Breast Lift Surgery Guide | The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (2023)

What is a Breast Lift?

A breast lift restores a firmer, perkier, and more aesthetically pleasing shape to sagging breasts. This not onlycan improve a patient’s appearance by restoring her youthful, feminine proportions, butalso 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 areolaecan also be reduced during breast lift surgery, creating an overall better proportioned, natural looking breast.

Breast Lift Surgery Guide | The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (1)

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Common reasons women choose breast lift surgery:

  • To restore a better breast shape followingpregnancy & 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 havehad drooping breasts since their teens. Breast lift surgery can help awoman get the breast profile shehas 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 askyourself to geta 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 traitcosmetic 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 youhave 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, thisprocedure can be very effective in improving breast symmetry, and a skilled cosmetic surgeon canuse breast lift techniques to restore a more normal, rounded shape to tuberous breasts.

Choosing a Cosmetic Surgeon for Your Breast Lift

If you’re consideringbreast lift surgery, choosing acosmetic 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. Viewbefore 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—thiswill help you get a feel for a cosmetic surgeon’s aesthetic style.


Make sure your cosmetic surgeon is board certified; thisensures that he or she isspecifically trained and experienced in cosmetic surgeryand thatyour procedure will take place in an accredited facility, which is essential for your safety. Finally, don’t choose a cosmeticsurgeon based on price alone. Your safety & results are too important.Most cosmetic surgeons offer financing options to help patientsbudget 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 withthe least conspicuous scarring possible.

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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, yetstill 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 withlift. While the anchor lift comes with some visible scarring, these typically willfade significantly with proper care, and are easily hidden by a bikini top.

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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, yourcosmetic surgeon can place breast implants duringbreast lift surgery to restore fullnessand shape to the breast. If you have always wanted larger, lifted breasts, a breast augmentation with lift can help you achieve both witha single procedure and recovery.

Breast Lift Surgery Guide | The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (2)

Life after Breast Lift Surgery

Breast lift surgery is typically performed as an outpatient procedure usinggeneral 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.

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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 fluctuationscan 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.

(Video) What is the difference between a Breast Lift and a Breast Reduction? by Dr. Jason Leedy

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


How much size is lost with breast lift? ›

Typically, a breast lift (medically referred to as mastopexy) reduces bra size by one cup. However, this is usually not the result of volume loss. When excess skin and sagging breast tissue are removed or repositioned, cup sizes are naturally reduced. For many women, this is a good thing.

What is the average recovery time for a breast lift? ›

How long is the recovery after a breast lift? As with any procedure, the details of a breast lift recovery can vary from patient to patient. In general, most women can expect to feel well enough to return to work after 1 – 2 weeks, with the majority of their swelling resolving in about 3 – 6 weeks.

What is the procedure to lift breasts? ›

Breast lift, or mastopexy, is a surgical procedure to raise and reshape sagging breasts–at least, for a time. (No surgery can permanently delay the effects of gravity.) Mastopexy can also reduce the size of the areola, the darker skin surrounding the nipple.

How much tissue is removed during a breast lift? ›

The minimal amount of tissue removed varies per insurance plan and is based on body surface area. Typically at least 200-350 grams must be removed from each breast for the procedure to be covered by insurance but this can range to a higher weight requirement to be removed of 700-800 grams.

What are the disadvantages of a breast lift? ›

Cons of a Breast Lift:

There may be temporary or permanent loss of sensation in the nipples or breasts. Scarring from a breast lift is more significant than other breast surgeries because the procedure requires the removal of excess skin tissue and repositioning.

How many hours does breast lift surgery take? ›

A breast lift itself takes approximately 3 1/2 hours and the remainder of the time will be spent administering anesthesia and preparing you to go home.

Can you wear a bra after a breast lift? ›

Post-Procedure: After The First Week. Wear a sports bra all the time (preferably one that buttons in the front), especially when you sleep at night. Do not wear an under wire bra for one month. After one month, you can wear any bra you like.

How painful is a breast lift? ›

While discomfort or pain after surgery is to be expected, women usually mention that breast reduction or breast lift surgery is a lot less painful than what they expected. Generally people comment that it's more 'discomfort or pain limited to the incisions', rather than pain within the breasts or over the chest.

Do you need to wear a bra after a lift? ›

After any type of breast surgery, whether it is a breast lift with augmentation or a breast reduction, the patient must wear a supportive bra and follow specific post-operative guidelines. Is it mandatory to wear this supportive bra? The answer is yes.

What skin is removed during a breast lift? ›

In a breast lift, excess skin and breast tissue are removed. Several different incision patterns can be used to reposition the areola and nipple, and to remove excess tissue.

What surgery is best for sagging breasts? ›

A breast lift, also known as a mastopexy, is most beneficial for women who have sagging breasts. This type of procedure reshapes and supports the breast tissue to achieve a more youthful figure. It also helps restore the shape and volume that may have been lost due to age, weight loss or breastfeeding.

What do I need to know before breast lift? ›

How should I prepare for breast lift surgery?
  • Get lab testing or a medical evaluation.
  • Take certain medications or adjust your current medications.
  • Get a baseline mammogram before surgery and another one after surgery to help detect any future changes in your breast tissue.
  • Stop smoking.

When can I raise my arms after breast lift? ›

Don't raise your arms above breast level for 10 days. And don't lift, push, or pull anything heavier than 10 pounds for at least 7 days. Don't drive until you are no longer taking prescription pain medicine and your surgeon says it's OK.

What is the fastest way to recover from a breast lift? ›

Wear a compression garment or sports bra

Wearing a compression bra or sports bra following your surgery can help accelerate the healing process. These garments help to minimize swelling, improve blood flow in the area, provide support and comfort to the surgical site, and help to flush harmful fluids from the body.

What are long term effects of a breast lift? ›

Breast contour and shape irregularities. Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent. Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications. Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)

Can you be awake during a breast lift? ›

With local anesthesia, only the surgical site is injected with medication. This means that while the breast area will have no sensation, you will be awake and aware for the entire procedure, which will likely take multiple hours.

Are breast lifts high risk? ›

Complications after breast lifts are relatively rare. The main three are bleeding, infection, and scarring. Your surgeon will give you instructions for preparing that will help lower your risk of complications.

Do you have drains with breast lift? ›

You might have drains. This may be true, but most plastic surgeons do not use drains. At the Quatela Center for Plastic Surgery, drains are almost never used for breast lifts and breast lifts with augmentations. So, do not worry about them.

Can you get a breast lift without losing size? ›

The specific procedure that does just that is called an auto-augmentation breast lift surgery. Auto-augmentation is best suited for women with ample breast tissue who want to enhance the appearance of their sagging breasts without losing size.

Do you lose volume in a breast lift? ›

A breast lift removes excess skin and raises the position of the breasts on the chest. However, it adds no volume to the breasts, and the breasts may appear smaller than they were before the lift because removing the excess skin causes the breasts to be more compact.

Do breasts look smaller after lifting? ›

Breast lift surgery can sometimes make the breasts appear smaller, although no significant amount of breast tissue is removed. Breast lift surgery, also known as mastopexy, is a procedure in which the breasts are reshaped and repositioned to improve their overall appearance.

Does a breast lift remove fat? ›

While a breast lift does remove excess skin, fat and tissue to achieve a lifted and perkier breast appearance, the possibility of having smaller breasts after their procedure is one that most women need not worry about.

Is having a breast lift painful? ›

Whenever you have surgery, you will likely experience some discomfort associated with the procedure, and patients typically describe the discomfort associated with a breast lift as "moderate." But you should know that you don't have to go through the procedure alone, and with our experience and professional training, ...

Is breast tissue removed during a lift? ›

Overview. In a breast lift, excess skin and breast tissue are removed. Several different incision patterns can be used to reposition the areola and nipple, and to remove excess tissue.

Is a breast lift worth it? ›

Overall, a normal breast lift surgery will restore the breasts' youthful appearance without the need for implants. Women can also expect to see some firming of the breasts without implants as well. Breast lifts may help women find relief from back pain and poor posture.

How do I keep my breast lift perky? ›

How To Keep Your Breasts Perky After A Breast Lift
  1. Wear properly fitting bras. Studies have shown that around 70% of women are wearing the wrong bra size. ...
  2. Sleep on your back. ...
  3. Keep good posture. ...
  4. Protect your skin. ...
  5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Oct 27, 2020

Do breast lifts feel natural? ›

Silicone and saline implants each feel differently. Neither substance is going to feel 100% natural under any conditions. However, each has its particular benefits and drawbacks. Silicone tends to feel more like flesh.

How long can you not lift after a breast lift? ›

Breast lift patients should plan on waiting at least six weeks, or until cleared by their plastic surgeon, before doing more strenuous exercise or upper body strength training.

Where are the scars for a breast lift? ›

The incisions are made from the bottom of the areola to the crease below the breast as well as around the areola, resulting in a scar that can resemble a lollipop.

Do bras keep breasts lifted? ›

Dr. Blake says wearing a bra doesn't prevent your breasts from sagging and not wearing one doesn't cause your breasts to sag. “Wearing a bra doesn't affect the risk of breast sagging, or what is called 'breast ptosis,'” she says. It also won't impact the shape of your breasts.

How painful is breast lift recovery? ›

Pain Management

Most patients report experiencing mild to moderate pain following their breast lift procedure. Pain is typically greatest in the first 2-3 days following the procedure and subsides thereafter. Your surgeon can prescribe pain medication to relieve any discomfort experienced by the patient.

How long does it take to see results from breast lift? ›

Expect to see immediate results following your mastopexy, but remember that your breasts will take time to settle into their final shape, size and position. It can be between two months and a year before you see the final results of your procedure.


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