What is a Breast Lift?

A breast lift restores a firmer, perkier, and more aesthetically pleasing shape to sagging breasts. This not only can improve a patient’s appearance by restoring her youthful, feminine proportions, but  also help bras and swimsuits fit more comfortably and attractively.

By removing excess, stretched out skin, reshaping the breast tissue, and raising the nipple & areola into a more forward position, a cosmetic surgeon can create a more youthful breast contour. Stretched, large areolae can also be reduced during breast lift surgery, creating an overall better proportioned, natural looking breast.

Common reasons women choose breast lift surgery:

  • To restore a better breast shape following pregnancy & breastfeeding. Pregnancy can bring some unwelcome changes to the breasts, often leaving them stretched and sagging. A breast lift, with or without implants, can help undo these changes and restore a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  • To improve breast contour after significant weight loss. Losing weight often means losing breast volume. A breast lift can help restore a more proportional, youthful breast shape by removing excess skin.
  • To enjoy a beautiful, perky breast shape for the first time. A small but growing number of breast lift patients have had drooping breasts since their teens. Breast lift surgery can help a woman get the breast profile she has always wanted.

How to Tell if You Need a Breast Lift

While the only way to confirm whether or not a breast lift is right for your is to consult with a qualified cosmetic surgeon, there are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to get a general idea about how a breast lift might help improve your breast shape.

  • Do my nipples seem to point downward? As skin at the base of the breast stretches out and begins to sag, the weight of breast tissue will pull the nipple downward. A breast lift will reposition the breast tissue so the nipples are facing forward.
  • Does the nipple/areola sit below the crease underneath my breast? One trait cosmetic surgeons frequently look for when evaluating a breast lift candidate is the position of the nipple/areola in relation to the inframammary fold, or crease beneath the breast. Try this test: slide a plain sheet of paper underneath your breast (no bra) so it sits against the breast crease. When looking in the mirror, do your nipples sit below the top edge of the paper? If so, this is a good indication that you have enough sagging to warrant a breast lift.
  • Am I happy with my breast size when wearing a bra? A breast lift alone will not significantly change the size of your breasts. It can help your breasts look fuller, rounder, and better in a bra, but if you would like your breasts to be larger or smaller, a breast lift in conjunction with a breast augmentation or reduction may be the right option for you.
  • Are my breasts asymmetrical or unusually shaped? Since breast lift surgery reshapes the breast tissue as well as lifts sagging breasts, this procedure can be very effective in improving breast symmetry, and a skilled cosmetic surgeon can use breast lift techniques to restore a more normal, rounded shape to tuberous breasts.

Choosing a Cosmetic Surgeon for Your Breast Lift

If you’re considering breast lift surgery, choosing a cosmetic surgeon is the most important decision you’ll make. When you visit potential surgeons, ask how frequently he/she performs breast lift surgery and how many total procedures that surgeon has performed. View before and after photos, not just on a surgeon’s website but also during your consultation, paying close attention to the results of patients whose breasts before surgery look similar to yours—this will help you get a feel for a cosmetic surgeon’s aesthetic style.

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Make sure your cosmetic surgeon is board certified; this ensures that he or she is specifically trained and experienced in cosmetic surgery and that your procedure will take place in an accredited facility, which is essential for your safety. Finally, don’t choose a cosmetic surgeon based on price alone. Your safety & results are too important. Most cosmetic surgeons offer financing options to help patients budget procedure costs.

Types of Breast Lifts

Cosmetic surgeons use a variety of incision techniques for breast lift surgery; the exact technique used will vary based on a patient’s existing breast tissue, the amount of excess skin to be removed, and her personal goals. Your cosmetic surgeon will recommend the type of breast lift that will achieve optimal results with the least conspicuous scarring possible.

Crescent Lift: Minimal Scarring to Correct Minimal Sagging

Cosmetic surgeons may use the “crescent lift” technique for women who have a very small amount of sagging to correct. This involves a small incision running halfway around the top half of the edge of the areola. Usually, a crescent lift is only done when a patient is also having breast augmentation, and even in these cases the crescent incision type is less frequently used.

Peri-Areolar or “Donut” Lift: Corrects Mild Sagging with a Single Scar

Women who are experiencing mild sagging, yet still will benefit from a breast lift, are often good candidates for a peri-areolar lift. This involves a circular incision running around the edge of the areola, and like the crescent lift, is commonly performed in conjunction with breast augmentation. This lift can also be effective in helping reduce areola size. The resulting scar traces the edge of the areola.

Vertical or “Lollipop” Lift: Corrects Moderate Sagging & Provides More Extensive Reshaping

This type of breast lift is commonly used, as it allows a cosmetic surgeon to remove excess skin and reshape the entire breast with modest, easily hidden scars. A vertical lift involves 2 incisions: one around the edge of the areola, and one running vertically from the bottom of the areola to the inframammary fold, creating a “lollipop” shape.

Inverted T or “Anchor” Lift: Dramatic Reshaping to Correct Extensive Sagging

If you have considerable sagging, pendulous breasts, an anchor lift, which allows a cosmetic surgeon to remove a significant amount of excess skin and sagging tissues, may yield the best results. This technique involves 3 incisions: one around the edge of the areola, one vertically from the bottom of the areola to the breast crease, and one along the inframammary fold, hidden in the breast crease. Your cosmetic surgeon may also use this technique if you are having a breast reduction with lift. While the anchor lift comes with some visible scarring, these typically will fade significantly with proper care, and are easily hidden by a bikini top.

Combining a Breast Lift with Augmentation

In some cases, a breast lift alone may not achieve a patient’s desired results. If you feel your breasts look “deflated” or have lost volume due to aging, weight loss, or pregnancy, your cosmetic surgeon can place breast implants during breast lift surgery to restore fullness and shape to the breast. If you have always wanted larger, lifted breasts, a breast augmentation with lift can help you achieve both with a single procedure and recovery.

A breast lift with augmentation is a popular option to enhance the breasts.

A breast lift with augmentation is a popular option to enhance the breasts.

Life after Breast Lift Surgery

Breast lift surgery is typically performed as an outpatient procedure using general anesthesia or local anesthesia + intravenous sedation. The procedure takes about 1-2 hours to perform, depending on the extent of surgery. You will be able to go home shortly after surgery to continue your recovery. Your breasts will be bandaged or placed in a surgical bra.

Most patients experience some soreness and swelling after breast lift surgery. Your cosmetic surgeon will prescribe pain medication to help keep you comfortable, and many patients find they can switch to Tylenol after the first few days.

While you’ll be able to get up and walk around the house the same day of surgery, take it easy for the first few days. Also, expect to sleep on your back for the first several weeks or more after surgery. If you normally sleep on your side or stomach, invest in some extra pillows to help keep you from turning over.

Many patients return to work within the first week after breast lift surgery, depending on the nature of their jobs, and resume most daily activities after a week or so. You will need to limit exercise other than walking for the first 2-6 weeks after a breast lift; your cosmetic surgeon will provide you with detailed instructions about when it is safe to resume any activity.

Residual soreness and swelling should gradually subside over the first several months after a breast lift, and most patients are permitted to begin wearing underwire bras again after about 8 weeks.

Keeping Your Results Looking Their Best

Having a breast lift is similar to resetting the clock for sagging. Your breasts will still undergo natural changes due to the aging process, although with proper care you should not experience your previous level of sagging for many years. However, it is important to understand that certain life events, such as future pregnancy or weight fluctuations can negatively affect your results. If you are planning to have more children or you would like to lose weight, it is best to achieve these milestones before having a breast lift.

When performed by a qualified cosmetic surgeon, a breast lift is safe and rewarding procedure with long-lasting results. The best way to learn more about breast lift surgery is to meet with a board certified cosmetic surgeon for a consultation. You can find cosmetic surgeons in your area by using our ABCS Find-a-Surgeon tool.