Breast implants are silicone- or saline-filled sacks used in breast augmentation and reconstruction surgeries. They come in different shapes, sizes, profiles and textures, allowing for customizable outcomes. If you’re considering breast implants, you probably wonder – what will they feel like?
What do saline and silicone breast implants feel like?
The type of implant filling affects the look and feel:
- Saline implants contain a saltwater solution similar to the fluid in the body. They feel firmer and are less natural than silicone.
- Silicone implants are pre-filled with a viscous silicone gel. They feel more natural, with a soft, pillowy texture.
Silicone is the more popular choice – over 80% of patients opt for silicone over saline. The silicone gel mimics breast tissue better, resulting in a more natural look and feel.
Do breast implants feel natural?
While the latest silicone implants come close, nothing will feel exactly like natural breast tissue. Some key differences:
- Implants don’t have the same mobility as natural breasts and don’t conform as dynamically to changes in position.
- The implant surface doesn’t feel like natural breast skin. Textured implants may feel bumpy.
- Implants are firmer than natural breast tissue. They maintain shape rather than flatten out when lying down.
With realistic silicone gel and advanced implant technologies like cohesive gel and form-stable implants, results can look and feel very natural – but there are limits.
Do implants feel natural to touch?
How implants feel to touch depends on factors like:
- Implant Placement: Subglandular implants under the breast tissue feel less natural. Submuscular placement behind the pectoral muscle feels more natural.
- Implant Size/Profile: Overly large or high-profile implants will feel less natural.
- Tissue Characteristics: Breasts with more natural fat and glandular tissue disguise the implant better.
With the right implant size and placement for your anatomy, implants can feel quite natural when touched. As you recover post-surgery, they will begin to settle and soften further.
What about rippling and wrinkling?
Implants may exhibit visible or tactile wrinkling and rippling:
- Wrinkling: Fine lines on the implant surface that may be seen or felt.
- Rippling: Wrinkles causing obvious waves just under the skin, like a deflated balloon.
This occurs more often with saline, textured or underfilled implants. Insufficient breast tissue can also cause rippling with any implant type. While bothersome, many patients don’t mind slight wrinkling.
What affects the firmness and feel?
Implant feel is influenced by these core factors:
- Implant filling: Saline is firmer, silicone is more natural and soft.
- Implant shape: Contoured “shaped” implants feel more natural.
- Implant shell: Smoother implants feel more natural.
- Implant size: Overly large implants will feel firmer and less natural.
- Profile and base diameter: Narrower, high-profile implants feel firmer.
- Placement: Submuscular implants feel more natural.
- Existing breast characteristics: More tissue disguises the implant better.
Your surgeon will help tailor implant choices for the most natural look and feel based on your current anatomy and cosmetic goals.
How long for implants to soften and “drop”?
After surgery, it takes time for implants to settle into position:
- Initially swollen and healing breast tissues make implants feel firmer.
- As swelling resolves over the first few months, they will soften and feel more natural.
- Implants descend into the natural crease below the breast as tissues stretch, called “dropping and fluffing.”
Full implant settling and softening can take 3-6 months or longer. Dramatic shape and feel changes continue for the first year. By 1-2 years, you’ll experience their final look and feel.
Do breast implants feel heavy?
Many patients ask – will I notice the extra weight of breast implants?
- Saline and silicone implants only weigh around 0.5-2 pounds each.
- This minimal added weight is not noticeable to most patients once swelling subsides.
- Larger implants naturally feel heavier, however, the weight is usually dispersed well.
- Sudden motions may make the weight of large implants more noticeable temporarily.
Unless very large implants are used, patients typically don’t notice the extra weight after recovering fully. Your body adapts quickly to subtle weight changes up top.
Will implants make breasts feel harder or firmer?
Implants do increase breast firmness overall. However, some key points:
- Natural breast tissue will still feel soft, supple and movable over the implant.
- Soft silicone gel and natural implant dynamics prevent noticeable hardness.
- Extra firmness is mainly detectable when squeezing the breast, not normal movement.
- Any sensations of excessive firmness or hardness should be reported to your surgeon.
While fuller and rounder, most patients don’t perceive the breasts as uncomfortably “hard” or rigid after augmentation. Let your surgeon know if hardness concerns arise.
Can I still feel lumps and irregularities?
You will still feel natural breast tissue distinct from the implant. However, identifying new lumps is more challenging after augmentation.
- It may be harder to notice subtle tissue irregularities over or around the implant.
- Implant folds, creases and the implant edge can be mistaken for lumps.
- Difficulty feeling breast tissue reduces self-exam and mammogram effectiveness.
Discuss any noticeable lumps, even if likely from the implant, with your doctor to identify or rule out breast pathology. Ultrasound and specialty mammography view the breast tissue around implants.
Will there be numbness or loss of sensitivity?
Some changes in breast and nipple sensitivity occur after any breast surgery:
- Nerve compression and tissue trauma causes numbness that usually fades within weeks.
- Nerve damage can lead to long-term reduction in sensation most notable around incision sites.
- For some patients, breast and nipple sensitivity increases after implants.
Experience is similar between saline and silicone implants. Talk to your surgeon about potential sensory changes so you know what to expect.
What about the incision sites?
Implants are inserted via incisions:
- Incisions are usually near the breast crease, armpit, nipple or navel depending on type.
- Scars heal well but remain visible and potentially sensitive.
- Pain or hardness along the incision may last for several months as deeper tissues heal.
Ointments and time reduce eventual sensitivity and appearance of scars. Let your surgeon know if significant discomfort arises during healing.
Can implants be felt through the skin?
Visible or palpable implants under the skin result from:
- Insufficient skin/tissue coverage over the implant.
- Using excessively large or wide implants.
- Development of wrinkling, rippling or capsular contracture.
Your surgeon will select properly sized, shaped implants and placement to minimize implant visibility and perceptibility through the tissues for a natural result.
How do textured implants feel?
Textured implant shells have a roughened, sandpapery surface. This affects feel:
- Texturing prevents slippage but creates friction against tissues.
- Textured implants don’t move fluidly with the breast like smooth implants.
- The rough shell is often felt through thinner breast tissues.
- Scar tissue adheres better to textured surfaces.
While possibly reducing complications like capsular contracture, textured implants have a less natural, “stuck on” feel compared to smooth silicone implants for many patients.
What about capsular contracture?
Scar tissue or “capsule” forms around any implant. In capsular contracture, it tightens and hardens:
- Mild contracture may just cause firmness detectable on exam.
- With moderate contracture, breasts become abnormally round, distorted and feel firm all the time.
- Severe contracture can be very painful and distort the breast.
Though less common with today’s implants, significant contracture requires surgery to correct. Notify your surgeon early about concerns of breast distortion or hardness.
Will lying down or changing positions feel different?
Implants move and settle differently than natural breast tissue when positional shifts occur:
- Implants don’t “flatten out” or dissipate like natural tissue when lying supine.
- Sudden motions may make implants seem heavy before settling.
- Folding or wrinkling can potentially be felt with position changes.
Give yourself time to adjust to subtle changes in implant motion and dynamics after surgery. With proper implant selection and placement, differences are usually minimal.
Can implants rupture or deflate?
Breast implants are not lifetime devices. Deflation and rupture may eventually occur:
- Silicone implant rupture: The gel may remain within scar tissue without obvious changes to look or feel.
- Saline implant deflation: Deflated saline implants become very obvious, quickly appearing deformed and feeling flat.
Implant rupture rates are actually quite low – less than 5% at 8 years. Most patients opt for replacement of any deflated or ruptured implants.
Can I still breastfeed after augmentation?
Breast implants should not impact the ability to successfully breastfeed, but potential issues include:
- Implants can interfere with milk production by compressing milk ducts.
- Subglandular implants impact milk ducts more than submuscular placement.
- Incisions around the nipple areola, used more in the past, increase likelihood of issues.
Be open with your surgeon if planning to breastfeed after implants. Together, you can maximize future chances of success.
Will implants affect mammograms?
Getting mammogram screening is still essential after implants, but does require special approaches:
- Dense implants can obscure breast tissue, requiring extra compression and views.
- 3D tomography views may be used to see around and behind implants.
- Let the mammography center know you have implants for proper testing.
Though more challenging, mammograms can still detect abnormalities associated with cancer in augmented patients. Notify your radiologist about implants.
How are problems with breast implants treated?
If breast implants cause problems like significant pain, changes in shape/feel or deflation, options may include:
- Observation if issues are mild, with follow-up to monitor changes.
- Medications to reduce inflammation or pain.
- Physical therapy to treat associated muscle tightness, pain.
- Outpatient procedures to drain fluid or scar tissue.
- Surgical replacement of deflated, ruptured or problematic implants.
The good news is most women don’t experience complications serious enough to require implant removal or replacement surgery.
While never exactly the same as natural breast tissue, breast implants can closely mimic a natural look and feel with the right choices. Implant type, size, placement and your existing breast characteristics all affect the eventual sensation and dynamics after surgery. Be open with your surgeon about your priorities for optimal results and a satisfying experience.