Other Sides of the Cup: Breast Augmentation Trends Around the World

posted on:
December 2nd, 2020
posted by:
Dr. Thomas Bell, MD

Did you know that breast augmentation is the #1 plastic surgery in North America, with hundreds of thousands of procedures performed each year?

But is that the case throughout the entire world? Are breast implants just as popular overseas? Do the beauty standards in other cultures mean that they favour different sizes and materials?

We thought it would be interesting to take a deep dive into the plastic surgery marketplaces around the world, and explore how prevalent breast augmentation surgery is in each respective market.

We are proud to offer one of Canada’s most distinguished and internationally-known breast augmentation surgeons in Dr. Thomas Bell. So, there is no need to leave Canada (or even Toronto) to get a world-class procedure

But here is a glance at what breast augmentation looks like around the world.

North America

Before we take a tour of the rest of the world, we thought we should give you some context by talking about what things are like here in North America.

How do the breast implant options in Toronto compare to the rest of the world? It’s hard to make a broad generalization, but a recent report surveyed over 600 plastic surgeons from around the world and discovered that:

  • More than 80% of surgeons across the world only use 100% silicone implants, but…
  • Only 22% of surveyed surgeons in the US use 100% silicone
  • More than two-thirds of surgeons in the US and Australia use implants larger than 300 cc. This would equate to approximately two cup sizes
  • In the US, more than a third of surveyed surgeons use implant sizes larger than 350 cc

We can tell you that, based on our own extensive experience, the most requested breast implant size falls between 350 and 400 cc, which generally equates to a C cup of varying sizes. At the same time, the top 5 most popular breast implant sizes are all between 350 and 500 cc

At our clinic, we take pride in offering the widest range of options to help you get the breast size you want, while also giving you access to one of Canada’s most respected and revered breast augmentation surgeons. Dr. Bell is known as an innovator in the field, and has performed well over 2,000 successful surgeries.

Some of your breast augmentation options include:

Breast Implants

This is always the most popular way to add volume and shape to your breasts.

Our clinic offers both silicone breast implants and saline breast implants. Which is right for you? Each has their own advantages. But generally speaking, the silicone gel breast implants (you may have also heard them called the gummy bear breast implants) offer a more natural look. They also move and feel more like natural breasts.

You can also opt for implants with a lift to give yourself a better body contour and a more youthful appearance. If you want to see a preview of how your results could look, our clinic’s Vectra 3D breast imaging system can show you.

Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

For people looking for an alternative to silicone and saline breast implants, fat transfer breast augmentations are a fantastic choice.

These safe and effective procedures will harvest the natural fat from a part of the body, and redistribute it in the breasts to add more volume and shape. It is a lot like the so-called Brazilian butt lift, which harvests fat from the stomach and the thighs to add more volume and shape to the buttocks area.

This is a very popular procedure for patients who would rather augment their breast size using their body’s own natural fat cells. It’s also a great option for women that are looking to have older implants replaced with something new.

When looking at the state of breast surgery in North America, as a whole, it’s safe to say that the procedures have never been safer, and the downtime has never been easier to manage.

If you would like to see what’s possible, we invite you to browse any of the breast augmentation before and after galleries on our site.

South America

Breast Augmentations are very popular in South America. However, this is still the birthplace of the world-famous Brazilian Butt lift.

According to data from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2015, Brazil had over 55,000 butt transfer procedures, easily making it the world leader for this procedure. In fact, they had more procedures than the next two countries (Mexico and Columbia) combined and they single-handedly accounted for over 1-in-5 (21.5%) of the butt implant procedures performed worldwide.

They also ranked #1 for butt implants, with 8,140 procedures, accounting for an incredible 26.3% of the worldwide total. They also had 4,125 butt lifts, which was also #1 worldwide.

However, that’s far from the only procedure being performed in Brazil. They also had the second most breast augmentation procedures in the world, with 166,430, trailing America’s 309,985. This is still a pretty staggering number when you factor in that Brazil accounts for about 11% of all of the world-wide procedures, and only 2.6% of the world’s population.

Meanwhile, Mexico had the third most breast augmentation procedures with 61,613, while making up 4.1% of the world’s total. If you add these 3 countries together, they combine for well over a third (36%) of the world’s total breast augmentation procedures.

Brazil also ranked second for:

  •   Total Cosmetic Procedures (2,324,245)
  •   Total Plastic Surgical Procedures (1,224,300)
  •   Total Liposuction Procedures (182,765)
  •   Total Nose Jobs (65,120)
  •   Total Ab Procedures (131,120)
  •   Total Botox Injections (1,141,595)
  •   Total Number of Plastic Surgeons (5,500)

Brazil also ranked #1 for eyelid surgeries, with 143,165. This made up about 11.3% of the world’s total surgeries.

Travellers Beware of Bogus Bargains

Unfortunately, another South American country has been the centre of controversy in the world of breast augmentation procedures, and plastic surgery in general. Columbia quickly established itself as a destination for people looking to take plastic surgery vacations because of the country’s tropical beaches, and their shockingly affordable procedures.

In fact, over 75,500 tourists from all over the world travelled to Columbian cities such as Bogotá, Cali and Medellín in 2016 for plastic surgery. These travellers actually accounted for 15% of the total number of surgeries carried out that year, according to the International Society of Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).

Sadly, many of the so-called surgeons were able to offer such low prices because of the considerably more lax laws and regulations in the area. There have been horror stories of general physicians and dentists performing procedures.

The lesson: Never, ever, sacrifice quality or certification for a cheaper price for plastic surgery. Always insist on board-certified surgeons with a reputation of success.


There is no doubt that Europe has a huge plastic surgery market, and breast augmentation is the most popular procedure.

In fact, when looking at the countries across the globe with the most total plastic surgeries, European countries make up 4 of the top 10 spots:

  • #4 Italy (957,814)
  • #8 Turkey (789,564)
  • #9 Germany (730,437)
  • #10 France (517,731)

Those numbers are not terribly surprising. These countries are all known for their glamour and their place in the world of high fashion and culture. Western European countries are the world leaders in beauty-related spending on items such as beauty products, fashion, high-end vehicles, and plastic surgeries. They combine to spend an estimated $748 billion (USD) per year on those items.

Greece alone had nearly 60,000 breast augmentations in 2018, and nearly 20,000 breast lift surgeries. Meanwhile, Germany saw over 65,000 breast augmentations, with over 25,000 breast lift surgeries.

Elsewhere, The UK doesn’t rank anywhere in the global top 20, but they still saw 7,745 breast augmentation procedures in 2018.

East Asia

There is a different culture surrounding plastic surgery in many parts of East Asia, as the fierce competition for jobs and spots in local universities has made plastic surgery a competitive advantage.

Many job applications actually require you to attach your headshot—for an accounting position!

Korea: The Plastic Surgery Capital of the World

Take South Korea, for example. A 2015 article in the New Yorker estimated that the country is the per capita global leader in plastic surgery, with the leader in total procedures (The US) only ranking 6th.

South Korea’s regulations and recordkeeping are not as stringent as what is commonplace in North America, so it’s hard to lock down the exact statistics. But there have been conservative estimates that anywhere from 20-30% of women in Seoul have had plastic surgery. A report from the BBC estimated that this number for women in their twenties could be over 50%.

Men, on the other hand, are estimated to represent about 15% of the market. They make up about 10% of the North American market, but that number is growing each year.

The most popular procedures in Korea are mainly facial procedures designed to remove any hint of ageing or imperfection. The blepharoplasty, or double eyelid surgery, is the most popular procedure, and even a former president had it while he was still in office.

Breast implants are not massively popular in Korea, but the numbers are growing.

“Americans put more emphasis on body procedures so you will see a higher rate of breast augmentation and liposuction than in Korea,” said So Yeon Leem, a researcher at Seoul National University.

“Standards of beauty vary from each country, and the statistics for which procedures patients get differ.”

China’s Marketplace is Exploding

In 2017, the Chinese cosmetic surgery market place grew by a dramatic 26% year-over-year, with clinics performing over 16 million procedures. The marketplace is also 90% female, and it’s estimated that half of them are under 26-years-old.

Even with such large numbers, there are still a lot of growth opportunities in this Chinese market. They are still considerably below both Korea and Japan in per capita numbers. Japan has 27.1 plastic surgeries per 1000 people and Korea has 86.2, while China has a more modest 14.8. To give you some context, the US has approximately 51.9 procedures per 1000 people.

The Chinese culture places a high value on beauty. Like in Korea, Chinese university and job applicants often see plastic surgery as a competitive advantage in the job market. However, there is less focus on breast augmentation and more focus on facial procedures.

The top plastic surgeries in China are:

  • Eye surgeries (50%)
  • Nose jobs  (19%)
  • Fat transfers (11%)
  • Liposuction procedures (7%)
  • Breast augmentations (6%)
  • Facial sculpting (5%)

It will be interesting to see how the procedures vary in position as the marketplace continues to grow.

The Demand in Japan

Japan has more plastic surgery than China, but not quite as much as Korea. And like the other two countries, facial surgeries absolutely dominate the market. Facial procedures accounted for an astonishing 90% of Japan’s plastic surgeries.

The COVID-19 crisis has also sparked a mini-boom for plastic surgeons in Japan, just like it has in North America. The numbers are on the rise during the pandemic, with no signs of slowing down.

Ready to Speak to a World-Class Surgeon?

Dr. Bell is one of Canada’s most respected and in-demand surgeons. He has earned his reputations by offering a superior level of attentive care and amazing results. You can expect the highest level of service from your first meeting, all the way to guiding you through your breast augmentation recovery process.

Why not set up a video call with one of our team members? During these complicated times of lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions, we are taking careful steps to control the number of people in our clinic at any given time. This is why all of our pre-op and post-op meetings are done virtually.

We certainly miss meeting people in an actual-face-to-face environment, but these video calls still give us an excellent chance to talk to you, discuss your goals, and answer any of your questions.

Are you ready to see what’s possible? Reach out 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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