Growing Trend of Instant, Temporary Breast Augmentation Raises Eyebrows Among Doctors

Temporary, instant breast augmentation is becoming ever more popular, and the health risk is low. unpict/Shutterstock.

According to the most recent statistics from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, of the 23 million cosmetic procedures performed in 2013, 87.2 percent were performed on women, and the leading procedure was breast augmentation. Approximately 11 million of overall procedures were non-surgical, up from 8 million non-surgical procedures in 2011, the last year the study was performed.

Non-surgical cosmetic procedures are generally considered a safer and less pricey alternative to cosmetic surgery, with evidence suggesting that an increasing number of people are choosing the needle over the knife to achieve the look they want.

Reasons for the popularity of non-surgical cosmetic treatments vary, but one important benefit is that there is usually minimal recovery time required.  In fact, some surgeries claim that patients can stop in for a procedure during their lunch break, and head back to their jobs within an hour.

Dr. Norman Rowe, a plastic surgeon operating in New York City, is offering what might be considered the ultimate lunchtime procedure—the Instabreast.

The Instabreast treatment, which only lasts for 24 hours, takes around 15-20 minutes to perform and is designed to add more volume and fullness to breasts without involving any kind of surgery.

To achieve this look, the areola is first injected with epinephrine, a local anesthetic.  Then, a saline solution is injected into the breast, causing the area to swell in size.  Rowe says that he was inspired to use saline for breast enlargement, after using saline injections for other parts of the body and face.

Larger breasts—even temporary ones—come with a hefty price tag.  24 hours of boost typically goes for $2,500.  

Rowe says that many women want the Instabreast surgery as a ‘trial run’, to see if larger breasts will achieve the look they want.

“Many women use it as a method to assess if breast implant surgery is for them. With this in mind, breast augmentation surgery is the most popular surgical procedure performed by plastic surgeons. It is a very popular procedure in my practice,” he says.

Emily Orofino is a beauty writer for Popsugar.com, and recently underwent the Instabreast procedure.  She decided to write about her firsthand experience of the treatment, and says that when she saw the results, she was “dumbfounded”.

“I loved how my clothes fit, how they felt, and how I saw myself more positively after years of feeling like less of a woman because of my small breasts,” Orofino says.

“I am legitimately considering breast implants as a result of the Instabreast experience.  I would recommend it to anyone seriously thinking about breast augmentation.”

Going into the procedure, Orofino says she didn’t know a great deal beyond media reports and her own basic knowledge of plastic surgery.  Her main concerns were related to permanent stretching, sagging, changes to her breast shape and stretch marks—all of which were assuaged by Rowe and his team.

In fact, Orofino admits that prior to the Instabreast treatment, the only temporary cosmetic treatments she had experienced were Latisse (for improving eyelash growth) and teeth whitening.  To date, she has never even dyed her hair.

Overall, she says her experience was “very good”, and she “greatly enjoyed living with bigger breasts for a day”.

However, Dr. Anne Taylor, a member surgeon of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), believes the cost and duration of the Instabreast procedure will not catch on with the average American woman.

“It’s a lot to go through for a very short amount of result. You can inject saline into almost any part of the body and have it pumped up, but the saline is absorbed very radically, probably within 24 hours for sure,” Taylor says.

“That may work in Los Angeles, but it’s not going to happen over the rest of the United States—I just can’t imagine anywhere in the world, really.  We’ll have to wait and see how this evolves.”

Though the risks involved with injecting saline are low, Taylor says they aren’t zero.

“Any time you stick a needle in somebody there’s going to be a risk of bleeding or infection, and these are real risks that if it happens even one time, it’s too many,” Taylor says.

“We can’t just gloss over it—‘oh, this is just a bit of saline’—there are real risks.  So informing the patient appropriately about that is really important and why board certified plastic surgeons should do their part.”

Rowe says he is working on a new treatment that will potentially surpass the popularity of the Instabreast, called ‘Vacation Breasts’ —designed to last a full 3-4 weeks, and ideal for taking a holiday or preparing for a wedding.

Rowe has been coy about the details of this procedure, and no specific information has been made available at this stage.

While the Instabreast procedure is a new alternative to permanent breast implants, other non-surgical cosmetic procedures for the body have been around for some time, and are performed by thousands of practitioners globally.

Dermal fillers, facial rejuvenation treatments and anti-wrinkle injectables such as Botulinum Toxin (including the famous BOTOX brand) can be administered by trained health professionals that are not necessarily doctors.

However, the safe administration of treatments is entirely dependent on the provider—and to complicate things, individual U.S. states have the final say in who can legally administer these treatments.

A lack of clinical consensus on best medical practice is similarly shared by Australia, where there are no national guidelines to regulate popular cosmetic procedures such as injectables, fillers and laser treatments.

Dr. Tony Kane is the president of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, and a practicing plastic surgeon in Brisbane.  He says that the Society has been calling for the implementation of national guidelines surrounding non-surgical treatments.

“We are concerned that the general public think of cosmetic procedures such as injectable, fillers and lasers as not hazardous and therefore pose no risk, but this is wrong,” Kane says.

“Cosmetic surgery and cosmetic procedures are still real medical procedures and as such carry real risks. Unqualified practitioners using unapproved equipment, or injecting prescription drugs in unsafe environments is a recipe for disaster.

Taylor says that while Botulinum Toxin is a safe and effective treatment that can be performed by various health professionals, the best option is to visit a physician who has thorough training in human anatomy.

In a situation where something goes wrong—like accidentally injecting the wrong muscle, or blocking an artery—a qualified physician will have greater experience in rectifying the issue.

“I have no problem with a wide variety of doctors doing this, as long as you’re a physician and have gone to medical school and know the anatomy,” Taylor says.

Non-surgical cosmetic procedures offer an alternative to the expense and lengthy recovery linked to traditional plastic surgery, and Rowe believes they are on the rise in plastic surgeon offices around the world.

“This is driven by a patient’s desire for procedures that have minimal downtime, the improved results that they desire and a simple method of attaining these result,” Rowe says.

“That being said, the future of the temporary, non-surgical breast augmentation has a huge potential worldwide.”

Taylor agrees that the future of temporary cosmetic treatments is “unlimited”, based on the imagination of plastic surgeons working in the field.  She also believes that the lower price point for consumers, coupled with a subtle improvement, would continue to encourage people to pursue temporary cosmetic treatments.

“I’ve been in practice for 18 years and I can’t believe what we can do now compared to when I was first in practice, when we had to use cow collagen, which only lasted a couple of weeks,” Taylor says.

“We all want to look our best and feel our best, and surgery is a big step—so whatever we can do to hold back the hands of time is great.”