Breast Implant

If you’re considering breast augmentation, you have probably discovered that there are different materials to choose from for your breast implants.

There’s a lot of misinformation about breast implants. What’s true and what’s not? Are there risks? And which type of implant is best for you?

Let’s unravel the implant options for breast augmentation, including what each surgery entails and which is right for your goals.

Why Women Seek Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation is another way of saying enlargement of the breasts. Women may have the procedure on one or both breasts. For example, if the breasts are asymmetrical or if the patient has had a mastectomy, it is possible to have augmentation on only one breast.

Patients receive breast augmentation:

  • To enlarge both breasts
  • To create better symmetry between the two breasts
  • After pregnancy, if breast size has decreased
  • Along with a breast lift, for larger, higher breasts
  • To enhance self-image and boost confidence

Are Implants the Only Way to Enlarge the Breasts?

Breasts can also be enlarged with a procedure known as fat transfer. With this technique, fat is removed from one area of the body via liposuction. The fat is purified, then reinjected into another area – in this case, the breasts.

This is a viable option for patients who want a subtle enlargement. However, for the best symmetry and for a more dramatic result, most women choose breast implants for their augmentation.

Types of Breast Implants

The two types of breast implants chosen by most plastic surgeons and their patients are silicone and saline implants.

Here is what each is made of:

Silicone Breast Implants

This type of implant has a silicone filling. Silicone implants can be used for enhancement or for breast reconstruction procedures.

Saline Breast Implants

This type of implant is filled with a sterile saline (salt) solution. Each implant is filled with saline after the implant is inserted in the body.

Which Type of Implant Is Safer?

Silicone implants were a highly popular choice when they first became available due to their natural feel (see below for more on this). Unfortunately, concerns that silicone implants were linked to breast cancer led them to be taken off the market in the 1990s.

Since then, the FDA has approved silicone implants (and shown that there is no link between breast implants and breast cancer). You should be aware that a certain type of cancer, breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), is associated with implants with a textured silicone outer shell. The risk is low. However, some silicone implants are unavailable in the U.S. and other areas of the world due to this issue.

Today, silicone is more widely chosen by patients than saline. However, the type of implant you receive is a personal choice. Schedule a sit-down consultation with your plastic surgeon to discuss which option is better for you.

In the meantime, keep the following comparisons in mind. 

Silicone Vs. Saline: Your Comparison Checklist

How They Look

Silicone: Tend to look more “natural” (though this result can vary).

Saline: Can often achieve a larger, more dramatic look. The edge of the implant can be very slightly visible, and rippling is possible.

How They Move

Silicone: Move slightly if pressed downward.

Saline: Tend to stay in place.

How They Feel

Silicone: Feel softer and more natural.

Saline: Feel slightly firmer.

The Cost

Silicone implants usually cost more than saline implants. Ask your plastic surgeon’s office whether they offer a payment plan.

Breast implants for cosmetic purposes are usually not covered by insurance. However, implants used for reconstructive purposes may be at least partially covered, so be sure to ask your insurance company if this is your situation.

The Risks

The risks of silicone and saline implant surgery are approximately the same. While breast augmentation surgery is generally considered safe, some patients may experience the following:

  • Infection
  • Leaking (silicone implants)
  • Tearing (either type of implant)
  • Changes in the nipple (generally temporary) resulting in breastfeeding issues
  • Scarring 
  • Low risk of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) with certain types of silicone implants

Ask your plastic surgeon what your risks are. Different patients have different needs depending on current and past health issues, the quality and health of the skin and muscle tissue, and other factors.


Recovery from saline and silicone implant surgery will be more or less the same. Expect to feel recovered and to be able to resume all your normal activities between two and three months following your silicone or saline implant surgery.

And the Winner Is…

Bottom line: what’s the better choice – silicone or saline implants?

The answer is: the one that’s best for what you want to achieve and for your own personal safety concerns.

This means sitting down with an experienced, caring plastic surgeon who can help you decide on silicone or saline for your breast augmentation.

Make sure to take any questions you have to your consultation. Choose a plastic surgeon who is willing to take the time to go over your concerns and help you choose the right implant type. That way, you can be sure of the best chance for a result you’ll be happy with.

By Caitlyn