What are the Differences Between Silicone and Saline Breast Implants?

Maryland Plastic Surgeon serving Washington DC, & Virginia including Alexandria and Fairfax.


woman in bra The options for breast implants continue to evolve and grow as more and more women take advantage of this popular plastic surgery procedure. One of the biggest decisions a woman will need to make is whether to have silicone or saline implants. There are unique characteristics to each that go further than just the way they look.


Silicone breast implants are filled with a proprietary, highly cohesive gel that is known for having a more natural feel because the gel material closely matches the weight and suppleness of real breast tissue better than the liquid solution used in saline implants. Saline implants on the other hand, weigh a bit more than the silicone options and often feel more spherical.


While saline breast implants might not feel as natural to some, there is less scarring than with their silicone counterparts. Since the liquid solution is added after the implant shells have been inserted into the patient’s chest wall, the incisions are smaller. Additionally, patients have a more options when deciding where the incisions are to be made. Saline implants can be inserted through incisions in the breast fold, along the armpit area, near the border of the areola, or through the belly button. In contrast, silicone implants can only be inserted through incisions in the breast fold or along the armpit area.


Prospective breast augmentation patients also need to consider what would happen if an implant ruptures. If a saline implant were to rupture, the implant would deflate and the liquid solution would be absorbed by the patient’s body without any health consequences. A rupture isn’t as immediately noticeable for silicone implants, as the gel might remain trapped in the tissue that forms around the implant. In both cases, a change in the shape of the breast will eventually occur, and surgery would be recommended to remove or replace the implant.


Silicone implants have shown to be less likely to show rippling than saline implants. Implant rippling occurs when wrinkling of the implant shell can be seen through the breast tissue. This factor is especially important for thin women or women with little natural breast tissue to consider because they are more likely to experience rippling than others.


Both types are safe options and FDA approved, and it’s important to note that patients must be at least 22 years old to get silicone implants but only have to be 18 to get saline implants. However, this should not be taken to mean that one is more safe than the other. Patients can discuss these options with a plastic surgeon during their initial consultation.