How Natural Will My Breast Implants Look And Feel?
The primary goal of many patients who undergo breast augmentation procedures is to maintain a natural look and feel. There are many factors that can influence how natural your breasts will feel post-surgery. Developing a solid understanding of these variables can help you make the right pre-procedure choices.
Implant Type (Silicone vs. Saline) and Shape (Round vs. Anatomic)
The common consensus is that standard silicone implants tend to have a more natural look and feel compared to their saline counterparts. However, in the hands of an experienced plastic surgeon and with correct patient selection, saline implants can look and feel natural, especially if the implant is not placed too high or overfilled.
Another great option for a natural feel and appearance is highly cohesive-gel implants (commonly referred to as “gummy bear” implants). These implants are filled with a thicker silicone which tends to have a more firm feel than standard round silicone implants. They have a “tear-drop” shape which can vary in height, width and projection to best fit a patient’s anatomy. The implant is designed to mimic the natural slope and shape of the breast. Highly cohesive (gummy bear) implants also require a significantly larger incision to be made since they are not as easily deformed and squeezed through a small opening.
Natural Breast Tissue
The initial amount of natural breast tissue impacts the degree the end result has a natural look and feel. If the prospective patient has little to no natural tissue it will be very difficult to achieve a natural look and feel after the surgery. Generally speaking, patients with less native breast tissue or subcutaneous fat are better served with silicone implants due to the increased likelihood of visible rippling with saline implants.
Breast implants tend to look more natural when covered by abundant natural tissue. As such, placement under the muscle may be the best option for women who do not have enough natural breast tissue to cover the implant completely. In submusclar placement, the implant is placed partially behind the pectoral muscle. While this may result in a more natural feel, there are a couple of caveats to consider:
- Flexing the pectoral muscle can change the shape of the implant (though not permanently)
- Implants may sit a bit higher initially, and settle into a better position over time (6 weeks to 6 months)
- Submuscular placement may result in more discomfort post operatively, but the recovery time is similar with patients returning to work in about a week in either scenario. Patients with submuscular placement of the implants may also have physical limitations on their activities for a longer period of time based on their physician’s recommendations.
Smaller Implants vs. Larger Implants
Implant size plays a role in determining how natural the breasts appear. The larger the implant, the longer it will take to settle and feel natural. Significantly larger implants may never develop a natural feel, particularly in the case of saline implants. During your consultation if you pick up and squeeze a smaller implant vs. a larger implant you can feel the difference.
Another consideration is the ratio of natural breast tissue vs. implant material. If the ratio becomes excessively skewed by a large implant the result will most likely be an unnatural feel.
Textured implants are designed to reduce movement in the pocket as compared to smooth implants, thus reducing the chances of implant wrinkling and repositioning. Textured implants generally require a slightly longer incision than smooth implants, but not as long an incision as shaped (anatomic) highly cohesive gel implants.
Regular post-procedure massage can help some patients develop a long-term natural look and feel. Massaging the implants helps create a soft capsule and allows for natural movement, key factors in creating a natural feel and appearance. The recommendation for or against massage should be made by your surgeon though, since certain types of implants should not be massaged.