Experiencing “cold” implants is a strange but real phenomenon for patients who have had breast augmentation and live in, or visit, cold climates. It sounds like a myth, but it is not uncommon for women to report that their breasts feel cold to the touch in colder weather. Yet many women are surprised, and because they weren’t expecting it, the unusual sensation in colder temperatures alarmed them.  Many wished they had been warned ahead of time so that they could have better prepared themselves.
Dr. Michael Howard, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Lake Forest, Chicago, and Glenview, IL has helped over 10,000 women achieve their ideal figures. He is frequently asked about this phenomenon, and he strives to share with each patient why some women experience it. When asked, Dr. Howard gives his professional take on this strange side effect of breast implants in cold weather.
Is it Cold in Here?
If you have breast implants and you live in a cold climate, you may have already experienced cold implants from time to time. But for other patients who don’t live in the cold, the sudden shock on a vacation or a business trip can take them by surprise. The temperature change is only a few degrees, but some women say that their breasts can feel tender when this happens. However, there is no need to worry; this phenomenon is harmless and temporary.
Dr. Howard reminds his patients of what life after implants will be like and that, from time to time, they may feel unusual things that they never felt before. The human body is an amazing machine, and it is constantly adapting to changes. After you get breast implants, your body will go through some changes as it adjusts to its new enhancements.
It Starts With Anatomy
When you get breast implants, your body will go through some adjustments. This is because your body is incredibly adaptable and constantly strives to maintain equilibrium. After you get breast implants, your body will start to adjust in the following ways:
- Nerves – The first thing that changes is the way your nerves respond to stimuli. Nerves can be easily damaged for any number of reasons during surgery. 
- Muscles – The chest muscles surrounding (and underneath) your implants will also have to adjust to the new weight and size of your breasts. These muscles will start to contract more frequently in order to support your new breast tissue.
- Skin – The skin around your implants will also have to stretch to accommodate the new volume, which makes it thinner. There is often not much tissue between the implant and the outside atmosphere, which means your implants are simply closer to, and more easily influenced by, the temperature outside your body.
Your body will go through all of these changes in order to accommodate your new implants, and in most cases, you will experience only mild effects after surgery. However, all of these adjustments can result in some unusual side effects, and cold implants is one of them.
The Science of it All
The hypothalamus, an almond-sized area of the brain, is responsible for governing our internal body temperature.  It’s part of the autonomic nervous system, which controls our heart rate and the width of our blood vessels. If the hypothalamus registers that we are too cold, it will direct the body to retain heat. This is one of the reasons why our arm hair “stands up” and we get goosebumps. Conversely if we are too hot, the hypothalamus will activate methods of cooling us off, like sweating.
Temperature perception differs from person to person. The average human body temperature is 37°C (98.6°F),  but the normal range can be slightly above or below this figure. Our internal temperature is also affected by things like exercise and exposure to hot or cold weather conditions. Body temperature typically dips at night and rises during the day, peaking in the afternoon hours before gradually dropping again in the morning.
Why Do My Implants Feel Hard When It’s Cold?
Many things contract in cold temperatures. Your skin, muscle, and breast tissues will most likely contract as well, which would then cause an increase in breast firmness. If your implants are placed underneath the muscle tissue, your pectoral muscles may not have gotten used to the stretching that the implants have caused. If you experience muscle tightness or spasms when exposed to the cold, this is normal and should lessen over time. Additionally, your skin will accommodate the implants after a few months, making them feel less firm in response to changes in temperature.
Some women report that their breast implants feel cold even when their body temperature is warm. Dr. Howard believes that this is because of the way that breast implants interact with your body’s nervous system.
Your Body Type
When a patient has breast implants placed for reconstruction, there is no gland and less adipose (fatty) tissue present than in the natural breast. The new breast volume has less insulating fat and no internal blood flow (providing constant warmth). Further, the non-biological implant cannot be regulated by our autonomic nervous system. As the skin stretches over the implants, there is very little subcutaneous tissue between the implant and the external atmosphere, meaning the implants will feel cold.
To understand why breast implants might feel cold, you need to understand a little bit about how implants are made. Breast implants are filled with either saline or silicone gel. The outer shell is made of silicone, and it is this material that will sometimes feel cold in colder weather.
Saline implants cannot freeze inside the body because the internal body temperature would have to drop below 28.4 degrees for that to happen. For silicone gel implants to freeze, they would need to be exposed to a temperature of 170 degrees below zero!
The reason that the silicone shell might feel cold has to do with its composition. Silicone is made of chains of atoms that alternate between silicon and oxygen. Their chemical inertness, resistance to water and oxidation, as well as stability in both high and low temperatures have led to a variety of commercial applications like breast implants.  While silicone may be very stable in cold weather, it does contract, which may contribute to the hardness of the implants and may affect the way nerves respond.
What You Can Do
Discomfort in cold weather can be inconvenient. If you’re concerned about your implants feeling cold in the winter, there are a few things you can do to keep them warm:
- Wear a scarf or shawl: Wrap a scarf or shawl around your neck and wear a hat when you go outside; this will help keep your body heat in and stop the cold air from affecting your core temperature
- Dress in layers: Wearing multiple layers of clothing will also help to trap heat and keep your body from getting too cold.
So how can surgeons help? One thing Dr. Howard does is to prepare his patients for all possibilities after surgery, including the possibility of cold implants. That way, if patients experience cold implants or any number of changes or sensations after surgery, they are not caught off guard. Knowing is always better than being surprised, especially when it comes to plastic surgery!
If you seek breast augmentation surgery, book a personal consultation with Dr. Howard so you know exactly what to expect from your treatment.
Cost of Breast Implants in Chicago, IL
Breast augmentation and breast reconstruction vary in price according to patient needs. If you have questions about your breast implants or any changes you are experiencing, feel free to contact Dr. Howard’s office for more information. If you would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Howard, call (224) 271-4250, and our scheduling coordinator will help you find a time that works.
- Snell L, McCarthy C, Klassen A, et al. Clarifying the Expectations of Patients Undergoing Implant Breast Reconstruction: A Qualitative Study. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2010;126(6):1825-1830. doi:10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181f44580
- Kokosis G, Chopra K, Darrach H, Dellon AL, Williams EH. Re-visiting post-breast surgery pain syndrome: risk factors, peripheral nerve associations and clinical implications. Gland Surgery. 2019;8(4):407-415. doi:10.21037/gs.2019.07.05
- Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. How Is Body Temperature Regulated and What Is fever? Nih.gov. Published November 17, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279457/
- Britannica. silicone | Definition, Composition, Properties, Uses, & Facts. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. ; 2019. https://www.britannica.com/science/silicone