In the words of Judy Blume's Margaret: "I must. I must. I must increase my bust." It all started one fateful morning, when I casually remarked to my then-boyfriend that I thought my breasts were asymmetrical. "Yeah, your left boob is slightly bigger, but it's no big deal," he replied. Um, excuse me? He already noticed? What other blatant flaws had I been oblivious to all these years? I always knew that my bust was small, but lopsided too? Suddenly, my chest loomed large in my mind.
As a form of camouflage, I began wearing push-up bras every day. I also became paranoid about starting new relationships, dreading the big reveal, when I'd have to expose my freakish secret. Fast-forward a few years: With the asymmetry plaguing my self-confidence, I find myself sitting topless in a London hospital while plastic surgeon Dr. Chris Inglefield clamps my breasts with a wrenchlike fat caliper to determine the exact difference in size. "Sixty percent of women have some degree of asymmetry," he assures me. The solution? Macrolane, the new hyaluronic-acid filler for breasts that will also liberate me from my push-up bras (why should I deprive my left breast of a little plumping too?).
Launched in Sweden seven years ago and tested in Japan and the U.K., Macrolane is a NASHA (nonanimal stabilized hyaluronic acid, similar to what's naturally found in our bodies) gel made by Q-Med, the company that manufactures Restylane, the top-selling NASHA wrinkle filler in the U.S. Because clinical trials aren't scheduled to start in the States for a few years (Canadian approval is expected this year), Americans must travel to Europe or Asia to fill up. However, American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) president Dr. Richard D'Amico warns me of the dangers of cosmetic tourism: "Forty-four percent of American women have dissatisfaction with their breasts and consider doing some augmentation, but London is a long way to go," he says. "Traveling predisposes you to blood clots, and if you come home and there's a complication, what American doctor will want to inherit the liability?"
But surgery's not for me: After growing up in Los Angeles, I'm permanently scarred from seeing too many augmented playmates with top-heavy silhouettes that fit better in Juicy Couture than my tailored Helmut Lang. And while implants typically create three-cup-size increases (C is the most popular cup size for patients under age 35), Macrolane only gives a one-cup boost that lasts for 12 to 18 months before it's safely absorbed by the body (though your bust can start deflating after nine months).
"My Macrolane patients don't want the look of an implant," says Inglefield. "If it wasn't for this filler, these women wouldn't get any augmentation; they'd just continue to wear gel bras for the rest of their lives." But ditching the padding isn't cheap. Inglefield's bill is £3100, or about $6000 (not including flight and hotel), which is expensive considering that the average surgeon's fee for implants in the States was just above $3800 in 2007, according to the ASPS. (D'Amico estimates an average total cost, including anesthesia and operating-room fees, of $7000 to $10,000 in the New York area.)