Boob Lift: Everything You Need to Know

A breast lift, also known as a mastopexy, is a cosmetic surgery that has grown in popularity by 70% since 2000. A breast lift reshapes and remodels breasts that have become stretched out through factors such as aging, pregnancy, or weight fluctuations.

During a breast lift, excess skin is removed, breast tissue is remodeled, and the nipples are raised to a new position. Sometimes, the size of the areola (the area around the nipple) is reduced.

Read on to learn more about what is involved with a breast lift.

Surgeon wearing surgical mask in surgical suite

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What Is a Breast Lift?

A breast lift is a surgery that can:

  • Reposition breast tissue higher on the chest wall
  • Move the nipples and areola higher
  • Remove excess skin
  • Tighten the skin in the breast area

Purpose of Breast Lift 

It is normal for breast firmness and shape to change over time. Elasticity in the breast tissue and skin can be lost as a result of pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight fluctuations, gravity, or aging. This can cause the breasts to change their shape and droop. For some people, this can also simply be the natural shape of their breasts.

If a person is unhappy with the shape of their breasts, a breast lift can help lift and remodel their breast tissue. A breast lift will not change the size of the breasts or increase their volume.

People who want to enlarge their breasts and/or give them more fullness may choose to have a breast augmentation (such as the insertion of breast implants) during their breast lift surgery.

Types of Breast Lifts

Several technique options are available for breast lifts, depending on existing breast tissue, amount of excess skin, and personal preference.

Crescent lift: A small incision is made that runs halfway around the top half of the edge of the areola. It is used for people who have a very small amount of sagging.

Periareolar (“donut”) lift: A circular incision is made running around the edge of the areola. It is used for people experiencing mild sagging.

Vertical (“lollipop”) lift: One incision is made around the edge of the areola. A second incision is made, running vertically from the bottom of the areola to the inframammary fold (where the lower breast meets the chest wall), creating a “lollipop” shape. This is the most common type. It is used for moderate sagging and more extensive reshaping.

Inverted T (“anchor”) lift: One incision is made around the edge of the areola, a second incision is made vertically from the bottom of the areola to the breast crease, and a third incision is made along the inframammary fold. It is used for extensive sagging, dramatic reshaping, and/or along with a breast reduction.

What’s the Procedure Like?

A breast lift is typically done as outpatient surgery but sometimes involves an overnight hospital stay. It may be done in an office-based surgical suite, outpatient surgical center, or hospital-based surgery suite. Ensure that the site is accredited for the surgery.

The procedure takes approximately two to four hours.

During a breast lift, the surgeon will:

  • Make incisions in the places discussed before surgery
  • Position the breast tissue higher on the chest and tighten the breast skin to hold the tissue in place
  • Remove excess skin
  • Move the nipple and areola higher on the breast, and remove areola tissue if the areola is being reduced
  • Close the incisions with stitches and/or surgical glue (a tube may be placed in the incision before it is closed to drain excess fluid as the wound heals)
  • Repeat the process on the other side

Preparing for Surgery

Before your surgery, you will meet with your surgeon for a comprehensive consultation. Your surgeon will:

  • Ask about your medical and family history
  • Ask about medications you are taking, including herbs and supplements
  • Evaluate your breasts
  • Review your mammograms
  • Discuss your goals and options

Your surgeon will also outline specific instructions to follow in preparation for your surgery. These include:

  • Refraining from smoking or vaping for a period of time before and after surgery
  • Temporarily stopping certain medications, vitamins, or supplements
  • Restart prescribed medications postsurgery
  • Practicing proper washing techniques
  • Restrictions on eating and drinking before surgery, if any

Following your surgeon's instructions before and after your surgery is important.

What’s the Recovery Like?

Right after surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room as the effects of the anesthesia wear off.

During the short-term recovery period after surgery, you may experience the following:

  • Swelling will occur and can last up to three to five weeks (a cold pack wrapped in a thin towel may be used for no more than 20 minutes at a time if your surgeon says it is OK).
  • Breast pain occurs during the first one to two days.

You will be given instructions to follow as you recover. These usually include:

  • Take medications exactly as directed.
  • Avoid showering for a period (usually within the first few days).
  • Avoid vigorous activity for four weeks following surgery.
  • Avoid swimming, bathing, using a hot tub, or other activities that will cover your incisions with water until your surgeon gives you the OK.
  • Follow your surgeon's guidelines for showering (such as gently washing incision sites, patting incisions dry, and avoiding lotions, oils, or creams).
  • Wear the special bra or bandage given to you.
  • Follow the care instructions for your incisions and bandages.
  • Avoid raising your arms above breast level for 10 days.
  • Don't lift, push, or pull anything heavier than 10 pounds for at least seven days.
  • When in a car, position your seat belt so it doesn't compress your breasts.
  • If you are taking prescription pain medication, don't drive until your surgeon says it is OK.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Call your surgeon or healthcare provider right away if you are experiencing signs of infection or complications, such as:

  • Extreme chest pain or difficulty breathing (call 911)
  • A fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher (or as advised by your healthcare provider)
  • Bleeding or drainage that goes through the special bra or bandage
  • Symptoms of infection at the incision site(s), such as increased redness or swelling, warmth, increased pain, pus or foul-smelling drainage
  • Pain that is not relieved by medication
  • Soreness, swelling, or bruising that occurs more in one breast than the other
  • A breast that is very warm to the touch
  • Signs of a blood clot, such as swelling and/or pain in the calf, chest pain, or breathing difficulties
  • Signs the wound isn't healing well, such as soreness and weeping beyond what is expected

Inform your healthcare provider of these signs or any other concerns you may have.

What’s the Cost?

According to 2020 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average breast lift cost is $5,012. This is not the total price of the procedure. Other costs may include:

  • Surgeon's fee
  • Anesthesia
  • Hospital or surgical facility costs
  • Medical tests
  • Medication prescriptions
  • Postsurgical garments

The cost will vary depending on factors such as the surgeon's experience, the extent of the surgery, and geographic location.

The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery offers a search tool to check the range of pricing for cosmetic surgery procedures in your area.

Potential Risks

Side effects of a breast lift may include:

  • Temporary bruising
  • Swelling
  • Discomfort
  • Temporary numbness/loss of sensation
  • Dry breast skin
  • Scarring

As with any surgery, complications from a breast lift are possible. Potential complications include:

  • Side effects from anesthesia
  • Loss of sensation in the nipple area or breast (temporary or permanent)
  • Bleeding or hematoma (collection of blood outside of blood vessels)
  • Infection
  • Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis)
  • Slow/poor wound healing
  • Thick, wide, or otherwise noticeable scars
  • Asymmetry of breasts and/or nipples
  • Irregularities in breast shape or contour
  • Fat necrosis (fatty tissue death)
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Need for further surgery
  • Potential for partial or total loss of nipple and areola

Before surgery, your surgeon will discuss these risks with you and evaluate you for any factors that could increase these risks, such as:

Are There Nonsurgical Breast Lift Options?

There are no nonsurgical options that offer the same level of results as a breast lift, but there are some nonsurgical procedures available that can help change the appearance of your breasts, including:

  • BodyTite: Radiofrequency energy is emitted deep into the skin to encourage the body to produce collagen (a protein responsible for holding tissue together).
  • Laser treatments: Intense energy beams eliminate dead skin cells and encourage collagen production.
  • Caci bust treatment: This treatment tones chest muscles by focusing strong electrical pulses on the muscles under the breasts.
  • Thermage: This uses radiowaves to encourage collagen production and tighten protein fibers in the skin.
  • Renuvion skin tightening/J-Plasma: Cold plasma energy contracts the skin, encouraging collagen production.
  • Vampire breast lift: This uses your blood plasma to lift the breast, like a push-up bra.
  • Botox (botulinum toxin) injections: These relax the muscles under the skin in the pectoral area.

How to Find a Board-Certified Surgeon for Procedure

Do your research before choosing a surgeon. Make sure they are board certified. Ask about their experience and how many breast lifts they have performed. Look at before-and-after photos of surgery performed by that surgeon Make sure the surgery will take place in an accredited facility.

Consider using the search tool and directory provided by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery to find board-certified cosmetic surgeons near you.


A loss of elasticity in the breasts over time is normal. A breast lift is a surgical option for people who are unhappy with how their breasts look due to sagging.

A breast lift moves the breasts to sit higher on the chest and changes their shape. It does not change breast size or add volume to the breasts.

Side effects and complications are possible with a breast lift. It is important to choose an experienced, board-certified surgeon to perform the procedure and follow all of their instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What age can I get a boob lift?

    Typically, people who undergo breast lifts are between the ages of 30 and 60, but the option is available to adults outside these ages.

  • How painful is a mastopexy?

    Most people who undergo a breast lift will experience some initial soreness and swelling. This can be controlled with prescription pain medication at first, switching to over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) after a few days.

  • How long does a boob lift last?

    The longevity of the effects of a breast lift vary with a number of factors. The processes that affected breast sagging before surgery, such as aging, pregnancy, gravity, and weight fluctuations, will contribute to sagging if they occur after surgery as well.

    Aging and gravity alone are not likely to cause breasts to sag to their pre-surgery level for several years.

  • Is a boob lift more expensive than a breast augmentation?

    Depending on geographic location and provider, a breast lift can be slightly more expensive than a breast augmentation, but these prices vary by quite a bit. Both procedures can be performed at the same time as well.

  • Is a mastopexy covered by insurance?

    Mastopexy is considered cosmetic and is unlikely to be covered by insurance. Some cosmetic surgeons offer payment plans.

15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Heather Jones
Heather M. Jones is a freelance writer with a strong focus on health, parenting, disability, and feminism.