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Are Bras Bad For You?

You may be surprised by the answer.

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Ashley Lukashevsky
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I’ve always hated bras. Regardless of the size or the brand, I’m always aware of them on my body, wrapping around my chest like a tight belt, squeezing me from the moment I wake until I finally undress before bed. I’ve tried every type of bra, from the standard Victoria’s Secret to the new True & Co. and ThirdLove, which promise to be super comfy (they are better, but still not as comfortable as not wearing anything). 

So, when the pandemic hit and I was homebound, my bra was the first thing to go. I’m a size 34B on a good day, so I’m not in any pain without the bra (except for when I exercise, and for that I temporarily wear a sports bra) — but I had never before let myself go completely braless. I mean, there had to be a good reason why everyone wears them, right? Something about sagging? Or maybe the muscles in that region need the support? And then there’s the issue of those nipples, which appear to pop out whenever they see fit. My biggest fear about going braless was the sagging. I’m 40, and my breasts have been through two pregnancies and two years of nursing. They’re still perky now, but maybe that’s thanks to all those years of bra-wearing?

Nope, says Tsvetelina Velikova, M.D., a clinical immunologist and medical adviser at Supplements 101. It’s actually the opposite.

“When you quit wearing a bra, your muscles tone, and ligaments that support the muscles will gradually improve,” Velikova says. “As long as your breasts are held by a bra, the muscles that naturally support them stay inactive.”

It’s actually an optical illusion, she says. The optical effect of not wearing a bra may make it look like your breasts are sagging or hanging lower because bras hold up your breasts — but really, when you take off that bra, your chest muscles start to support your breasts (the soft tissue and skin), and they become stronger on their own. It’s not all good news for me, however.

The weight of the breast tissue will make the connective tissue in the breast work harder, so they may stretch a little faster, which may cause the skin to stretch and the breasts to drop slightly, says Constance Chen, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon and breast reconstruction specialist. Plus, as women age, breasts become more fatty, which also causes breasts to soften and droop.

“This may be more evident without a bra to support the breast tissue,” Chen says.

So, without the bra, I’ve got my muscles working for me but skin working against me. From a health perspective, a bra is optional, Chen says.

But what about the social perspective? Apparently, going braless is equivalent to making a big social statement at the moment. There’s the #freethenipple movement taking place on Instagram right now, with more than 4 million *mostly nonsexual* posts of women deciding to go against the norm. Of course, there are all the celebrities and influencers announcing their desire to free their own nipples, burn their bras and  leave our bodies alone. Kendall Jenner, Kate Moss and Bella Hadid are just a few who have tossed their brassieres. 

I mentioned to my husband that I was considering going braless for the near future, and he was momentarily excited before becoming concerned. He worried that all the men I encountered would immediately notice, and would all start crushing on me.

This made me laugh, as it would have never crossed my mind in a million years. In terms of the social perspective, I was more concerned about all the women judging me for not wearing a bra. Would other moms let their children hang out with mine? Would they talk behind my back? Would they think I was a slob? A slut? A weirdo?

Those were my social concerns. Not once did I consider men. Plus, if men thought I looked good braless, that would make this 40-year-old suburban mama of two feel wonderful. Spoiler alert: I’ve been braless for six months now, and not a single head was turned, male or female.