Mastopexy (Breast Lift Surgery): Does It Really Help?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on January 31, 2024
9 min read

Mastopexy, also called a breast lift, is a cosmetic operation where a plastic surgeon changes the shape of your breasts. They'll remove any excess skin and tighten the surrounding tissue to move your breast and nipple upwards.

Surgery to change how your breasts look isn't something everyone wants to do. You may want to wait if you plan to have children or breastfeed in the future. But if you're considering a surgical breast lift, one way to see if it might help you is to put a pencil under your breast and see if it stays there. If it does and this bothers you, a breast lift might be an option. 

You may choose to have this procedure if you don't like how your breasts look or feel. They may be droopy, flat, or you may have an areola that’s gotten larger. Mastopexy may help if your:

  • Breasts sag more than you want them to or you don't like their shape
  • Your nipples drop below your breast creases 
  • Your nipples or areolae point toward the floor
  • Your areolae are stretched out
  • Your breasts don't look the same, such as one drooping more than the other

As you get older, your breasts are likely to get softer. Your skin won't snap back when it's stretched like it used to. These changes in your skin and breasts are normal and can happen over time for lots of reasons, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Weight change
  • Age
  • Gravity
  • Genetics

Some women also choose to get breast implants or a breast reduction at the same time as their breast lift. By itself, breast lift surgery won't make your breasts bigger or smaller. It also won't make the top of your breast more round. Your surgeon should describe your options and explain the procedure to you in detail so you know what to expect.

The first step is to consult with a plastic surgeon. When you do, tell your surgeon what your goals are. If you're also getting breast implants or a breast reduction, bring photos showing the size and shape of the breasts you'd like. Your surgeon also may ask about:

  • Health conditions 
  • Medicine you're taking
  • Drug allergies
  • Vitamins or other supplements
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Other surgeries
  • Your family history of breast cancer
  • Mammograms or biopsies you've had and their results

The surgeon will consider your health and describe your options. The surgeon should also explain the procedure in detail and go over the risks and what the recovery will be like. Your surgeon also may:

  • Measure your breasts
  • Check your skin, nipples, and areolae
  • Take pictures of your breasts
  • Talk to you about anesthesia
  • Talk to you about any risks or possible complications
  • Talk to you about the results you can expect and your recovery

Make sure you ask any questions you have. Some questions to ask include:

  • What kind of certification, training, and experience do you have?
  • Will this surgery allow me to achieve my goals?
  • How long will surgery take?
  • Where will I have the procedure done?
  • How long will it take to recover?
  • What are the risks?
  • What complications will I need to watch out for?

Complications after breast lifts are relatively rare. The main three are bleeding, infection, and scarring. Your surgeon will give you instructions for preparing that will help lower your risk of complications. Those instructions will include such things as not smoking, making sure you are off medications that may make bleeding more likely, and taking antibiotics if necessary.

You should also start planning for the recovery period. For instance, you will have to avoid heavy lifting for at least 4 to 6 weeks after your breast lift. If you have young children, you may need to line up help.

You'll get your breast lift in a hospital setting, an outpatient surgery center, or the doctor’s personal operating room. Women usually get this procedure on an outpatient basis, meaning there's no overnight stay. It takes 2 to 3 hours and is usually done under general anesthesia. Sedation with an IV may be an option, too. Ask your surgical team including your anesthesiologist, surgeon, and nursing staff what they suggest before the procedure.

Mastopexy incisions

The surgeon will mark the proper position where your nipple will go. After that, you'll be brought to the operating room where you'll get general anesthesia or sedation. Your surgeon will decide which incision pattern and techniques they'll do based on:

  • Your goals for the surgery
  • Your breast shape and size
  • The size and location of your areolae
  • How much your breasts sag
  • How elastic your skin is
  • How much extra skin you have

Surgeons most often use one of three incision patterns for breast lift surgery. These include:

  • Around your areola
  • Around your areola and then down to the crease under your breast
  • Around the areola then vertically down and horizontally along your breast crease

Your surgeon may have different names for these incision patterns based on their shape. These include:

Keyhole or "lollipop lift." Your surgeon will cut around your areola and down to make a lollipop shape. This incision is commonly used when there's moderate sagging and you don't want implants. This incision has moderate scarring.

Anchor. Your surgeon will cut around your areola, down, and along your breast crease in the shape of an anchor. This technique is often used when there's a lot of sagging or you're having your breasts lifted and reduced. This incision type comes with the most scarring.

Doughnut. Your surgeon will cut only around your areola. This is most common when there's less sagging. It also will leave you with less scarring.

Crescent. Your surgeon cuts only along the upper half of your areola. They'll take out a crescent-shaped section of skin and reattach your areola. This technique won't give you as much lift and isn't done as much.

Ask your surgeon in advance which approach and incision patterns they plan to use for you and why. Ask them how the specific incisions you'll need will get you to your goal and how much scarring you can expect. 

After your surgeon makes the needed incisions, they'll reshape your breasts. Your surgeon will remove extra skin and lift your breast tissue up into the proper location. They'll cover your breasts with gauze and a surgical support bra. You may have tiny tubes drains in your breasts for any extra blood or fluid for about 24 to 48 hours.

Your surgeon will remove the bandages and any drains during your follow-up visit on the first or second day after your breast lift. The doctor will also check the nipple's color and blood supply.

After the operation, expect to be uncomfortable for a few days. Your doctor will usually recommend that you wear a bra or have a special dressing in place to provide the support you will need during your recovery. For the first week, you may need pain medication. Your breasts will likely be bruised and swollen for a couple of weeks. You may feel soreness and see red or pink around your incisions for the first few months. You could have numbness in your nipples, areolae, or skin on your breasts for 6 weeks.

If you've gotten breast implants, be careful to avoid any impact to your chest, which could make the implant rupture.

In 2 to 3 weeks, your surgeon will remove all your stitches. The shape of the breast will continue to improve as time passes.

There may be slight differences in symmetry between the two breasts. If so, your plastic surgeon will do a small touch-up procedure to help reposition the nipple as necessary. Minor adjustments can be made later on.

During your recovery, it is very important to limit your activity as directed by your surgeon and to report any side effects or problems you're having right away. It's best to avoid straining, bending, or lifting for the first few days. Make sure you don't put pressure on your breasts when you sleep. Avoid sexual activity for a week or two, and check when it's OK to start showering normally again. 

Breast lift recovery time

You'll see a difference right away and should feel better within a few weeks. Your breast shape will continue to settle over a few months as you heal. It will take some time to see the final results.

Mastopexy scars

The scars won't go away, but they will get softer and less noticeable over the first year or two.

Any surgery has risks. You'll need to decide if your desire to have cosmetic surgery outweighs the potential risks. After you have your breast lift, you may have:

  • Scars. Typically, these will fade over time.
  • Changes in nipple or breast sensation. Usually, this comes back within a couple of weeks, but in rare cases it can sometimes be permanent.
  • Breasts that are different shapes or sizes. Sometimes, this is because your breasts are healing at a different pace.
  • Loss of your nipple or areola. This is rare, but can happen if the procedure causes blood loss to the area.

Other risks include:

  • Risks of anesthesia
  • Bleeding or hematoma
  • Blood clots 
  • Heart or lung complications
  • Death of fatty tissue (fat necrosis)
  • Fluid buildup
  • Infection
  • Trouble healing

It's possible you won't get the results you were hoping for from the first surgery. If this happens, you may need to consider having another surgery. Ask your doctor about the risks for you. If you have any concerns, it's best to ask up front.


Most breast lifts are considered cosmetic surgeries. Health insurance companies usually don't cover them unless they are done as part of a mastectomy reconstruction.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost for the procedure is around $5,800 and it keeps going up. You may also have other costs for:

Your cost may vary depending on where you live and where you have your surgery. It also will depend on the details of the procedure you'll have. Make sure you know what you can expect your final cost to be. Check with your health insurance company in advance so you're clear on what, if any, costs they'll pay. Many plastic surgeons offer financing plans.

You can get a breast lift at any age after your breasts have finished developing. You can also get one before or after you are pregnant. You will still be able to breastfeed after a breast lift.

You’ll see results right after your surgery, but it can take a few months for your breasts to settle into their final result. Some of your incision lines will be hidden. You will be able to see others more easily on the surface of your breasts. While these lines won't go away, they usually fade and get less visible over time.

Breast lift results might not be permanent. It's possible you could want to have another breast lift later. In time, some women choose to get a repeat breast lift as a “touch-up” procedure to change the overall look of their breasts. But they may not need a full-length procedure.

You'll keep your results longer if you stay healthy and keep your weight about the same.

Mastopexy is a cosmetic procedure that can change the look and shape of your breasts without altering their size. Your surgeon will talk to you about your goals and come up with a plan that will involve incisions in one of a few patterns. You'll see a difference right away, but it will take time for your breasts to fully heal and your scars to fade.

  • What is the difference between mastopexy and breast lift?

    Breast lift is another name for mastopexy. They are the same surgical procedure. 

  • How much does it cost for a boob lift?

    Mastopexy is a surgical procedure and normally isn't covered by insurance. You can expect to pay several thousands dollars for the surgery itself and other fees. Check with your surgeon's office ahead of time to make sure you understand what your total cost will be and how you will need to pay it.

  • What is the difference between mastopexy and breast reduction?

    Mastopexy will change the look and shape of your breasts, but it doesn't change their size. A breast reduction is a surgery to reduce the size of your breasts. You can combine a mastopexy procedure with breast reduction or breast implants if you want to change both the shape and size of your breasts. 

  • What are the disadvantages of mastopexy?

    Mastopexy has risks, just like any surgery. It's also costly. You'll be left with permanent scars. Sometimes, the results won't last, especially if you gain or lose weight over time. You won't always get the results you hoped for and could need more surgery to make more changes. You'll have to weigh the costs, benefits, and risks of the surgery to decide if it's something you want to do.