Breast Lift Guide: Top Questions & Answers

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. John Nguyen in March 2016

A breast lift, or mastopexy, reshapes and adds volume to the breasts, which may have been lost due to aging, weight loss, genetics, or pregnancy. Often, the nipple and areola are shifted to a higher, more youthful position.

If you’re considering a breast lift, you probably have a lot of questions. We’ve drawn on the expertise of our doctors and the RealSelf community to give you answers.

In This Overview:

What Is Breast Lift Surgery?
Is a Breast Lift Right for Me?
How Much Does It Cost?
How Do I Choose a Surgeon?
How Should I Prepare for a Breast Lift?
What Happens During the Procedure?
What’s the Recovery Time?
What Results Can I Expect?
What Else Do I Need to Know?


What Is Breast Lift Surgery?

Breast lift surgery restores volume and shape to breasts that may appear saggy due to factors such as aging and pregnancy. The procedure lifts the breasts by removing excess skin and tightening tissue to provide better support. Your surgeon may also resize your areolas to better fit the breasts’ new shape.

A lift doesn’t significantly change the size of the breasts, which is why some women may also choose to get implants for additional volume. These can be placed at the same the breast lift is being performed.

There are three major kinds of breast lifts, depending on incision type:

  1. The donut, Benelli, or circumareolar technique achieves a lift by making a donut-shaped incision around the areola. The amount of lift is limited, so the technique offers mild correction to sagging.
  2. Lollipop or vertical incisions circle the areola and extend downward. This option is rapidly becoming more popular and can be used for moderate to severe sagging correction.
  3. The anchor technique starts with lollipop incisions, then adds a horizontal incision along the breast crease. This older technique is particularly helpful in more extreme cases of sagging. Back to top
Lift Incisions


Is a Breast Lift Right for Me?

“Patients seeking breast lifts come in all age groups and demographics,” says Houston plastic surgeon Dr. John Nguyen. “Some have had significant weight loss and/or children, which can affect the breasts to varying degrees.”

No matter their background, potential breast lift patients have one thing in common: They’ve noticed changes in their breasts brought on by age, pregnancy, or gravity.

“There is no age limit for breast augmentation,” says West Palm Beach plastic surgeon Dr. Kris Reddy. “However, most surgeons will not perform breast surgery on women who have not had full breast development.”

Should you wait until after pregnancy to get a breast lift? That depends on your personal plans, say RealSelf plastic surgeons. “If you have a baby, your breasts will enlarge from the pregnancy and droop more,” says Fort Myers plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Brueck. “If you are planning to have a baby soon, I would wait [to have a breast lift].” Back to top


How Much Does a Breast Lift Cost?

The price of a breast lift varies, but expect an average price tag of around $7,900. The range in price is due to many factors such as the technique used, the experience of the surgeon, the length of the procedure, and geographic location, among others.

Price should never be the primary factor when considering a cosmetic procedure. “Find a plastic surgeon with elite credentials who performs hundreds of breast surgeries each year,” says Los Angeles plastic surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hughes. “Then look at the plastic surgeon's before and after photos to get a sense of who can deliver the results.” Back to top


How Do I Choose a Surgeon for a Breast Lift?

As with any elective procedure, the most important factor in choosing a doctor is experience. Consider having consultations with at least three different doctors. During the consultation, expect to be asked about your desired results. You will also have your breasts examined, measured, and photographed.

Questions to ask your surgeon include:

  • How often do you perform breast lift surgery?
  • Are you board-certified and if so, which board(s)?
  • How do you plan to minimize scarring?
  • Which technique — donut, lollipop, or anchor — do you plan to use and why?
  • How often do you work with breasts my size?
  • What is your proposed surgical plan for my breast lift?
  • What before & after photos do you have that most resemble my case?

“As with any medical decision, it is always advisable to do some research,” says Dr. Nguyen. He recommends a surgeon who’s certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and an active member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Also, research where the surgery is being performed. “Whether the procedure is done at a hospital or a surgical center, the facility should be licensed by the state department of health and other entities such as the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities [AAAASF] and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care [AAAHC],” adds Dr. Nguyen. “This helps ensure that your facility follows strict standards and guidelines for safety, infection control, personnel and staff training, and the like.”

If you’re looking for a licensed and qualified plastic surgeon to perform your breast lift, use the RealSelf Doctor Finder. Back to top


How Should I Prepare for a Breast Lift?

“It’s important to be in good medical condition before any elective plastic surgery,” says Seattle plastic surgeon Dr. Mary Lee Peters. This includes, but isn’t limited to, being physically active, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding certain products before surgery that may contribute to bleeding. Your surgeon will provide personalized instructions.

Just as important as good physical health is good mental health. “Before going into any cosmetic surgery,” says Chicago plastic surgeon Dr. Sam Speron, “it’s important to have a positive and realistic frame of mind.” There is only so much any surgery can do, so be sure you’re clear on your surgeon’s plan and the expected results, including scarring.

Check out this list of 13 things to do before your procedure, courtesy of the RealSelf community. Back to top


What Happens During the Procedure?

Breast lift surgery typically takes between 90 minutes and four hours. The patient is typically put under general anesthesia (goes to sleep), and the length of the procedure depends upon the patient’s current and desired cup size.

During the procedure, your surgeon will likely use one of these three breast lift incisions: donut, lollipop, or anchor. Read more on these incision types here.

A breast lift is most often an outpatient procedure, so you’ll need someone to drive you home and monitor your recovery for the first one to two days post-op. Back to top


What’s the Recovery Time After a Breast Lift?

Recovery from breast lift surgery varies from person to person, but you should expect an average recovery of about a week. Your surgeon will likely have you wear a support bra before transitioning to a sports bra, and your breasts will likely feel heavy and tight for several weeks.

Your doctor may also recommend that you avoid exercise or lifting anything over 10 pounds for the first six weeks following your procedure. After this time, you should be able to assume all normal activity; however, it may take several months for your breasts to settle into their new place, with complete wound healing often taking at least a year.

As for pain, “women report minimal discomfort after breast lift surgery,” says Philadelphia plastic surgeon Dr. Ted Eisenberg. Most patients, he adds, are back to work by the fifth day after surgery, as long as their work doesn’t involve strenuous activity.

Dr. Nguyen seconds this finding, saying: “Breast lifts are one of the least painful surgical procedures at our office.” Back to top


What Results Can I Expect From a Breast Lift?

After swelling has subsided, which may take months to fully resolve, expect your breasts to be higher and perkier than they were before surgery. There will be scarring, with the incisions red and/or pink immediately following surgery. These will heal and fade over time, but they will never fully disappear. Your plastic surgeon may suggest a scar lightening cream, silicone scar sheets, or laser treatments to further minimize the appearance.

Your breasts may look slightly smaller after a breast lift because excess skin has been removed. “Breast lifts generally make the breast look better in form, but there may be a slight decrease in size,” says Harrisburg, Pennsylvania plastic surgeon Dr. John Stratis.

To get an idea of the kind of results you can expect, here are three of the most viewed before and after photos on RealSelf. Back to top


Breast Lift 1

Breast Lift

Photo courtesy of Dr. John Nguyen

Breast Lift 2

Breast Lift With Implants

Photo courtesy of Dr. William DeLuca Jr.

Breast Lift 3

Breast Lift

Photo courtesy of Dr. Gary Horndeski


What Else Do I Need to Know?

How Much Can a Breast Lift “Lift” the Breasts?

Significantly, says Dr. Nguyen. “Typically the nipple will be repositioned above the level of the breast crease,” he says. If you’ve experienced significant sagging and significant loss of volume, consider also getting implants. “Placing an implant at the time of the lift can better restore the fullness and perky shape of the breasts,” he adds.

Can I Get a Breast Lift If I Already Have Breast Implants?

Yes, though depending on what type of breast implants you have, your surgeon may recommend you swap them out. This is most common for women who have saline implants or have had implants for 10 or more years.

What If I Get Pregnant After My Breast Lift?

Pregnancy will change your breasts. There’s no getting around that. As such, a revision surgery may be needed if you want to restore your results. “[You can either] have breast lifting at an early age and enjoy the results for an unknown period of time or wait until you after you have completed your family,” explains San Diego plastic surgeon Dr. Tom Pousti.

Can I Breastfeed After a Breast Lift?

There’s no way to know for sure the changes surgery may have on your breasts, but you should be able to breastfeed after a breast lift. However, be sure to discuss all possible outcomes with your doctor. He or she may recommend waiting for surgery until after your family is complete.

Have a question we didn't answer in this guide? Ask an expert plastic surgeon.

More to Explore:

See more before and after photos

Read reviews from real patients

Find plastic surgeons offering this treatment in your area


Dr. NguyenThis guide has been medically reviewed for accuracy by Dr. John Nguyen. Dr. Nguyen is a double board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Sugar Land Plastic Surgery in the Houston area. After completing two residencies, Dr. Nguyen earned the distinction of being certified by both the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. This prestigious distinction gives patients the peace of mind that they are in the capable hands of a surgeon who can perform well under pressure in various surgical settings. The beautiful results and thousands of happy patients are a testament to his skill and dedication. In addition, Dr. Nguyen’s state-of-the-art facility is designed from the ground up with the latest in technological improvements, safety, and comfort. Learn more on his RealSelf profile.


Disclaimer: This content is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare professional. Your reliance on any information or content provided in the guide is solely at your own risk. You should always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare professional for any questions you have about your own medical condition. RealSelf does not endorse or recommend any specific content, procedure, product, opinion, healthcare professional or any other material or information in this guide or anywhere on this website.

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