Breast Augmentation vs. Breast Lift: What’s the Difference?

posted on:
September 14th, 2021
posted by:
Dr. Thomas Bell, MD

Breast size can be important for many women who consider them part of their confidence and femininity. While perfectly natural, having breasts that are uneven, sagging, or a different size than desired can feel embarrassing, which is why many women turn to cosmetic breast surgeries.

At our Toronto plastic surgery clinic, breast surgeries are among the most popular cosmetic procedures we perform, but there is still much misinformation about them. Many people don’t even know there’s more than one type of breast surgery out there. In fact, there are many of them, including:

  • Saline breast implants
  • Silicone breast implants
  • Fat transfer breast augmentation
  • Breast lifts (of which there are several kinds)
  • Implant removal
  • Breast reductions

Today we’re going to talk about one of the most common questions we get about breast surgery: What’s the difference between a breast lift and a breast implant?

By Definition

Mastopexy surgery, also known as a breast lift, is a procedure that, as the name implies, lifts the breast tissue to create a more youthful and feminine appearance, without any insertions and implants to change any size or fullness of the breast. This procedure is favoured among women who might be insecure about sagginess in their breasts but not about their overall size.

Meanwhile, breast augmentation is what people often think of when they hear “boob job.” This is a procedure where implants or fat transfers are used to increase the size and shape of the breast.

Types of Breast Implants

As we previously mentioned, there are different types of breast implants, which we’ll break down now.

Saline Breast Implants

Saline breast implants were the industry standard, having been used since the ’60s. The implant is typically inserted empty, making for much more minor incision marks, placed, and then filled with sterile salt water (Saline).

Silicone Breast Implants

As technology and surgeries have evolved, so have implants. Silicone breast plants were created as an alternative to some of the troubles that come with saline implants. These implants have become more of the industry standard over the years, known for their more natural look and feel.

Comparing the Two

When it comes to deciding silicone vs saline implants, there’s much to consider.

While having the most history, saline breast implants can come with a share of problems. Because they are filled with water, saline implants are more noticeable when moving around and bending, creating a ripple effect of the water sloshing around.

Saline implants also come with a higher risk of leaking and rupture and often need to be replaced every ten years to prevent increased risk.

On the other hand, as the implants are made of a sterile water solution, which is more easily absorbed by the body, some consider saline implants a safer alternative to silicone, despite the increased risk of breakage.

Silicone breast implants are far less likely to rupture or leak and rarely ripple when moving due to the denser material. As silicone leaks at a far slower rate, it may not be noticeable right away, unlike ruptures in saline implants which are also likely to be noticed quicker by a deflated appearance. When getting silicone implants, checking the integrity of them every few years with an MRI is advised.

Can I Remove My Implants?

While most women are happy with the results of their surgery, breast implants can be removed or changed out at any point after fully healing.

When it comes to saline implants, we encourage this at least every ten years to ensure their structural integrity.

Implants can either be entirely removed or changed for a different type or size, depending on the patient’s concerns.

Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

Despite their improved safety over the years, some women do not wish to have implants for personal or medical reasons. Those still desiring an improved breast size might opt for a fat transfer breast augmentation.

This procedure can also perform an additional benefit of removing excess fat from an unwanted part of your body.

During a fat transfer augmentation, your surgeon harvests fat cells from designated areas of your body, such as the hips, thighs, or abdomen. The fat is then redistributed into the breasts, creating an improved shape and size.

Many women find this surgery preferable as it uses fat from your own body, can help slim the donor area of the body, and the results are permanent, assuming general health and weight are upheld. A fat transfer augmentation takes around 90 minutes and starts at $9999.

You can also get this procedure done if you have existing breast implants. This can help to improve symmetry and reduce any ripples the implants may have in the breasts.

Let's Get Back to Breast Lifts

Now that we’ve talked implants let’s get back to talking breast lifts.

A breast lift restores the breast to a more youthful appearance by correcting and drooping tissue and removing excess skin. This helps restore your breasts to their original, natural tightness and position before sagging began.

Breast sagging is an extremely common occurrence that can come from any number of events and combinations, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Aging
  • Weight fluctuations

During the procedure, incisions are made, tissue is reshaped, excess skin is removed, and nipples are repositioned. While perkiness and fullness of the breasts are restored, their size will remain unchanged.

Types of Breast Lifts

While we refer to breast lifts as a general umbrella term for the procedure, there are multiple kinds of breast lift methods. The style of lift you get will be based on your breasts, as well as your goals.

Crescent Lift

This procedure is the least invasive and typically done on women with minor sagging. We often perform this method when combining breast augmentation and lift. During this procedure, a small incision is made by the areola, and a crescent-shaped section of skin is removed to raise the nipple.

Donut Lift

A donut lift is similarly made with only one incision around the areola, however more extensive than the crescent lift, tracing around the entire areola.

Lollipop Lift

When it comes to breast lifts, the lollipop lift is one of the most common. This method treats sagging breasts by making an incision from the areola and under the breast and removing excess tissue.

Anchor Lift

The anchor lift is the most extensive of the lifts we offer. Incisions are made from the areola to below the breast, then along the curve of the breast fold, similar to the shape of an anchor. Excess skin and tissue are then removed. This method is typically only done on patients suffering from more significant sagging.

Combining Implants and Lifts

One misconception is that patients must choose between breast lift vs implants, but this is untrue. Often women receive a combination of both a breast lift and breast augmentation simultaneously to achieve the final look they desire. During a breast lift with implants, the breast lift is performed to raise the position of the breast and remove excess skin. Then the desired implants are then inserted into place, and the procedure is completed.


When it comes to breast lift and implant costs, the prices can vary.

Depending on your type of augmentation, Toronto breast implants typically start at $7999, with silicone implants roughly costing an additional thousand.

breast lift in Toronto typically starts at around $9,999. This is without implants.

You might be wondering why a breast lift alone costs more than implants. This is due to several factors, such as complexity and time.

Breast augmentation is a less invasive surgery that typically involves making a small incision, creating a pocket for the implant, and reclosure. The procedure typically only takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

During a breast lift, more planning, incisions, and experience is required to perform the surgery, as the breast is being reshaped, excess skin is being removed, and overall firmness has to be created without the assistance of implants. Due to this, the procedure takes roughly two hours to complete.

A breast lift with implants is the complex of the three procedures. This is because it combines two different surgeries, first the lift, followed by the implants. This means a more prolonged procedure and anesthesia time. Breast augmentation and lift take anywhere between 2-4 hours, depending on the complexity of the procedure. Because of these factors, a breast lift with implants begins at $15,999.

Who Can Get Breast Lifts and Augmentations?

There are no specific traits to define an ideal candidate when it comes to breast lifts and augmentations. For a more seamless recovery and surgery, we ask our clients to be in good health and keep realistic expectations for their surgery goals.


A breast lift and implant recovery are similar processes, albeit with slightly different timeframes.

Recovery from breast augmentation takes roughly 1-3 weeks, with discomfort subsiding within 48 hours. Meanwhile, a breast lift may require more time due to being a slightly more extensive process and can take 2-3 weeks, with discomfort lasting around a week. In both cases, dressings and support bras are provided and need to be worn until instructed.

In terms of implants, it can take roughly four weeks before swelling has subsided, and the implants drop to their natural-looking appearance.

In both cases, normal activities can typically be resumed after six weeks.

Which Has Worse Scarring?

We do our best to make sure scarring is minimal and discreet in both breast augmentations and breast lifts. The exact extent of the scarring will vary on an individual basis and the type of procedure done.

When speaking to augmentations, saline implants are typically inserted empty and then filled after insertion. This allows us to make much smaller incisions. These incisions can also be made by the armpit or areola to make for more discreet scarring after insertion.

Silicone implants, however, come prefilled and are thus inserted under the breast. This leaves a minor crease-like scar higher under the breast. This scar is generally not visible unless the breast is lifted.

When it comes to a breast lift, scarring will depend on the surgical method done to perform it. For example, an anchor lift is one of the most invasive methods, will leave the most scarring compared to a crescent lift, which leaves not much more than a small incision mark by the areola.

After a breast lift and augmentation procedure, you will be provided with a series of laser treatments to minimize visible scarring; you will also be provided with guidelines and aftercare instructions during your recovery to help reduce scarring.

Other things can help reduce scarring after your procedure, such as avoiding smoking, drinking plenty of fluids, eating foods high in nutrition, and avoiding sunlight. After your recovery has progressed a designated amount of time set by your surgeon, scar reduction creams can later be applied as well.

How to Decide

With so many options out there, it can be hard to decide on a breast lift vs breast implants, saline or silicone, fat transference, or a combination of all three.

What is suitable for some may not be right for others, which is why our clinic firmly believes in custom solutions and individual attention for every client. We have a proven track record of great success due to our care and dedication to our craft and patients.

While we hope this has been informative for you in learning about these procedures, we’d love to hear from you. If you’re interested, or even just curious about breast augmentation and lift, or any form of cosmetic procedure, please schedule a consultation with us today!

Posted by:

Dr. Thomas Bell, MD

Dr. Thomas Bell has been one of Canada’s most renowned cosmetic surgeons for 35 years. He prides his excellence on the harmonious balance of vision, aesthetic appearance, and patient care.

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