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The secrets behind the Lifestyle Lift

It's sold as a more affordable and less invasive alternative to a traditional facelift, but what exactly is the Lifestyle Lift?

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - It's sold as a more affordable and less invasive alternative to a traditional facelift, but what exactly is the Lifestyle Lift?

The company is an advertiser on CBS 8, but if you've seen the commercials, you know they reveal little information about the procedure.

You've seen the lifestyle commercials that promise a younger you. They show you all sorts of before and after photos, with some pretty dramatic results, but that's all they show you. We contacted Lifestyle Lift's San Diego office in Mission Valley to find out, and they introduced us to three patients who explained, what they had done, and why.

"People were telling me that I looked tired or they thought I didn't feel well," patient Francine Gill said.

Gill, Debby Reneau and Joan Hansen all tell me they were tired of looking tired, so each turned to the Lifestyle Lift, to turn back the clock.

"They got rid of my chin, my hanging turkey neck," Debby said.

"I'm 68 and I feel great," Francine said.

Joan, who's 64, didn't like the little lines in her neck, which is now much smoother.

"It got rid of this crinkly, crunchy old saggy look," she said.

So how exactly does the Lifestyle Lift erase a sagging neck, wrinkles and jowls?

"A lot of people, they don't realize it is a surgical procedure," Francine said. "There is an incision, they make an incision… and they pull everything up and it's instant, instant change in your appearance."

The Lifestlye Lift is a facelift, but doctors who perform the surgery say it differs from a traditional facelift in that it is less invasive and targets only the lower part of the face. Lifestyle Lift surgeon Dr. David Santos says it's not the skin they're tightening, but the deeper layer of tissue right below it.

"So that, that layer is tightened up, you use sutures and you use in the right direction, and also… underneath the skin, fascia, right here it's a muscle that's tightened up," he explained.

The incisions are strategically placed, and in the case of the three women we talked to at Lifestyle Lift's San Diego office in Mission Valley, the scars are barely visible.

"Even if you walk up to me and look very closely, you can't find them. They're in behind my ear," Joan said.

The whole procedure is done without general anesthesia, a big plus for many older patients.

"I was totally awake through the procedure, totally awake. I didn't have any pain. I walked in, had it, and walked out same day," Debby said.

All three women say there was minimal pain.

"It's more of a discomfort for a couple days, but I never had anything more than an extra strength Tylenol," Debby said.

And they say the recovery time is relatively short.

The three women the company introduced us to all had positive experiences, but the Lifestyle Lift is not without controversy. The Michigan-based company, which employs about 100 doctors in about 70 clinics, has been the focus of two investigations.

In Florida, the attorney general recently reached an agreement with Lifestyle Lift over claims of deceptive marketing practices. Four years ago, the New York attorney general found evidence that company employees were creating fake websites and writing positive reviews, which were all bogus.

One search of the internet, and you'll find a number of complaints from dissatisfied patients. But Lifestyle Lift maintains of the 170,000 surgeries performed, the complication rate is less than half of one percent.

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