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Saline vs Silicone Implants: Your Options Explained

While breast augmentation is wildly popular, most people don’t know much about it beyond its results. Like many cosmetic procedures, breast implants have their own slew of myths, misconceptions, and social implications. Fortunately, advancements in medical science, equipment, and improved materials have significantly improved the perceived negative aspects of breast implants. Most of these negative connotations come from high-profile “botched” jobs (which have their own misconceptions and hardly represent the practice as a whole) or the poor longevity of the first, second, and third generation of implants (roughly from the 1960s to the 1990s).

The good news is that breast augmentation is not only considerably safer than in the past, but more so, they have a more natural overall look, feel, and carry than ever before. In this post, we’ll highlight the pros and cons of the two major types of options: saline vs silicone implants.

How Are Saline & Silicone Implants Similar?

All breast implants have a shell made out of an inert polymer called silicone. This comes in two forms, either a smooth or textured outer shell. The smooth shell rolls slightly in the breast pocket, more accurately mimicking natural breast movement, whereas the textured shell encourages soft tissue growth on the surface, keeping the implant more securely in place. The thing to remember is that all implants vary in size from depth to width, to fill volume and circumference. Every implant is chosen specifically for the individual, allowing your surgeon to customize the procedure specifically for you.

For the sake of a side-by-side comparison, here is a breakdown of each type.

Silicone Breast Implants

Silicone has come a long way in terms of longevity, consistency, safety, and overall the considerably more popular option. Many of the sensationalized “bad boob jobs” from the ’90s were centered around the defects and poor performance of older generations of silicone. Nearly all of those problems have since been rectified. In 2016 alone, right around 97% of patients opted for silicone over saline. The advantages are numerous, including fewer complications, fewer instances of wrinkling, and a much softer, more natural feel and appearance.

Old silicone generations used gel inside an outer shell. Now, they come as a single piece made out of a silicone gel matrix. It’s entirely solid, in the sense that gelatin is a soft solid. Because of their gelatin-like feel and consistency, they are often referred to as “gummy bear” implants. Additionally, while the older generations may have needed a replacement every decade or so, that is no longer true for current implants. Realistically, one could expect the procedure to last their entire life without needing to be replaced.

Saline Breast Implants

Saline originally became popular due to its alternative to defective, older silicone implants of the past. At the time it was safer and more reliable than silicone. This has since changed and is no longer the case.

Saline is a sterile, saltwater solution. If it sounds familiar outside of implants, it’s because it’s commonly used as the main or sole ingredient in IV’s given for hydration/intravenous medicine delivery. Saline is medically safe for our bodies with the main advantage being that if a rupture were to occur, the body would not react negatively nor would it cause any major internal concerns.

Saline has the same consistency as water and, as such, the “feel” of it will be determined on the fill. The result is usually a firmer, rounder appearance.

Cons to saline exist, however. Deflation can occur, and when it does, it becomes apparent from the outside–as you can see in the photo below. Combined with that, wrinkling and rippling of the shell is more common than with silicone which, especially under softer skin, can be visible from the outside as well.

Before & After Breast Augmentation Case 134 View #1 View in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Ruptured Saline Implants (left) and Replacement Silicone Implants (right)

Silicone vs. Saline Breast Implants

Silicone Gel

  • Silicone gel matrix
  • Prefilled by manufacturer
  • Softer, more natural feel
  • Less wrinkling and rippling

Saline

  • Filled by surgeon
  • Adjustable size and overfill
  • Firmer
  • Wrinkling and rippling more common
  • Deflation visible
  • Recommended replacement every 10 years

Your Breast Implant Options: Which Is Right for You?

The first thing you may notice after the overall comparison is that silicone seems to have fewer disadvantages over saline, and you’d be exactly right. Given how silicone gel can be customized from the manufacturer to fit specific needs, it essentially negates saline’s ability of an adjustable fill line. Silicone’s newest generation is the new standard in breast augmentation—for good reason.

Regardless of the type, breast implants are by no means a one-size-fits-all affair. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages and both can help fit different types of outcomes desired by the particular patient, it’s just that silicone has a significantly higher success and satisfaction rate over saline. Body type, size, and structure all have a play in this as well. The best thing to do is consult a physician or surgeon on which options best fit your body goals.

Saline and silicone fill options aren’t the only decision you’ll make as you plan your breast augmentation with your surgeon. You’ll also discuss implant size, profile (projection), outer texture, shape, and more. Learn more about how to choose among these details to find the best implants for your lifestyle in our related blog post.

For more information or questions on breast augmentations, including breast lift or reduction surgery, request a consultation using our online form or call us at (225) 399-0001.

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