Breast implant sizes, shapes and materials have come a long way since the first generation of implantable devices. There are now many styles from which to choose. Taking the time to learn about the various options available can help you make a decision that you will be satisfied with over the long term.

Breast Implant Sizes

Breast implant sizes are the topic of a lot of debate when women discuss what look defines the difference between tasteful and trashy in plastic surgery. The fact is that implants in the range of sizes most women choose fall well within the cup sizes normally found among non-augmented women. In fact, the C cup is one of the most commonly requested sizes. Going up one to two cup sizes won’t take you into “circus side show” territory. The wardrobe you choose can play an important role in drawing eyes to your new, fuller figure or deflecting interest depending on how much attention you feel comfortable with on a given day.

In the consultation and operating room, breast implant sizes are measured by the amount of silicone or saline volume used for filling the implants. A single increase in cup size is equal to about 175-200 ccs. However, that’s not set in stone. Think about the last time you went bra shopping. What one designer thinks of as a C cup might be as much as a half a size larger or smaller than another brand. Besides, the amount and placement of your existing breast tissue will impact the volume required to reach the next cup size. So, rather than telling your plastic surgeon how many ccs you want, it’s best to look at before and after photos of breast augmentation patients with a similar body type. You’ll also want to handle different sizes of implants to figure out by look and feel what will work best for you.

Breast Implant Shapes

The shape of your implants has as much effect on the appearance as the volume. Some implants are round (not globe shaped but more like an M&M). If they are placed over the muscle, they tend to impart a noticeably round shape to the breast – especially with larger breast implant sizes. This is somewhat similar to the effect achieved with a pushup or underwire bra. The implant may have a smooth surface and rotate within the pocket created to hold it without this affecting the appearance of the augmentation.

Natural breast tissue tends to slope downward toward the nipple and then have a rounded lower profile. If you want to preserve that natural teardrop profile, an anatomically shaped implant may be recommended. This type of implant has a definite “up” and “down” orientation and will have a textured surface to keep it from rotating in the pocket. There is typically a less visible difference between the two implant styles when they are placed under the muscle instead of over it.

Materials: Saline vs. Silicone Breast Implants

Right now, there are two main types of breast implant filler materials. Saline is simple to describe. It’s just sterile salt water and is fully liquid. Medical grade silicone is a much more complex substance. It can be an oily liquid, a viscous liquid gel or a much more colloidal substance that holds its shape even without a shell. The basic chemical components of the silicone are the same in each case. The degree of binding or cross-linking between the molecules determines the viscosity of the silicone gel and the feel of the implant. Cohesive gel or “gummy bear” implants are at the most solid or stable end of this spectrum and are currently only used in the United States in clinical trials. The silicone gel implants approved for general use in the population are malleable but still more cohesive than older models of silicone oil-filled implants.

Every Implant Features Silicone

All currently manufactured third and fourth generation breast implants have a silicone shell. So, choosing saline vs. silicone breast implants won’t mean there is no silicone coming into contact with your body’s tissue. Many women pick their implant filler material based on how the results will feel. The resurgence in popularity for silicone implants since they were re-approved by the FDA indicates that many women feel silicone gel delivers a more natural result than saline.

Breast Implant Texture Matters

The edges of saline implants sometimes have a tendency to ripple and the consistency of the filler material makes them much firmer to the touch than the surrounding breast tissue. The edges of the implant may also tend to ripple – causing the outline of the implant to be visible under the skin at times. The edges of silicone implants tend to be less noticeable visually or by touch. The gel consistency of the silicone implant may also feel more like the surrounding breast tissue (although it will still feel like an implant).

Placement Affects Look and Feel

Silicone implants are especially desirable for women who want to have implants placed over the pectoral muscles but don’t have a lot of existing breast tissue to camouflage the implant outline. In that case, going from an A or B cup to a C might be easier with a silicone implant while taking breasts from a C to a D might be achieved with either silicone or saline. There is less difference both in the look and feel of saline vs. silicone breast implants with the submuscular (under the muscle) implant procedure. This is the approach many plastic surgeons prefer because of its more natural looking result and better implant support.

Saline does have some appearance related factors on its side. Since saline implants can be filled after they are inserted, the surgeon may use a smaller incision. So, the location and size of scars is something to bear in mind when you are thinking about augmentation. The final breast implant sizes can be adjusted independently based on the volume of saline added during the procedure – a technique that can be helpful for women who are seeking implants to correct breast asymmetry.

Each material, texture, implant type, shape and placement location has its own set of potential complications which your plastic surgeon can explain during your consultation.