facelifts go by many names—some technical and some not-so-technical. There is the subcutaneous facelift, the SMAS facelift, the deep-plane facelift, the composite facelift, the MACS facelift, the mini-facelift, the mid-facelift, the endoscopic facelift, the S facelift, the thread facelift, the Lifestyle facelift, the short scar facelift, and, most recently, the vertical facelift. Many of these are just variations or limited versions of the others or just different access approaches to elevate the same tissues.
I would like to discuss the so-called vertical facelift because it has gotten much attention lately as the “best” approach to reversing the downward effects of gravity. Though the actual term may mean different things to different surgeons, the basic idea is to elevate some, if not most, of the tissue straight up. While this may seem to be the obvious approach to reversing facial aging, it is not that simple. Due to the various connective tissue attachments under the skin and the differences in mobility to the various parts of the face, there appears to be a forward as well as a downward descent. This is all too apparent when we look at the oblique fold of tissue going from the nostril to the corner of the mouth. Complicating this picture of facial aging is the atrophy or loss of the subcutaneous fat that also occurs in some areas, leaving a void or depression that looks as though tissue has fallen away. It appears that the best approach to reversing facial aging is a combination of some vertical as well posterior lifting, coupled with augmentation via fat or implants, if atrophy is also present. The vertical component of the lift can be in the deep subperiosteal plane or more superficially in the SMAS plane or even the subcutaneous plane. But it almost always gives a more natural result if there is some element of posterior lifting, as well. To that end, some surgeons are combining a vertical subperiosteal mid-facelift with a posterior-superior vector SMAS or subcutaneous facelift. Alternatively, others combine a posterior-superior vector MACS (minimal access cranial suspension)lift or SMAS facelift with a vertical subcutaneous facelift.