Breast Lift vs. Augmentation: Understanding the Differences

Whether you’re looking to increase the size of your breasts, improve the shape, or simply restore your breasts to a more youthful, lifted appearance, there is a cosmetic surgery procedure that will deliver your desired result. According to Dr. MyChi Le, a board-certified plastic surgeon with Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery a Division of U.S. Dermatology Partners, “Wanting to change the size, shape, or position of the breasts is a common reason people schedule consultations with their plastic surgeon. There are a variety of factors that play into the decision, and before moving forward with a breast lift, augmentation, or any other surgery to alter the breasts it’s important to dedicate time to the careful consideration of the options. That should start with talking to an experienced board-certified plastic surgeon who can help you determine which procedures will give you the results you desire.” In this blog, Dr. Le discusses what a breast lift is, what breast augmentation is, and when each of these options is recommended.

Unveiling the Breast Lift: Addressing Droop and Sagging

A breast lift, also called a mastopexy, is a procedure designed to address ptosis, which is the clinical term for drooping. Age, weight fluctuations, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and a range of other changes and stresses on a woman’s body lead to breast drooping that can be improved with a breast lift.

There are three main types of breast lifts:

  • Periareolar – This type of breast lift is best for those who are looking to revise minor to moderate ptosis. The small incision used follows the line of the natural areola. It is often easier to disguise the scar and achieve the desired results using this technique for those who have naturally larger areolas.
  • Vertical – This form of breast lift is typically recommended for moderate breast drooping that is too severe to be corrected with a periareolar lift. The procedure uses the same path around the areola but continues downward below the breast, allowing for greater access and a more advanced lift.
  • Anchor – While the anchor lift allows for the greatest amount of lift, it also ensures the most predictable results, so this approach may be recommended even for moderate or minor cases. It extends the periareolar and vertical incisions and includes an incision along the breast fold creating an anchor shape.

Breast Augmentation Explained: Enhancing Fullness and Projection

Breast augmentation is a cosmetic surgery that involves inserting an implant to augment the natural breast tissue. This procedure can be used to increase the size, fullness, projection, and shape of breasts. Implants can be made from saline or silicone. Both options have benefits, so the final decision will depend on the individual’s goals. Saline is a good option for someone who has a healthy amount of breast tissue but wants to change the shape and add a bit of volume. Silicone feels more like natural breast tissue and works better for those who start out with minimal native breast volume. Depending on the size and type of implant, the surgeon will determine the type of incision to use during breast augmentation. Incisions may be made under the breast, in the armpit, or around the nipple. The type of incision will depend in large part on the preference of the surgeon.

Side-by-Side Comparison: Key Differences at a Glance

According to Dr. Le, “It’s important to really understand the differences between the two procedures to ensure you make the right choice. Your board-certified plastic will take time to explain the differences in greater detail during your consultation, but you can see some key differences in the table below.”

Breast Augmentation

Breast Lift

Increases breast size Lifts drooping breast tissue
Creates a fuller breast shape Adjusts breast shape and position
Replaces lost volume Changes position of the areola
Improves symmetry Reduces stretched or sagging skin
Average 6 – 8 week recovery Average 4 – 6 week recovery
Results last 10 – 15 years Results last 10 – 15 years
Common risks include implant failure and infection Common risks include more scarring, infection, and the need for revision surgery

Understanding Your Needs: Breast Shape vs. Volume Concerns

When it comes to cosmetic surgery for the breasts, the two most significant factors are shape and volume. Dr. Le says, “Determining whether you are most concerned with changing the shape and/or volume of breast tissue will go a long way toward helping you decide what treatment is right for you. Breast lift is primarily used to improve the shape and position of breast tissue while breast augmentation is predominantly utilized to change the volume of breast tissue. We can combine both procedures, a breast augmentation with lift, if your goal is to both increase the volume and lift your breasts.”

Beyond the Basics: Individual Factors to Consider

When it comes to individual factors that impact the decision between a breast lift and/or augmentation, Dr. Le says, “There are numerous variables at play when a person is deciding whether to choose a breast lift and/or a breast augmentation. During a cosmetic surgery consultation, I’ll discuss their goals, potential risks, recovery time, and other surgical factors, but there are also personal factors that will influence the final decision that are just as important, for example, natural body shape. Every woman has her own body shape, breast size, and position. It’s important to understand how any changes will impact the overall composition of the woman’s body. We’ll also discuss the desired results to ensure the patient has realistic expectations before beginning surgery. Finally, we’ll discuss general health and the likelihood of surgical complications.”

Finding Your Perfect Path: Consultation and Decision-Making

While it’s helpful to do independent research to be educated about your options, the most important factor should be the recommendation of your board-certified plastic surgeon based on your unique situation and needs. A plastic surgeon will carefully examine you, perform scans, and discuss all of your treatment options to ensure they make the best recommendation to help you achieve your desired results.

Schedule a Cosmetic Surgery Consultation

If you’re interested in diving deeper into the differences between breast lift and breast augmentation or exploring your other cosmetic surgery options, our Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery team is here for you. When you’re ready to get started, you’ll just take a few moments to complete our online scheduling request form. Once we hear from you, a local team member will be in touch to finalize the details of your upcoming consultation and answer any questions you have.