Lifestyle Lift® FAQS & Fiction by Paul Howard, MD

Facelift Scar Comparison

Facelift Scar Comparison

How is the LSL better than other Facelifts?

The LSL is not a breakthrough procedure nor are any of the LSL techniques new in any way.  THE LSL is first and foremost a marketing company that hires physicians to do a version of the LSL.  In fact, their surgeons are not even required to do the LSL procedure.

How is the LSL different than other procedures?

The LSL is a version of the short-scar facelift procedure that was first described by others.  Included in the procedure is a so called SMAS plication which has been around for 20+ years and is one of many ways to tighten the deeper layers of the face.  The only possible advance the LSL offers is that it is performed under local anesthesia which has been available since the 1920’s.

Is the Lifestyle Lift® Cheaper?

The cost of the LSL procedure is different depending on where in the country one lives.  The fact is that the actual cost of the LSL is roughly equivalent to what most plastic surgeons charge especially when you consider the “fine print” procedures that are required on almost all patients.

Is there a difference in recovery from the LSL?

The rapidity of recovery depends more on the individual surgeon than the exact procedure performed.  Patient selection is probably the most important adjunct in recovery time and LSL patient selection is initially done by “consultationists” without even a medical degree.

Will I Bruise More?

One of the ways a plastic surgeon can decrease bruising is due to the technique chosen and in many cases whether or not the surgeon uses drains expeditiously. Part of the LSL marketing scheme brags about not using drains as if not using drains when indicated is somehow better.

Are the LSL Scars Better?

The short facelift scar pattern is pretty much the same for everyone.  The execution of the scar varies from surgeon to surgeon, but the scars don’t seem to do as well nor are they properly positioned in many of the LSL procedures (my personal experience). It is also easier to obtain good scarring with frequent follow-up and in-depth patient instruction which is not typical in practices that are volume driven like the LSL.

What is the Most Important Decision when Choosing a Facelift?

Most people believe that the most important aspect of achieving good results in facelift surgery is the choice of SURGEON and not the procedure or any number of other considerations.  It is interesting that the one thing that the LSL marketing scheme minimizes is the surgeon; such that the surgeon is the last person one meets in the process.  The consultationists and the people who collect the money seem much more important and meet the prospective patient well before the surgeon is chosen for you.

Read more about top facelift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard Birmingham, Alabama.

Call today to schedule your Facelift Consultation with Dr. Paul Howard

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Lifestyle Lift – The Small Print by Paul Howard, MD

It’s clear that the Liftstyle Lift ® (LSL) brand is a marketing juggernaut.  Cable, non-cable, internet, Debbie Boone is everywhere “lighting up my life.”  Their TV testimonials are uplifting by simply showing regular people with that blank stare pre-operatively and that smiling, happy visage after their LSL.  It is easy to see why there are so many lawsuits accusing this marketing company of being false and deceptive in their TV ads.  One of the oldest plastic surgery tricks to improve facial surgery results is to take the post-op photos of the patient smiling; smiling is the first and best natural rejuvenator lifting the sagging face without a single stitch.  Giving in to the “marketing police,” the LSL folks do add a few sentences in fine print at the bottom of the TV ad admitting that each patient had a litany of other procedures in addition to their LSL.  It is the other procedures in the small print that actually determine the quality of the result and are the subject of this article.

Over the time that I’ve been in practice, two things have actually vastly improved my facelifting results.  Recently, it has been the use of local anesthesia with sedation rather than general anesthesia.  The second improvement has been improvements in the neck contouring and the blending of the lower eyelid with the cheek as an adjunct to our version of the mid-face lift.  In the LSL marketing parlance these are called “neck firming” and “eyelid firming” procedures that really make a difference in the quality of the result, especially when the patient is not smiling.

Eyelid blending has always been a problem except in the extreme cases of facelift procedures done at deeper levels that allow for more tension on the SMAS and facial muscles with their fascia.  These operations are not an option for many people who cannot take 3-6 weeks out of their busy schedules to be swollen.

One of the integral causes of the dark circles and lower lid “crescent,” in addition to the weakening of the tissues that are meant to contain the lower lid fat allowing the fat pockets to bulge outward, is the dropping of the thin lower eyelid skin down onto the cheek accentuating the junction between the thin lid skin and the thicker cheek skin.  Lifting the midface necessarily raises the lid-cheek junction upward creating excess lid skin.  This is addressed surgically by making a lower lid incision through the muscle so that the lid-cheek junction at the orbital bone can be addressed directly.  Blending of the lid and cheek is done at the same time that the bulging fat is partially removed or simply cauterized.  The remaining tissue (septum) is cauterized to thicken it so that it can then be bolstered by dissolvable sutures.  The extra lid skin created is conservatively excised and a temporary muscle tightening stitch is placed to keep the lower lid from pulling down during the early phase of wound healing.

This description of surgical lid-cheek blending may seem highly technical to some.  For those less interested in details, the net result of the operation is depicted in the photos (note that the patient is not smiling, although she wishes she could!)

Eyelid Surgery Before & After by Dr. Paul S. Howard

Eyelid Surgery Before & After by Dr. Paul S. Howard

The basis of a good result in the lower eyelids as well as the neck is the performance of a proper mid-face lift with an aggressive approach to the jawline and jowls.  The LSL, when done well, can provide this platform to address the neck, lower eyelids as well as the cheek as a unit.  It is very rare to see a patient who has never had surgery that requires only a mid-face lift making these so called “firming” procedures an integral part of facial rejuvenation yet they only get a small print footnote in the marketing juggernaut that is the Lifestyle Lift®.

Dr. Paul S. Howard

Top Facelift Surgeon Birmingham Alabama

What the Hell is a Consultationist?

I, and many other who enjoy the English language, have been wondering which new words would be added to the lexicon of America.  These new words, or neologisms, are usually chosen by a group of exudate linguists to be included according to the extent of pervasiveness of their usage.  This begs an answer to today’s question: what the hell is a consultationist?

Upon checking Webster’s and Harper Collins dictionaries, no reference is made for the noun consultationist.  The closest reference is for consultation which we all know means an appointment or meeting to seek professional advice especially from doctors or lawyers.  It is through this prism that the term consultationist has come into my practice universe and the lexicon of plastic surgery.  Apparently in certain plastic surgery mass-marketing schemes, the number of patients seeking information is much greater than the doctors available to provide information thus leading to a new paradigm for plastic surgery practice by placing the here-to-fore unknown consultationist into the complex surgical information loop.  Naturally, not every plastic surgeon answers every contact for surgical information, but we all provide detailed information to our office staff who field those questions from the public.  The flow of accurate information through surgical surrogates called consultationists to the patient seems fraught with uncertainty proportional to the number of individual surgeons responsible for the information provided by surrogates.  The information provided, by necessity, must be wholly generic in nature as no one but the plastic surgeon can provide the necessary depth of knowledge and experience to provide anything approaching a real consultation.  These new plastic surgery mass-marketing schemes, in addition to spending millions of dollars on TV, radio, print, and internet, have actually added a layer of advertising bureaucracy as the information requests are funneled through a new layer of marketing specialists called consultationists.  These new patient calls have become “sales leads” rather than actual consultations.

This new marketing centered paradigm created a number of questions all of which surround the activities of the newly minted consultationist.  For instance, who are these people, how are they reimbursed, what is their background and training, and who decides what they say and who do they report to: the physicians, marketing director, or corporate management, or all of the above?  Is the protection and dissimulation of the brand primary or does accurate surgical information take precedence?  Regardless of the answers to these questions, the marketing consultationist has added an entirely new level of bureaucracy that can only be financially justified if information requests turn into actual doctor consultations.

Clearly it serves no purpose for any prospective patient to be denied a real consultation so the information flow through consultationists carries no more weight than any well-crafted patient directed web site.  The web site will certainly answer the single most important question at any consultation: who is your doctor?

It seems this one single question which would seemingly be the easiest to answer during any real consultation is usually the hardest question for a consultationist to answer generally depending on how many doctors are the recipients of this marketing service or sales lead.

I’m not sure I have been able to actually answer my initial question: What the hell is a consultationist?  My best research tells me a consultationist is but a cog in the marketing paradigm for certain large companies that endeavor to sell some kind of trademarked surgical procedure in some generic fashion.   The challenge is to maximize the marketing of the procedure, even if the procedure is not proprietary or in any way original.

The focus of the expert marketing must maximize the procedure and minimize the surgeon because each surgeon is an individual, but the procedure is universal and much more available as a marketing center piece.  This type of marketing plan when well executed can be enormously effective unless the “generic” surgeon pool is depleted or becomes technically antiquated and changes do not keep apace the market for facial rejuvenation.  Many of the predictable corporate problems are a result of the realities of size and success.  Time will be the arbiter regarding consultationists.  In the meantime, most of us will try to muddle on without them.

Read more about top face lift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard and his minimal incision, quick recovery facelift.

Looking Younger is Not a Sin

Having spent the majority of my life in big cities such as Atlanta, Miami and Paris, I was taken aback by the responses of women in smaller southern cities such as Birmingham, Montgomery or Mobile to the notion of facelift procedures.  I have on occasion related an anecdote about women in the South; if one asks a woman on the street in Miami or Paris “who is your doctor?,” the usual reply will get you the name of her plastic surgeon. The same question posed to a woman in Birmingham will get you the name of her gynecologist.  I have no particular problem with gynecologists but it does reflect a palpable difference regarding priorities in medical care. Likewise, there always exists a group of women who proudly notify their friends and family of their impending surgery and show their friends the results the moment the dressings are off.  A more common scenario in the South is that most women are very private in their personal affairs and only confide in their families and closest friends.  We are not talking about people of wealth as no one knows how or why celebrities and the wealthy choose their healthcare providers.  Judging from what we see on cable TV, the Michael Jacksons’ of the world as well as many aging models and TV stars should reconsider their choices of doctors, especially those who are fighting the aging process in an attempt to remain on the ‘’A’’ list.

The best example is the Hollywood penchant to completely overdo lip augmentation. The reason this is an issue is because “normal” people who inquire about lip enhancement look at celebrities, think they probably get the best plastic surgery, and assume that the comical, overdone lips are necessary for lip enhancement. Two bad assumptions are at work here: the first is that celebrities get the best plastic surgeons and the second is that enhanced lips should be huge and comical in appearance.  Good plastic surgeons can usually enhance lips in any of a number of ways achieving fullness, a very youthful pout and accentuation of youthful lip anatomy without the “bee-stung” comical lips that we see all too often. The choice to overdo any plastic surgical procedure is entirely up to the patient and not a part of plastic surgery itself.  There is an unknown in this process, which is the individual talent and taste of the plastic surgeon involved.  This is why it helps to see examples of the surgeons work in order to get some idea of how aggressive or exaggerated the work is. Surgeons will usually show pictures of work they consider exemplary so when viewing catalogs of photos it is good to evaluate each result carefully taking in to consideration your specific taste, even if the photos are of procedures you are not considering.

One of the most challenging operations for a plastic surgeon is rhinoplasty. This is why there are so many “challenged” noses out there in Hollywood.  It is a bit of a cliché to use the Jackson family as an example of rhinoplasty gone wrong but I’ll do it anyway.  I believe that at least one of the early iterations of Michael’s nose was an attractive change from his original ethnic nose into a slightly improved version.  I would surmise that it was an operation or two later that his final scar laden, next to nothing nose emerged was left of his original proboscis. Without the wonders of his handy, at home, hyperbaric oxygen chamber Michael may certainly have lost his nose in its entirety.  I suspect that the last twenty or so operations were not procedures chosen by his surgeon yet performed nonetheles.  The legacy of the Jackson family nasal nightmare should probably not be left with the surgeon but with the patients who are too famous, have too much money and succumbed to too much bad advice or a lack of good judgment.

Breasts have long been the subject of Hollywood photographers and celebrity magazines.  Ever since Janet Jackson’s infamous Super bowl wardrobe malfunction there seems a preoccupation with breasts, especially large ones. Many women seem to have attached their femininity to their cup size. The trend to larger breasts is exemplified by today’s Victoria Secret models that are not as anorectic as the models of the 80’s and 90’s.  In the real world outside of Hollywood women who consult for breast augmentation also want larger, fuller breasts but they also want “plausible deniability.”  That requires breasts large enough to be sexy but not quite so large that they could not conceivably be nature’s gift.

Plastic surgery and the “beauty business” as it is now called did not arise from the devil as a temptation to vanity but rather as a consequence of the very normal desire of human beings to appear physically attractive to each other. The process of aging tends to extinguish some of the physical attractiveness of youth.  Aging gracefully is the excuse given not to intervene with plastic surgery but our “grace” does not preclude spending billions of dollars on products for our hair, skin and nails.   Recently, plastic surgeons have become facile and more creative with the surgical interventions we recommend to treat the aging face.  Our operations tend to be less one-size-fits-all and are uniformly less invasive.  Surgeons now are utilizing more of our scientific educational background to apply the latest in biology to scientifically improve our results and to stay abreast the latest research and findings.

Those of us in facial and body enhancement business are as different as our patients. The best we can do individually is to provide up to date, non-biased information including our training and certifications to the table and provide honest, accurate photographs of our work so that patients may get an idea of our preferences and our aesthetic sensibilities.  The more factual information out there, the better chance the patient can find the right surgeon for the right problem.

Stem Cells, Fat Grafting, & Facelifts

The facelift operation as practiced by Board Certified Plastic Surgeons continues to relentlessly evolve as surgical science and cell biology uncover new applications which can be utilized to improve our already outstanding results.  Responding to the wishes of our patients, operations have tended to become less invasive and shorter in duration with less swelling, bruising, and a much shorter down-time.  The short scar facelift has seen a resurgence with new and original methods of dealing with the SMAS, such as our progressive, multiple vector SMAS plication.  The blending of the improved mid-facelift with the lower eyelids and less invasive neck surgery when possible had been our idea of a modern facelift.  Due to the teachings of Sydney Coleman in New York City, we added structured fat grafting to our lips much improving the perioral area and enhancing the cheeks and what has been architecturally described as the facial “ogee.”  I believe fat grafting as now practiced was a huge step forward in facial rejuvenation completely replacing foreign body fillers such a Juvederm® and Restylane®.  In some circles, the efficacy of fat grafting is still questioned even as the evidence of graft takes in the 80-95% range are routinely described.  Over the last couple of years, the basic science of cell biology has given us new information on adipose biology and the nature of adult adipose derived stem cells.  The term “stem cell” occupies front page position in almost every modern women magazines.  Until recently, it has been unclear how this new information could be applied to Plastic Surgical science.

The evolution of stem cell biology including the fact that we could isolate stem cells from our own body fat seemed almost too good to be true.  Rather than throwing away the fat we obtain with liposuction, we can now take this fat, process it in the office, obtain stem cells, and then utilize the stem cells for improving fat graft take even further as well as adding growth factors to the fat grafts that have a beneficial effect on aging skin.  Body contouring with liposuction complimenting facial rejuvenation is truly a “scots” efficiency as Dr. Ralph Millard would say.  The beneficial effect of growth factors on healing and facial skin aging has been known for several years, but exactly how to utilize this knowledge never progressed after the discovery of its use as “fibrin glue.”  More recently, we have added platelet rich plasma (PRP) obtained by drawing blood at the onset of the surgical procedure, processing the blood to get PRP which adds large quantities of growth factors when added to fat and fat stem cells used for facial contouring and rejuvenation.  All of these biologic enhancements to fat grafting are obtained from the patient and therefore are autologous with no problem with rejection such as that which occurs with foreign body fillers.

To summarize our current facelift techniques, incisions are of the “short scar” variety, the SMAS is handled with progressive tension suturing in multiple vectors, micro-drains are used for 24 hours to reduce bruising, the glabella, cheeks, lips, chin, and perioral areas are enhanced by fat grafting augmented with stem cells and PRP.  Cost controls include doing the procedure in the office with local anesthetics and mild sedation.  The sum of these procedures we like to call the “Howard Lift” for lack of a more descriptive term.

Read more about top facelift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Misunderstood Facelift

Facelift procedures have been a part of the plastic surgery lexicon since the early 1900’s. At that time, there were no board certifications, Teddy Roosevelt was President, the Great World Wars had yet to begin and antisepsis and anesthesia were in their infancy. Against this backdrop of medical history facelifts, eyelids, and rhinoplasty were performed in doctor’s offices and in front of crowds of people for marketing purposes. Howard Crum, MD wrote of his experiences with live surgery demonstrations in front of “thousands” of rapt on-lookers as well as a number of psychologically disturbed voyeurs hoping to see some blood and maybe a mishap or two. Cosmetic surgery was done in hotel lobbies, at conferences, and in ballrooms to standing-room-only crowds punctuated with a police presence. The surgeons performing these dramatic operations were the “rock-star” doctors of the day carrying reputations about reproach. As the market for these surgeries expanded the number of unscrupulous practitioners increased dramatically. The unskilled and poorly trained surgeons were making a mockery of cosmetic surgery and in fact, became dangerous to the point where one such surgeon tried to make a patient taller by breaking her legs and resetting the normal bones. Unfortunately, the patient lost both of her extremities. Reputable surgeons responding to these rogue doctors tried to limit physician marketing seeing these advertisements as a way to circumvent the tried and true patient referral sources which tended to enrich doctors with good results at the expense of those whose results were not as good. Marketing expertise had taken the place of surgical expertise. Plastic surgical training programs began to spring-up across the country after WWI where the horrific injuries associated with “trench” warfare were shipped to England and the USA for reconstruction. The best surgeons were on the front lines of repairing war injuries and as far back as the 1920’s Sir Harold Gillies of England and New Zealand was of the early proponents of the so-called “cosmetic reconstruction.” That is, reconstructive surgery of the face with the ultimate goal being not only a good or reasonable appearance but an attractive face. Dr. Gillies and his famous trainee, Dr. Ralph Millard, wrote a textbook to this effect in 1954 and Dr. Millard continued to be the “poster child” for the relationship between reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. It sounds foolish and ignorant for a surgeon to claim some sort of providence in facial aesthetics yet offers no educational training or pertinent experience as a surgeon to back up their improvable claims of superiority in our field of plastic surgery. In fact, aesthetic considerations are so pervasive in the plastic surgery residency that almost every patient and every challenge, whether cosmetic or reconstructive, is evaluated under the prism of Drs. Gillies and Millard. We aspire to surpass the normal and attempt to achieve the “Ideal Beautiful Normal” (D. Ralph Millard, MD).

Trying to answer the question “who are the best cosmetic surgeons” is impossible because the question applies to each individual surgeon and not entire groups of surgeons. On a group basis, competence can only be determined by training and education, and subsequent certification and not by marketing skill.

Dr. Howard has been a Top Facelift Plastic Surgeon for over 20 years.  To learn more, please visit his web sites:

Read more about top facelift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard in Birmingham, Alabama.

Read more about Dr. Paul Howard’s popular short incision face lift with no general anesthesia.