Although women in the United States tend to opt for somewhat larger breast implants than the sizes popular in Europe, most want to have an end result that still looks natural. Ideally, there should be no “giveaway” that would tip off the casual observer that you have implants. There are many different factors that affect how real your breasts will look after surgery.

Breast Implant Volume

The majority of women who get breast implants go up only one to two cup sizes. Generally, the smaller the size of the implant, the easier it is to conceal. This is especially important for women who have a limited amount of existing breast tissue available to cover the implant. Lower volume implants (under 350cc) are also associated with a lower risk of complications. Many of the adverse effects that cause deformity such as bottoming out or significant changes in nipple position are more difficult to avoid with larger implants. So, picking a moderately sized implant can be one way to help ensure your breasts look as normal as possible over the long term.

Breast Implant Width

The width measurement of your breast implants is a critical factor in achieving a natural appearance. This isn’t just about picking an implant that fits the width of your chest. You must also have enough existing breast tissue to cover the implant all the way across from edge to edge. Otherwise, there may be an identifiable ridge along the side of your breast near your armpit and/or near your cleavage. Picking an implant size that is too wide can also increase your risk of symmastia (breadloafing) where the skin over your sternum lifts away from the underlying tissue. That’s never a natural look.

Breast Implant Projection and Profile

Many of the most commonly used round implants are the shape of a somewhat flattened sphere. However, round silicone and saline implants also come in varieties that are slightly rounded on the back and more dome shaped on the front. This breast implant shape makes the lower portion of the breast protrude forward in a conical fashion.

This is an approach that can look very “real” if you pick a size and degree of projection that is in balance with your body type. For example, going with a narrow width implant that has a higher profile (i.e. it projects further) might work if you have a narrow frame. However, it would look odd if you have a broad ribcage. There would be two protruding “bumps” sitting there on your chest with too much empty space around them.

Breast Implant Proportion

This is one of the most difficult factors to assess in deciding on the correct size. You may have a particular cup size in mind that would actually end up throwing your body shape out of balance by making it look top heavy. If you have slim hips, you might want to choose a smaller implant size so that you don’t appear too busty. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you might find yourself disappointed with smaller breast implants if they don’t balance out larger hips and provide you with an hourglass figure.

Genetics also plays a role in determining what breast implant shape and size will look most natural. If you have a close female relative who has a similar build but breasts one to two cup sizes larger than yours, she may serve as a good guide regarding what would look normal on you. Of course, asking your mom or your sister to be your “breast model” might be an awkward conversation depending on how you were raised!

Understanding Breast Size After Surgery

Because of the shape of breast implants, you may end up needing a much bigger bra than you anticipate after surgery. For example, some women choose an implant size that looks and feels like an average C cup but end up having to purchase a D or DD cup sized bra to find a good fit. That’s because naturally occurring breast tissue is very malleable.

Even a nice, soft silicone implant that looks natural doesn’t work quite the same way. It will be firmer around the edges than natural breast tissue. This means you have to buy a bra cup size that is wide enough to accommodate the full width of the implant. If the bra cup doesn’t reach all the way across the base of the implant, it will be uncom