Seeing an aesthetic procedure all over social media can breed a strange sort of FOMO. (Hey, we’re not immune.) Yet it may be difficult to distinguish for-the-’Gram fads from truly “Worth It” tweaks. Which is why we’re launching a new series on RealSelf: Everybody’s Doing It. Each month, we’ll explore all sides of an of-the-moment cosmetic procedure, to bring you the uncensored truth about its efficacy and safety so you can decide if it’s right for you. Here, in our latest installment, we’re covering fat transfer to the breast.
It’s been dubbed the “natural boob job,” “implant-free breast augmentation,” and “minimally invasive breast enhancement”—names ripe with modern-day appeal, aiming to encapsulate what’s medically known as fat transfer to the breast. But the growing interest in this surgical procedure—and, make no mistake, it is a surgical procedure—is being propelled by more than just clever marketing.
In recent years, the classic boob job has come under fire as breast implants have been linked to both a rare non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma called BIA-ALCL and a separate, more nebulous condition known as breast implant illness (BII). Of course, implants also pose more standard risks, like rupture and capsular contracture, in addition to requiring lifelong surveillance.
Despite these drawbacks, traditional breast augmentation with silicone or saline implants remains the most popular plastic surgery procedure in America, according to a 2019 statistics report from The Aesthetic Society. While the operation has, in fact, held the number-one spot since 2008, its numbers took a bit of a hit recently, dropping 15% between 2018 and 2019. In that same span, the demand for breast implant removal, or explant surgery, jumped by nearly 35%.
Fat transfer to the breast has been concurrently gaining steam, with board-certified plastic surgeons reporting a 37.3% spike since 2015. “About three years ago, we started seeing an increase in patients asking for fat grafting alone for breast augmentation to avoid implants,” says Beverly Hills, California, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Kelly Killeen. Before that time, she adds, many had never heard of fat grafting to the breast. “Now that’s specifically what they’re coming in to consult about.”