Are there different kinds of breast lifts?

There are different breast lift (also known as “mastopexy”), techniques because every pair of breasts is unique.

April 28, 2021

4 min read

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And even within each pair, there’s differences between each breast. There’s no “one size fits all” for breast lifts. You and your plastic surgeon will decide together which approach will work best for you.

Basic Breast Anatomy

Before we discuss the different kinds of lifts, let’s go over the basic anatomy of the breasts. There is a lot going on underneath the skin than you see in the mirror. 

Skin

The skin of your breasts acts like a balloon holding the internal structures of your breast. The nipple and areola are the important structures visible on your skin. They come in a wide range of different sizes, and can vary in position from perky to downturned. Like we said, everyone’s breasts are different!

Fat

There are different internal structures that are important to the function of your breasts, but when it comes to their appearance, fat is what matters! Fat is what fills out the skin of your breasts, what gives them their fullness, shape, and projection. Everyone has different amounts of fat in their breasts, which is another reason that they’re different from person to person.

Muscle

Your breasts sit on top of a chest muscle called the pectoralis major. If it’s a very well-developed muscle, it might push out your chest very slightly. Otherwise, it doesn’t make much of a difference in the appearance, size or shape of your chest.

Different Types of Mastopexy

Now that you know the basics of breast anatomy, we can move on to the different levels of breast lift procedures. Each one has its pros and cons. One might be better suited for some women and be a poor option for someone else. Make sure to ask your plastic surgeon which option works best with your anatomy.

There are 4 basic levels of breast lift.  Each one builds on the one before it. With each additional incision, you get more removal of skin, which leads to more lift.

Crescent Lift

The crescent mastopexy, like each option, gets its name from the shape of the incision that’s used to do it. This procedure requires an incision around the upper part of the areola, like a crescent moon, hence the name.

This approach removes a tiny amount of skin. Because of this, it doesn’t give much of a lift. There have also been problems with areola shape distortion to an oval shape after this procedure.1

PROSCONS
Small incision, least scarringNo significant lift
Minimal lift of areola
No lift of nipple
Can cause abnormal, oval-shaped areola
Circumareolar or “Donut” Lift

This breast lift procedure takes the crescent incision and extends it so the incision goes all the way around the areola. It’s called a “donut” mastopexy because the tissue is removed in a ring, like a donut. It can make a large areola smaller and it removes a small amount of skin. But because it removes such a small amount of skin, it, like the crescent, doesn’t give much of a lift.2

Another problem is that the areola tends to spread larger and larger over time. Some surgeons are not up-front about this happening and you may not notice it right away.  But, given time, this is the tendency for this particular incision. Another problem is that the scar tends to become wide and jagged over time, too.

PROSCONS
Small incisionNo significant lift
Works for very minor saggingDoesn’t lift the areola or nipple very much
Enlargement of the areola over time
Scar that can be wide and jagged
Not a good option if a lot of lift is necessary
Circumvertical or “Lollipop” Lift

This mastopexy procedure uses the same donut incision we talked about above, but adds a vertical incision down the middle of breast from the bottom of the areola to the bottom of the breast (called the “inframammary fold”, which is where your bra’s underwire sits). It’s shape looks like a “lollipop”.

This is a good option for women that have large areolas that they would like to have reduced.  It also removes enough skin to provide a better lift than the donut. There’s also better areola repositioning available with this method.3

However, the lollipop still can’t remove enough skin to lift a very saggy breast.

PROSCONS
Removes more skinLonger scar
Works for mild saggingNot the best option if a lot of lift is necessary
Better nipple and areola lift than donut
Makes areola smaller
Inverted T or “Anchor” Lift

An anchor lift takes the lollipop incision and adds a horizontal incision along the inframammary fold (where your bra’s underwire sits). This approach removes the most amount of tissue and gives the most lift of any option. It also makes the areola smaller and lifts nipple and areola the most. The downside is that the incision is longest and may be the most noticeable.4

PROSCONS
Removes the most tissueMost noticeable scarring
Creates maximum lift
Gives the maximum lift to the nipple and areolar lift
Makes areola smaller

Weight out your options

Just remember that a small incision sounds good. After all, who wouldn’t want a small incision, right? The problem is that with a breast lift, you don’t get something for nothing. In other words, small incision, small lift. Bigger incision, bigger lift. Although no one likes a longer incision, for many women a longer incision is necessary in order to get the lift that they want. 

The most important step is to schedule a consultation appointment with your plastic surgeon. They’ll tell you which approach they think will work best for your body. Keep an open mind during your discussion and ask plenty of questions. Think about what you want as your end result and do what it takes to get there. Each approach can be tailored to you to give you the results you’re trying to achieve.

  1. Hidalgo, David A., and Jason A. Spector. “Mastopexy.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery 132, no. 4 (2013): 642e-656e.
  2. Hidalgo, David A., and Jason A. Spector. “Mastopexy.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery 132, no. 4 (2013): 642e-656e.
  3. Hidalgo, David A., and Jason A. Spector. “Mastopexy.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery 132, no. 4 (2013): 642e-656e.
  4. Hidalgo, David A., and Jason A. Spector. “Mastopexy.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery 132, no. 4 (2013): 642e-656e.

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