Choosing Your Breast Implants
When it comes to breast augmentation, you have many choices. Implants can be made of silicone or saline, can be soft or firm, and can be shaped or round. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of implant, so think about all of your options before you make your choice. Women can also consider fat transfer instead of implants. This page provides some information on the different options that are available. You’ll make your final choice in consultation with your surgeon, who will suggest the implants that are most appropriate for your goals and body type.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective surgery with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the surgeon who will perform your surgery if you decide to proceed.
Silicone implants have been used for decades, and provide the feel and bounce of natural breast tissue. There was some concern in the past that leakage from silicone implants may lead to health issues, though this has been dispelled in recent years through extensive scientific research demonstrating the safety of silicone implants for women’s health. Silicone implants are now the more common choice, used in over 70% of breast implant surgeries.
One disadvantage of silicone implants is that, if they rupture, silicone will be released into the body. Since silicone is not a material naturally found in the body, this potential situation is of concern to some women. A study in 2013 indicated that most cases of implant rupture are due to damage to the implant by the surgeon, so the best way you can prevent it from happening is to choose a great surgeon. If you have silicone implants, you’ll need to have a breast MRI periodically to check that the implants are still in position and have not leaked. If implants rupture, they can be removed or replaced.
Silicone implants are only approved for use in women age 22 and older. If you’re younger than 22 and want silicone implants, you’ll need to wait to get your breast augmentation until you’re at least 22.
Traditional silicone implants are filled with silicone gel. If they become damaged, some silicone may leak into the surrounding tissue, or it may remain within the implant shell; the implant will not completely collapse if ruptured.
The implants can be smooth or textured. Smooth implants allow movement of the implants within the breast implant pockets, mimicking natural movement of the breast. However, after healing, smooth implants may lead to rippling of the skin or tissue over the implant; it may be visible, or may only be noticable when feeling the breast. Implants can also be textured, which reduces the risk that the implant will move into an undesirable position and lead to an unnatural look of the breast. The textured implants also reduce the risk of a tight scar capsule forming around the implant, which leads to the implant feeling hard.
Gummy Bear Silicone
Another choice are implants made of a firmer gel known as “gummy bear implants.” These implants are less likely to leak if damaged, because they’re more solid. Gummy bear implants are not round like most implants, but are shaped to mimic a normal breast, being fuller at the bottom and tapered towards the top. The shaped implants appear more natural, but if they rotate or change position, the breasts may look very unnatural.
Saline implants are filled with saltwater. The advantage is that, if they do leak, there will be no health risk at all, because the saltwater will naturally be absorbed by the body. The disadvantage is that they will completely collapse if there is a leak. They also don’t quite feel as close to natural breast tissue as silicone does, though they’re close.
Saline implants are only approved for use in women age 18 and older. If you’re younger than 18, you’ll need to wait to get your breast augmentation until you’re at least 18, even if you have your parents’ permission to have the procedure now.
A technique known as fat transfer breast augmentation uses fat taken from other areas of the body through liposuction, which is injected into the breasts to increase their size. The advantage of this technique is that no implants need to be placed, and incisions in the chest area are not required (though there will be tiny injection holes, and small incisions in the areas where liposuction was performed). The disadvantage is that the potential increase in breast volume is much smaller than with an implant. To be a candidate for this procedure, a woman needs to have enough fat on other areas of her body to achieve the desired increase in breast volume.