Breast lifts are one of the most popular surgeries I perform. I am not alone. In the United States, breast lifts have become the seventh most popular cosmetic surgery overall. They are 92% more popular than a few years ago. Over 100,000 were done in the US in 2016. No, I did not do all of them, but it has been a mainstay of my practice. As we become a healthier and increasingly physically fit nation, we will hopefully find more and more women who want natural breasts, rather than implanted breasts. As a board-certified plastic surgeon, I spend a great deal of time making sure my patients have realistic expectations. Breast lifts and breast implants give completely different results. An implanted breast will have a dramatic fullness in the upper portion. A lifted breast will take on a teardrop shape. The teardrop is actually more natural. In this country, perhaps partly because of people like me, we think the implanted breast is more natural, but it is not. With the proper patient teaching and education, restoring the natural breast to its new location can be equally gratifying. With more and more women choosing lifts over traditional augmentation, it is important to understand exactly what breast lifts are and what benefits they offer. It’s also important to pick the right surgeon, so you feel safe and comfortable getting your procedure done.
What is a Breast Lift?Also known as a mastopexy, a breast lift is the process of reshaping the breast to give it a tighter shape. Imagine removing excess fabric from a bra that is too loose. The same is done to the breast. This is done through removing excess skin on the breast and tightening the remaining skin. The result is a youthful and firmer breast.
Do I Need a Breast Lift?If you’re happy with the shape and volume of your breasts, then a breast lift probably isn’t for you. If, on the other hand, you’d like a tighter, more youthful breast, you may want to consider getting this procedure done. Consider the following: if you like the volume of your breasts when you are wearing a bra, but not when the bra comes off, then you may want to consider a breast lift. Breast lifts keep the breast almost the same size, but by removing excess skin the breast Is tightened. Imagine having a bra with too much fabric. The fabric is removed to tighten the bra, but in this case, the bra is the skin. Breast lifts are common for women whose breasts have sagged from pregnancy, breastfeeding, genetics, or the general effects of aging. Breast lifts are also a great way to reshape your breasts after significant weight loss. They can help women whose areolas have grown over the years. In some cases, breast lifts can correct misshapen breasts. Breast lifts are commonly used to treat tuberous breast deformity. Breast lifts or reduction can be used to help patients with breast asymmetry, and in some cases for trauma or reconstruction.
Are There Different Kinds of Breast Lifts?There certainly are. Just like every woman’s breasts are unique, so are the various types of breast lifts. The four most common types are the crescent lift, the donut lift, the lollipop lift, and the anchor lift. Below is a diagram:
Crescent Breast LiftsCrescent lifts are designed to help women who have minor sagging. This type of lift gets its name from the type of incision used during surgery. A small crescent is made over the top of the areola. The skin is then pulled up and tightened. It is the smallest lift that can give a perkier, younger look to breasts. Crescent lifts can be done in conjunction with breast augmentations to help correct nipple height asymmetry. This woman had a crescent lift one year after breast augmentation to give a slight elevation to the nipples.
Donut Breast LiftThe donut lift is sometimes called a full lift or a periareolar lift. This option is mainly used for women who are experiencing a small to moderate amount of sagging. Donut lifts, in some cases, can also help reduce the size of the areola. Donut lifts get their name from the type of incision used in the surgery. A full incision is made around the areola. Like crescent lifts, donut lifts are can be used conjunction with breast implants. I use this lift frequently, but sparingly, in my practice. This lift creates a radial tension around the areola that can sometimes lead to stretching of the areola or the scar. I use a series of sutures, one of which takes a long time to dissolve to try and minimize this tension. These will often make the areolas a bit smaller with the expectation that there will be some stretching.
Lollipop Breast LiftsLollipop lifts are sometimes called vertical lifts and get their name from the types of incisions made. In a lollipop lift, a vertical ellipse of skin is taken from around the areola down to the fold of the breast. It is then closed vertically in a straight line with the nipple and areola at the top. I don’t care for this kind of lift. It pulls the skin side to side, but most droopy breasts are loose from top to bottom. Lollipop lifts simply do not do enough. They leave the nipples too high. When a vertical ellipse is closed into a vertical line, the line becomes longer because the nipples need to be placed at the top of the scar. Because of this, I see many of these lifts with the nipples too high. The fix is easy: take a horizontal wedge of skin out of the fold of the breast and pull the nipples down. Basically, it converts this lift into a full lift (see below) which for many would have been best in the first place.
Full Breast LiftSometimes called an anchor or keyhole breast lift because of its design, this lift is actually called a “Wise Pattern” breast lift after its inventor: Dr. Wise. I will sometimes refer to this as the “big, bad breast lift” to my patients. This is because it can leave the most scars, but, in my opinion, it tightens the skin more than other lifts and often gives the best shape. For patients with a lot of skin laxity, this is really the only option. It tightens the skin both vertically and horizontally and provides the greatest ability to reshape the breast. This type of skin tightening is done in most breast reductions as well. In this set of photos, you can see a woman with so much skin laxity that only a full lift would do the job. A full lift was necessary to remove enough skin to adequately tighten and elevate these breasts.
What if My Breasts are Droopy or Small?This is one of the most common questions we’re asked during the consultation process. Although breast lifts are designed to make your breasts firmer and younger, many women wish to restore volume to the breast, particularly after pregnancy. For the patient who not only wants a lift and tightening, but also an increase in size, lifts can be combined with implants. The type of lift will depend upon the size and type of the implant and the amount of skin laxity that remained when the implant is placed at surgery. Just placing an implant under the skin give some lift from the get go. So, a droopy patient will be less droopy just from the implant. It is not always 100% clear which lift, if any, will be best until the implant is in position. Many of my patients allow me to choose the type of lift at surgery once the implant is in position. I appreciate this flexibility and will always do what I feel is best for my patient. You can see the difference between a breast lift and a breast lift plus implant below. The patient on the left had a breast lift. The patient on the right had a lift and augmentation. The breast on the left has a more natural look. The breast on the right, however, is oftentimes more desirable by patients.
Can I Get a Breast Lift if My Breasts are Large?While the short answer is yes, heavy breasts want to go south. I frequently see women with DD breasts or more who want no droop. Unfortunately, gravity wins. For the excessively large patient some degree of reduction will give a tighter, firmer, and longer lasting result.
How is the Surgery Performed?This all depends on the type of breast lift procedure you get. Full breast lifts are performed under general anesthesia. Smaller lifts, crescent lifts and periareolar for example, can be done under local anesthesia. A full breast lift takes about two hours in surgery generally with a short time in our recovery room. The smaller lifts take far less. The first day or two often has some soreness and swelling which subsides as you heal. Most patients take a week or less off work for a full lift and even less for the smaller lifts. If you are considering breast lifts, I am happy to offer complimentary consultations in one of my three offices. A consultation will help to identify your goals and help to decide which lift, if any, makes the most sense. The risks, benefits, and alternatives are candidly discussed.
Are There Potential Risks?While the risks of breast lift are low potential complications can include:
- Loss of sensation in the nipple
- Difficult breastfeeding
- Tissue loss
What Should I Do to Recover from Surgery?The recovery process from breast lift surgery is usually straightforward. As mentioned above, you’ll be able to go home the same day your surgery is performed. You will have to wear an elastic bandage and a surgical bra that we provide after surgery. After the first post-op visit, most patients will begin wearing a gently compressive sports bra. After 3- 6 weeks patients are allowed to wear the bra of their choice. To minimize the risk of bleeding or healing issues, we request that patients avoid strenuous activity for 21 days after surgery and then gradually return to their normal exercise routine. You’ll want to sleep on your back for the first several weeks after surgery to keep pressure off your breasts. We provide prescriptions for antibiotics and painkillers. Most patients in a full lift are off narcotics in about 48 hours.
How Much Does a Breast Lift Cost?While many cosmetic surgery professionals tend to keep their fees hidden, I believe in transparency. If I were searching the web this is what I would want to know. I can I try to provide all-inclusive pricing so that patients are not surprised by additional facility or anesthesia fees. Find a breakdown of fees for all our cosmetic surgery procedures. I offer inclusive pricing for appropriate candidates for most of our procedures and breast lifts are no different. Our standard fees include the surgical fee, anesthesia fee, and facility fee and all routine follow up:
- Breast lift $6,900 (standalone)
- Periareolar lift $2500 (standalone local)
- Breast lift $3,000 (additional w/ augmentation)
- Breast lift (Peri) $1,500 (additional w/ augmentation)
- Breast lift (Crescent) $750 (additional w/ augmentation)