Alternatives to Breast Augmentation

As the old mantra goes, We must, we must, we must increase our bust. But if we don't want — or can't afford — breast augmentation surgery, are there other options?

Alternatives — including vacuum-like breast-boosting bras, dietary supplements and even injections — do exist, but do they work, and more importantly, are they safe? The answer depends on the product. Here's what we found out about some of the purported alternatives to breast augmentation.

Vacuum Bras

Breast augmentation devices may be able to increase your breast size by a cup or so without surgery. The Brava Breast Enhancement and Shaping System, for example, is an external vacuum bra that may help breasts increase in size when it is worn 16 hours a day for 10 weeks. The manufacturers say it works through "tissue expansion." The Brava bra pulls your breast tissue and places the breast under tension, which may encourage the cells to replicate. It costs about $2,500. Some surgeons routinely use tissue expanding devices and techniques before breast augmentation surgery or breast reconstruction to stretch the skin in preparation for implant placement. For more information on Brava, visit our comprehensive article on this system at The Brava Breast Enhancement and Shaping System.

Injectable Fillers

Certain injectables are being studied to see what, if any, role they may have in breast enhancement.

Hyaluronic acid fillers are mainstays when it comes to restoring facial skin volume and filling in facial wrinkles and folds. Hyaluronic acid is a natural complex sugar.

Botox Breast Lift

Botox — the wrinkle relaxer treatment which paralyzes the muscles that cause frown lines and brow furrows — may also give breasts a temporary lift. A Botox breast lift involves injecting Botox into the pectoralis minor chest muscle. This allows the back muscles to compensate by lifting the breast. The lifting effect lasts only as long as the Botox — which is roughly three to four months.

Fat Grafting

Fat grafting to the breast involves taking fat from places in the body where it is plentiful and implanting it in areas where it is not, like your breasts. This was once frowned upon, but now the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery state that fat injections to the breast can be used to enhance breast appearance after breast reconstruction or to soften the appearance of implants. These injections may one day have a role in cosmetic breast augmentation.

Doctors were initially concerned that the fat might calcify and obscure readings on breast X-rays, or even be mistaken for early breast cancer. These fears have proven to be unfounded by research. Technical concerns remain. There is no consensus on how much fat is needed to adequately enlarge a breast, because not all fat survives the transfer. In addition, the surgery's success depends on your surgeon's skill and technique. Fat injection to the breast takes longer to perform and costs much more than surgery with breast implants.

"All-Natural Breast-Enhancing Supplements"

Bust-enhancing supplements are often touted as miracle treatments on the Internet and in magazines. In theory, some of these products could increase breast size, but there is no evidence that these supplements do what they claim.

Importantly, "all-natural" does not mean safe. Certain "breast-enhancing supplements" contain phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens), which could increase the risk of some types of breast cancer. What's more, these products could interact with other medications that you take, increasing your risk of side effects.

Some ingredients in these products include:

  • Blessed Thistle
  • Damiana
  • Dandelion
  • Dong Quai
  • Kava Kava
  • Motherwort
  • Red Raspberry
  • Sabal
  • Saw Palmetto
  • Senna
  • Wild Yam
  • Oatmeal (filler)

Breast-Firming Creams

There are many breast-firming creams available these days. These creams promise anything and everything, from breast lifts without surgery, or "natural breast lifts," to anti-breast-sagging effects. Using a combination of ingredients such as Retin-A or phytoestrogens, these lotions and creams claim to tighten the skin and improve the tone and texture of the breasts. Most do contain moisturizers, so they can improve the skin's appearance. They range in price from $30 to $150 or higher.

External Breast Prostheses and "Falsies"

Padded bras and falsies may be an option for some women who want to experiment with larger breasts but don't want to undergo surgery. These products can offer a temporary increase in breast size. External breast prostheses are artificial breasts that can be worn after one or both breasts has been surgically removed due to breast cancer. Some women may opt to use these replacements in the event that a breast implant ruptures.

There are many other breast-enhancing products out there that may help your quest for the perfect breast. They include nipple inserts, which can imitate perpetually erect nipples or suppress your already perpetually erect nipples.

From vacuum bras and injectables to pills, creams and "falsies," alternatives to breast augmentation do exist, but none are proven to be as effective as the surgery. When considering these alternatives, remember first and foremost to avoid harm. And, as always, buyer beware.

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    Joshua A. Greenwald, MD, FACS

    Greenwald Plastic Surgery
    166 5th Ave
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    New York City, NY 10010
    (914) 421-0113
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    Joshua A. Greenwald, MD, FACS

    Greenwald Plastic Surgery
    10 Chester Avenue
    Second Floor
    White Plains, NY 10601
    (914) 421-0113
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    Bahman Guyuron, MD

    29017 Cedar Road
    Lyndhurst, OH 44124
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