If your breasts are starting to sag, it's natural to wonder why. First, though, keep in mind that sagging breasts are completely normal at any age — breasts come in all shapes and sizes and can change throughout your life.
While sagging most often happens with aging, it can also happen during puberty, pregnancy or with vigorous exercise. It could even just be your genetics.
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Still, just because it's normal doesn't mean you're A-OK with it. If breast sagging bothers you, there may be ways to address it, including nonsurgical and surgical options (though there are a few key things to keep in mind for each approach).
Here, learn the common causes of breast sagging along with ways to naturally lift breasts.
What Causes Saggy Breasts?
Before we dive into causes, let's brush up on breast anatomy.
Breasts are made up of fat as well as fibrous and glandular tissue, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Glandular tissue includes lobes and ducts that produce and carry milk to the nipple. Fibrous tissue is the connective tissue that supports breasts. The rest is made up of fatty tissue. (And bigger breasts means more fatty tissue.)
Sometimes the ligaments in your breasts, called Cooper's ligaments, can stretch out and cause your breasts to sag, which is medically known as breast ptosis, per a November 2018 review in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
This can be triggered by a number of things, including:
Turns out, some people just have naturally low-hanging breasts. In other words, saggy breasts may be hereditary. This is especially true when it comes to breasts that sag at a young age.
Indeed, your genes play a role in the soft tissue and structure of breasts, Samuel Lin, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "There can be a predisposition for descent or sagging," he notes.
2. Aging and Gravity
"Ultimately, over time, the skin and soft tissues of the body — whether it be the face, breasts or abdominal skin — succumb to gravity, leading to descent," Dr. Lin says.
Similarly, if you experience sagging breasts at a young age (like during puberty), it could be from multiple stages of breast development. Your breast shape can change dramatically, or you may find that one breast grows faster than the other.
These characteristics can change as your body changes. If you're a teenager worried about chest fat or saggy boobs, you may need to give your body time to adjust to its new adult shape and accept the natural fluctuations that your body will go through over time.
3. Breast Size and Shape
If your breasts naturally carry more weight at the bottom, they are more prone to sagging.
Small breasts are also less likely to sag compared to larger or more narrow-shaped ones, per the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
4. Significant Weight Loss
If you've recently lost a significant amount of weight or are experiencing weight redistribution in your teenage years, your may notice saggy breasts. That's because when you lose fat, the shape of your breasts can change.
"When breast weight pulls on the skin, some of that tissue and skin doesn't recoil to its original position after weight loss," Dr. Lin says.
Breasts often change in size during pregnancy. Most people's breasts will grow during pregnancy, increasing by a cup size or two, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Your breasts may continue to change after you deliver your baby, too: One May 2010 review in the Annals of Plastic Surgery found 85 percent of people who had at least one pregnancy reported that their breast size changed after pregnancy, with some noting that their breasts got bigger and others saying they got smaller. (This is an older study, but it's still the most comprehensive review done on the subject to date.)
For a variety of reasons — e.g. rapid breast growth, weight changes, hormones, genetics — your breasts may end up saggier after pregnancy than they were before.
The free radicals created by cigarette smoke degrade the elasticity of connective tissues in the body. That's why smoking has been flagged as a risk factor for breast sagging, per the May 2010 review in the Annals of Plastic Surgery.
7. Overexposure to UV Rays
Spending too much time in the sun (without sun protection in the form of clothing or sunscreen) can cause the skin on your neck and chest area to thin and wrinkle.
This can cause sagging skin that makes your breasts appear saggy, especially as you age, per the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
If you're going through menopause, you may be wondering, "Why aren't my boobs perky anymore?"
When you go through menopause, your estrogen levels drop significantly. Estrogen is a main reproductive hormone that plays a role in keeping your breasts firm and elastic.
This drop can cause your breasts to shrink, become less firm and lose shape, per Penn Medicine.
2 Debunked Causes of Sagging Breasts
While the above causes have been validated through research, there are others that have been debunked. These "causes" include:
If you are breastfeeding, your breasts swell with milk. When pregnancy and breastfeeding are over, your breasts will likely return to their original size. But the stretching they've undergone may leave them with a not-as-full or "deflated" look.
With that said, the research done in this area — including an older but often-cited September-October 2008 study in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal — pinpoints pregnancy as the cause of sagging, not breastfeeding. In other words, your breasts will likely sag after pregnancy regardless of whether you choose to breastfeed.
2. Not Wearing a Bra
Now, will wearing a bad or stretched-out bra cause sagging? Thankfully, no, but it may still persuade you to buy a better, more supportive brassiere, especially if you have larger breasts that cause back pain.
How to Get Rid of Sagging Breasts
While preventing sagging is largely out of your control, there are some steps you can take to "fix" saggy breasts if you're unhappy with the way they look.
Here are some natural ways to make fallen breasts stand firm again.
Part of the perkiness of breasts lies with the pectoral muscle. This muscle is located underneath the breasts and plays a part in supporting them.
"Therefore, training and developing the chest muscle can lift the breast tissue, giving them a perkier appearance," Brittany Noel Robles, MD, MPH, ob-gyn and certified personal trainer at PostpartumTrainer.com, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
So, moves that target the chest muscles are the best exercises to tone saggy breasts, Dr. Robles says. That said, there are limitations to exercises for this condition: "Results won't be anywhere near as dramatic as the results you can get from surgery," she says.
Still, it's healthy for everyone to strengthen these muscles, saggy breasts or not. You can build up your chest muscles by doing push-ups and other chest exercises. But even just getting 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day is a good start
Dr. Robles recommends starting with 15 minutes per day, two to three times per week. But if you feel more comfortable beginning with five minutes a few days per week, that's great, too.
1. Wide-to-Close Grip Push-Up
A twist on a classic push-up, this version trains the chest from different angles, Dr. Robles says. "A wider grip will de-emphasize the triceps while activating the chest and the shoulders more than a traditional push-up. Changing your grip also adds variety," she says.
Before you try the wide-to-close grip push-up, make sure you review exactly how to do the perfect push-up. If you're still working toward a push-up, Dr. Robles says you can start by doing push-ups against a wall and then with hands on an incline. Both of those positions will still allow you to try a wide and close grip.
- In a push-up position, make sure your hands are wider than your shoulders.
- Lower down to do a push-up and press back up to starting position.
- Bring hands closer than shoulder-width.
- Lower down to perform another push-up. Press back up to the start, then repeat.
2. Up-and-Down Plank
"This plank adds mobility and upper-body strength compared to the traditional plank. That activates the chest muscle, as this resembles a push-up and adds challenge and variety," Dr. Robles says. This can also be called a "plank push-up."
- Start in a push-up position.
- Lower one arm until your forearm and elbow rest on the ground.
- Lower the other arm until your forearm and elbow rest on the ground.
- Push back up into a push-up position, one arm at a time.
- Repeat, alternating which arm goes first.
3. Lying Dumbbell Fly
Make this exercise a regular part of your chest-strengthening routine. "This movement takes the chest muscle through its full range of motion, activating parts that aren't typically worked out doing standard push-ups," Dr. Robles says.
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand and extend elbows to lift the weight above your chest. Your arms should be shoulder-width apart. Your palms should face each other.
- Lower each dumbbell out to your side in an arc, allowing elbows to bend.
- Stop when you reach the floor.
- Press dumbbells back together to the start position. Repeat.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Preventing significant weight fluctuations (particularly from crash dieting or yo-yo dieting) can help prevent changes to breast size that result in sagging.
If you've just had a baby, lose pregnancy weight slowly and in your own time, as that will lessen the chances of breasts shrinking rapidly and causing sagging, per Houston Methodist Hospital.
3. Don't Smoke
Consider this one more reason to quit smoking or avoid the habit altogether. You may need to seek support to help you quit, but it will be worth it, not only to prevent sagging breasts, but to protect your lungs and overall health.
4. Wear Sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen of at least SPF 30 on your neck and chest can help keep the skin around your breasts firm, helping to support and hold them a little higher.
Make sure you are using the proper amount indicated on the bottle, and that you're regularly reapplying when spending a lot of time in the sun, per the Cleveland Clinic.
5. Eat a Balanced Diet
Aim to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. These contain nutrients your body needs to maintain a consistent weight or continue to grow through puberty.
Keep in mind, too, that you can eat all foods in moderation, so keep enjoying foods you like.
6. Drink Enough Water
Staying hydrated helps keep skin all over your body firm and plump. That means drinking enough water could help keep the skin on your chest elastic.
Aim to get 11.5 to 15.5 cups of water per day, through a combination of drinking and eating water-rich foods, per the Mayo Clinic.
7. Visit Your Gynecologist
If you think the cause of your sagging breasts is due to menopause or a drop in estrogen of any kind, talk to your gynecologist, who can run blood tests to see where your hormone levels are at.
If your estrogen is low, they may be able to prescribe supplements that help raise your levels, which may improve the elasticity and appearance of your breasts.
8. Practice Good Posture
Good posture can not only relieve muscle and back pain, but it can also help improve the look of your breasts and keep them from sagging over time.
9. Wear a Supportive Bra During Exercise
Intense exercise can stretch the ligaments that hold up your breasts, per a review in the Journal of Sports Science.
With that in mind, you may want to wear a supportive sports bra to limit breast movement during exercise, including when walking.
If you are unsure what size bra you are, you can measure yourself before shopping online. You can also get fitted at a department store to make sure you're purchasing the right size.
What to Know About Breast-Lift Surgery
Another treatment option for saggy breasts is through a surgical breast lift, Dr. Lin says. This surgery has increased by 70 percent over the last 20 years, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Called a mastopexy, this surgery removes excess skin and tightens breast tissue to correct sagging, the ASPS explains. It can also reduce the size of your areola (the circular ring of darker skin around the nipple), which can also become larger over time, especially in mature saggy breasts.
Here's more to consider about breast-lift surgery:
1. It Causes Scarring
"In order to lift the breasts through surgery, there will be scarring," Dr. Lin says.
If this is something you are not comfortable with, you should hold off on surgery, he says.
At the very minimum, the incision (and subsequent scarring) will go around the areola. Incisions may also be made vertically down the breasts and horizontally around breast creases.
2. It Won't Even Out Your Breasts
Breasts are often asymmetrical — meaning one breast is larger or a different shape than the other — and this is completely normal. Gravity often pulls down one side more than the other, making these differences more noticeable, Dr. Lin says.
Surgery to lift the breasts won't fix this asymmetry, which is important to be aware of when you're considering whether it's right for you, he says.
3. It Doesn't Change the Size of Your Breasts
A breast lift won't change the size of your breasts. A breast-reduction surgery can make their size smaller, while implants can make them bigger. Some patients opt to have both a lift and implants or a lift and reduction.
4. It's Expensive
Surgery to lift breasts costs $4,693, on average, according to ASPS data. In addition to this price, you will also have to pay fees for anesthesia, the operating room, testing and medication.
And keep in mind that adding reduction surgery or implants increases the overall cost quite a bit.
5. There's a Recovery Period
As for outcomes, you will notice a new, more supported shape and the areola will be placed in a perkier position, too. It may take four to six weeks to recover, which means no heavy lifting and wearing support garments, Dr. Lin says.
However, follow-up surgery may be needed in the future depending on healing, Dr. Lin says.
Will My Breasts Sag Again After Surgery?
This is a common question patients ask Dr. Lin. “Certainly, with significant weight fluctuations again or pregnancy, skin and supportive tissues can further stretch. In absence of those things happening, the descent, volume loss or amount of stretch will not advance to the same degree as it was before,” he says.
Whether you're in your teens or your 80s, sagging breasts are natural and normal. But it's not always easy to accept your changing body.
Try to focus on your health and your overall happiness versus nitpicking one body part, especially one that is often photoshopped or unrealistically portrayed in media. Young or old, your body will go through multiple stages of development throughout your life, and that is OK.
That said, if you still feel uncomfortable, you can try one of the above treatments, or talk to your doctor for support.
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: “Breast Lift”
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: “How much does a breast lift cost?”
- Journal of Sports Sciences: “Supported and unsupported breast displacement in three dimensions across treadmill activity levels”
- Annals of Plastic Surgery: “Breast ptosis: causes and cure”
- Aesthetic Surgery Journal: “The effect of breastfeeding on breast aesthetics”
- Penn Medicine: "Do Breasts Undergo Changes with Menopause?"
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: "How long do breast lift results last?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Water: How much should you drink every day?"
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Body Fat"
- Dermatologic Therapy: "Antioxidants and the skin: understanding formulation and efficacy"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Sun-Damaged Skin (Photoaging)"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Is It Bad to Not Wear a Bra?"
- NLM: "Breast Ptosis"
- Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: "Anatomy of the Superficial Fascia System of the Breast: A Comprehensive Theory of Breast Fascial Anatomy"
- Houston Methodist Hospital: "Postpartum Weight Loss: When Can You Start Dieting After Pregnancy?"
- American Pregnancy Association: "Breast Changes During Pregnancy"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.