What is the Difference Between a Breast Augmentation and a Breast Lift?

Breast augmentation and breast lift are two popular cosmetic procedures aimed at enhancing the appearance of a woman’s breasts, but they have different benefits and techniques. Our teams of board-certified plastic surgeons at NuBody Concepts Nashville and NuBody Concepts Memphis provide both of these services for Tennessee patients. In this article, we will compare breast augmentation and breast lift to help you understand the differences between the two procedures and make an informed decision.

Breast implants silicone before and after picture of NuBody Concepts patient
NuBody Concepts patient before and 6 months after breast augmentation with 350cc silicone implants. View Before & After Gallery.

Difference Between Breast Lift and Breast Augmentation

Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure aimed at increasing the size and volume of the breasts. To achieve this, the surgeon inserts silicone or saline implants under the breast tissue or chest muscles. It is an ideal procedure for women with naturally small breasts, uneven breast size, or breasts that have lost volume due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, or weight loss. 

Both saline and silicone breast implants are safe and FDA-approved. Implant types vary depending on factors such as firmness, shape, and cost. In a personal consultation, your plastic surgeon can help determine which implant is best suited to your goals.

Breast Lift

Breast lift, also known as mastopexy, is a cosmetic procedure aimed at lifting and reshaping sagging or droopy breasts. To achieve this, the surgeon removes excess skin and tightens the remaining breast tissue. A breast lift is an ideal procedure for women who have lost breast firmness and shape due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight loss, or aging. 

Breast lifts are generally safe with a high success rate and level of satisfaction. By working with the existing tissue, no implant is needed to improve the shape and position of the breasts. However, it should be noted that breast lifts often lead to an overall decrease in cup size. Some women elect to combine a breast lift with implants to make up for this effect. 

Breast lift before and after picture of NuBody Concepts patient
NuBody Concepts patient before and 6 months after breast lift. View Before & After Gallery.

Should I get a breast lift or a breast augmentation? The answer depends on the goal you’re trying to achieve. A breast augmentation increases volume, meaning you will end up with a bigger cup size than before and a more womanly cleavage. A breast lift surgically raises dropping breasts without increasing volume (and may in fact slightly decrease your cup size). But what about the actual surgery, or the recovery? Let’s look at some other factors to compare these two procedures:

Comparing breast lift and breast augmentation

  1. Technique: Breast augmentation involves inserting implants under the breast tissue or chest muscles, while breast lift involves removing excess skin and tightening the remaining breast tissue.
  2. Incisions: Breast augmentation incisions are usually made under the breast, around the nipple, or in the armpit. They are also typically shorter, particularly for saline implants which can be inserted in a deflated state through a very small opening. Breast lift incisions are made around the nipple, down to the crease under the breast, and sometimes along the breast crease.
  3. Recovery: The recovery time for breast augmentation is usually shorter than breast lift, with most women able to return to normal activities within a few days. Recovery time for breast lift is usually longer, with most women needing to take a week or more off work and avoid strenuous activities for several weeks.
  4. Age: If you are younger and have not had any children, you typically do not need a breast lift. You may just want to enhance volume or adjust for unevenly sized breasts, both of which can be achieved with implants. If you are older or have undergone one or more pregnancies, you will achieve the biggest benefit from a breast lift to reverse drooping and tighten up the skin.
  5. Nipple position: Another way to determine the best breast procedure is to look at where the nipple is positioned in relation to the breast fold. Above the fold is typically desirable, whereas a nipple positioned below the fold (especially if pointing downwards) may indicate the need for a breast lift.  

Is a breast lift better than a breast augmentation?

Neither procedure per se is better than the other, it really depends on where you come out when going through the above factors. 

If your breasts have sagged for whatever reason, a breast augmentation alone will not correct for this problem, no matter which implants you choose or how skilled your surgeon. 

Both procedures are outpatient surgeries performed under local anesthesia and IV sedation, but a breast lift can be viewed as more invasive based on the size of the incisions, the length of the procedure, and the recovery time. In rare cases it can also lead to a loss of sensation in the nipple, though this typically resolves over time. 

A breast augmentation leaves the nipple alone so that this is not an issue. But there can be other complications such as capsular contracture, the formation of excessive tissue around the implant that can occur during the early healing process. It can be remedied with a capsulectomy but of course most patients would prefer not to need any follow-up procedures. 

Breast lift w/ saline implants before and after picture of NuBody Concepts patient
This 39-year old NuBody Concepts patient went from a B/C cup to a D cup after a breast lift combined with saline implants.

How long does a breast lift last?

It is very hard to predict how long your breast lift results will last, but you can assume it won’t be forever. As we age, the skin loses elasticity, and this leads to sagging. Your breast lift will reverse this natural process and restore your breasts to a younger looking state, but eventually the aging process will continue to take its toll, meaning your breasts will begin to gradually sag again. Very broadly, you can expect your results to last for 10-15 years, though some patients are able to enjoy them much longer before needing a revision.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with diet and exercise is a good way to ensure your results last as long as possible. If you lose a substantial amount of weight after a breast lift, it can impact the quality of your results. The weight loss will trigger a loss of fat in your breast tissue, which can lead to sagging.

In fairness, it should be said that breast implants don’t last forever either. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, implants are not considered to be “lifetime devices” and typically last anywhere from 10-20 years before needing replacement. The biggest risk factor is the rupture of an implant, the chance of which is said to increase by one percent a year. Other complications include capsular contracture, rippling, changes in position, and a change in personal preference.

We hope that we’ve helped you understand the differences between breast augmentation and breast lift so that you can make a more informed decision as to which procedure to choose. It is important to consult with a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon to determine which procedure is best for you and to ensure the best possible outcome. NuBody Concepts offers breast augmentation services in both our Nashville and Memphis locations. Please contact us today if you have any questions!

Each patient is unique. What your treatment will look like is determined by you and the plastic surgeon who you will meet with in a personal consultation.