Breast augmentation is performed to enhance the appearance of the breasts. While many patients undergo breast augmentation as an elective procedure to improve the fullness, size or position of their breasts, many undergo this procedure following a mastectomy or to correct a noticeable size difference.

For the past few decades, women undergoing a breast enlargement had two main options: saline (salt water) or silicone gel implants, both of which have a solid silicone shell. Today, more surgeons are offering a new option: natural breast augmentation.

What is Natural Breast Augmentation?
This type of breast enlargement involves removing fat from other areas of the patient’s body — such as the thighs — so it may be sterilized and re-injected in the breasts.

Plastic surgeons who offer natural breast augmentation claim the procedure produces shapelier breasts with no leakage, slippage or the short shelf life associated with saline and silicone implants. Still, there are downsides to this type of procedure.

Downsides to Natural Augmentation
Not all of the transplanted fat will survive, and the amount that does largely depends on the doctor’s experience and technique. There are also serious risks associated with transplanting fat. This includes oil cysts, masses, scarring and nodules. If the fat forms cysts, it can potentially interfere with cancer screening later on. It can also take up to a year to see the final results, as transplanted fat may take months to die off slowly.

When are Implants a Better Option?
Patients who want significantly larger breasts — such as an increase of two cup sizes or more — may find that implants are the better option. Both types of implants have also been tested for decades and found to be safe, despite rare complications. The research into fat transfers, however, is more limited, and doctors are not entirely sure of the long-term effects.

Many women feel that natural breast augmentation is the only way to get natural-looking results, but this is not true. The size and style of the implant, the experience of the surgeon, and the technique used all play a role in how natural breast implants will look. A more natural look is usually achieved by choosing a moderate profile implant placed under the muscle, with an implant that is proportional to the body. “Fake-looking” implants are often placed over the muscle. The implants are high-profile and out of proportion to the body and chest.

Both natural breast enlargement and implants have the ability to produce natural-looking results, but both types of procedures come with risk. Do not assume that a procedure that is called natural is necessarily safe, as there are still risks.