When you stop wearing a bra, this is what happens to your body
By Lauren Barth/May 31, 2020 12:34 pm EDT/Updated: May 29, 2020 12:36 pm EDT
Getting your first training bra was a major milestone and was likely considered an important and exciting rite of passage as a tween. But, over time, bras lose their novelty, and, for many women, the desire to buy lacy breast-hiking lingerie will eventually wane. Some may even rebuke the notion of wearing these restrictive undergarments all together.
Whether you want to make a feminist statement, wear a slinky halter top without your straps showing, or work from home more comfortably, abandoning your bra can be a game changer. First and foremost, if you stop wearing a bra, your clothes will start fitting your form a bit differently. For many, this is a benefit but for others, a consequence. Beyond the aesthetics, though, deciding to remain bra-free can have some minor and major physical and mental effects. There are ample pros and cons so you’ll want think it through and know the facts before you burn your bras. Want to stay abreast of the issue? This is what happens to your body when you stop wearing a bra.
No, your breasts won’t sag more if you stop wearing a bra every day
Will gravity do its thing if you stop wearing a bra? If you have visions of your breasts flopping to the floor, you can rein in your imagination. Contrary to popular belief, ditching the boob-boosting undergarment might actually keep your breasts perkier.
In a study cited by Medical News Today, sports science expert Jean-Denis Rouillon analyzed changes in hundreds of women’s breasts over 15 years and found that, generally speaking, those who did not wear bras had higher nipples and better positioning than those who wore them daily. It is important to note that at the start of this research, the ages of women involved ranged from 18 to 35 years. Rouillon also admitted that a braless life might not be right for every woman. He told Reuters that “middle-aged women, overweight, with 2.4 children” would likely not “benefit from abandoning bras.”
Furthermore, Dr. Dan Mills of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery told Health that breasts naturally “break down as you age.” He elaborated that “a bra will hold up your breasts to give you the shape and look you want, but it can’t prevent further sagging.”
When you stop wearing a bra every night, you might start sleeping better
Actress Halle Berry shared in an Instagram post that she has worn a bra to bed since she was 16. Along with exercise, she credits this ritual with helping to keep “the ta ta’s right.” But Berry may not know what she’s missing: quality ZZZs. Per Flo, donning a bra is akin to “wearing very tight clothes” during sleep and can cause “restlessness and uneasiness.” Comfort is key, and a restricting undergarment — especially one with an underwire — isn’t exactly cozy.
As for Berry’s secret to stop the sag? Dr. Seth Rankin, founder of London Doctors Clinic, told Cosmopolitan UK there’s no connection. “Sagging is caused by the downwards pull of gravity on the mass of your breasts.” He continued, saying, “When you’re lying down flat, the effect of gravity pushes the breast tissue back towards your chest, instead of down towards your toes. So wearing a bra … is essentially redundant in bed.”
Nevertheless, big-busted women may feel better in a bralette that offers slight support. “Sleeping in a bra or support bra really is just a matter of the woman’s personal comfort,” Dr. Amber Guth of NYU Langone Medical Center told HuffPost.
You will give your circulation a boost when you stop wearing a bra every day
The circulatory system delivers oxygen and nutrients to the cells of the body, as Informed Health explained, but lots of things can disrupt the regular workings of this important bodily function. A bra that is too tight, for example, can reduce the natural movement of blood to the back and chest muscles, Lucky Sekhon, an obstetrician-gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist, told Well+Good. According to the doctor, “this reduction in blood flow can lead to aching back muscles.”
Sammy Margo, physiotherapist and spokesperson for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, told the Daily Mail, “If a bra is too tight, it can create pressure on the nerves, muscles and blood vessels around the shoulders, upper back and rib cage…” According to Margo, this can lead to experiencing pain and “even constant pins and needles in the arms.”
That is why it might benefit women to bid the bra adieu and let the girls hang loose for a while. However, Sekhon noted, “improvements in circulation may be more drastic in women with large breasts versus those with small breasts when they stop wearing a bra, as bras supporting larger breasts tend to fit tighter than those worn by women with smaller breasts.”
When you stop wearing a bra every day, you’ll likely start feeling more comfortable and relaxed
If you yearn to feel less confined and more relaxed, you could start by unhooking your bra — and maybe even putting it away permanently. One woman chronicled her newfound freedom in a HuffPost Canada article and revealed that, at least for her, the experience has been liberating. In the past, she explained that “there was nothing more satisfying than unclipping that tight band from my back, removing that horrid underwire that left itchy red marks under my boobs, and tossing the sweaty thing on my bed.” But once she gave up bras indefinitely, she came to the conclusion that she’s “so much more comfortable when I’m not wearing that restrictive device and I never want to go back.” Furthermore, she said that she is able to focus better without the restrictive “boob prisons.”
Still, the enthusiastic author admitted that going sans bra may not be the right decision for everyone: “As someone whose chest isn’t “overflowing,” I can happily go braless … but that’s not true for everyone, especially people who have larger breasts.” It is all a matter of personal opinion, individual comfort, and confidence level.
The skin on your chest and back may improve when you stop wearing a bra every day
Those with large breasts know the downside of their curvy situation: under-boob sweat. Excessive perspiration in a bra can cause a yeast buildup as well as swelling and infection, as noted by California-based dermatologist Devika Icecreamwala in Shape. Symptoms of an under-breast yeast infection can include itching, redness, and possibly odor, according to the publication. Those who have given up on bras can largely avoid this nasty skin-on-sweaty-skin yeast accumulation.
Additionally, you may also notice that a case of stubborn “bacne” will fade away once when you give up the bra as sweating in an undergarment is a common cause of chest and back pimples and blackheads, Icecreamwala explained. Tight bra straps can also lead to friction, causing even more acne breakouts, as noted by Verywell Health.
“You’ll likely need topical medications to address both yeast and breakouts, but coupled with going braless, these skin problems should resolve within two to four weeks,” the dermatologist told Shape. So strip down and go bare. Your clean and clear skin will thank you.
You could start experiencing back pain if you stop wearing a bra every day
Some may be prettier and daintier than others, but all functional bras serve the same purpose: to support the weight of your breasts. Without a bra, you are left to do all the heavy lifting on your own.
“For some of us, boobs are heavy, and without any support, that weight can strain your back,” said Jessica Pfister, vice president of lingerie brand Le Mystere, in an interview with Well+Good. Hoisting up those puppies can be a lot of work and result in some major aches and pains.
But don’t reclasp your bra just yet. That initial back pain could be temporary. “Women with larger breasts may initially feel more uncomfortable than those with smaller breasts as their muscles may initially be weak and not feel strong enough to provide adequate support,” obstetrician-gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist Lucky Sekhon told the wellness site. “Over time, though, their bodies will adjust and naturally start to support the breast tissue appropriately, without the aid of a bra.” Think of it as weight training — no gym equipment required.
You might get a surge of empowerment if you stop wearing a bra every day
You don’t have to burn your bra to feel empowered — just take it off. The Free the Nipple campaign, which was endorsed by celebs like Kendall Jenner and Chrissy Teigen, was launched by filmmaker Lina Esco, according to Allure. The movement is meant to encourage women to go topless on their own terms. Women’s breasts are often sexualized, but there are plenty of practical reasons to air your décolletage in public, including during breastfeeding or sunbathing, as pointed out by the publication.
While forgoing a bra at home might be a no-brainer, many forward-thinking women feel empowered enough to keep it off at the office, too. “Millennial women are much more self-confident than women used to be,” career coach Judith Gerberg noted in an interview with the New York Post. She elaborated, saying, “Just like men aren’t wearing ties as part of their uniform, some women are forgoing bras.”
One braless warrior explained her point of view in an essay for Byrdie, writing that her choice is “a symbolic middle finger to a society that says women’s breasts should always be caged in a bra and that we should be prim, proper, and pretty at all times.”
You could experience breast-tissue damage during exercise if you stop wearing a bra completely
You may be devoted to your new undergarment-free lifestyle, but we have one suggestion: Hold on to your sports bra. You may not want it for a leisurely walk around the block, but you’ll need it for more rigorous physical activities.
As it turns out, a high-impact workout can do some serious damage to your breast tissue if not properly supported, according to Shape. Furthermore, you shouldn’t put on any old bra from the archives. Instead, opt “for an encapsulation-style sports bra … over the uniboob compression kind,” the publication noted. Shape added that because breast tissue moves in a “figure-eight pattern” during many types of exercise, separate cups will offer more protection.
Additionally, as noted by Livestrong, runners who want to speed up sans proper support could suffer from painful chafing-induced nipple fissures dubbed “jogger’s nipple.” Um, ouch!
Does your risk of getting breast cancer change if you stop wearing a bra every day?
If you think that kissing the bra goodbye for good will reduce your risk of getting breast cancer in your lifetime, then you are due for a dose of undergarment education. According to Breastcancer.org, many people believe that “underwire bras cause breast cancer by blocking the drainage of lymph fluid from the bottom of the breast so it can’t get back into your body.” However, scientists say that this is totally unproven.
In fact, a study that set out to question if bras had any effect on breast cancer rates revealed that “no aspect of bra wearing, including bra cup size, recency, average number of hours/day worn, wearing a bra with an underwire, or age first began regularly wearing a bra” affected the average risk.
Breastcancer.org notes, however, that being overweight ups one’s odds for eventually getting the disease. As larger-bodied women are more likely to wear bras due to larger breast size, average-weight women are more likely to go braless. Hence, this disparity may feed the misconception that wearing bras can lead to breast cancer.
You could suffer from fewer headaches if you stop wearing a bra every day
If you find that your perpetual headaches go away when you lose your bra, it might not be a coincidence. According to Cosmopolitan UK, wearing bras that do not properly support your breasts or ones that are ill-fitting will force the muscles in your back and neck to perform double duty to hoist the extra weight. This can cause pain, discomfort, and, yes, even headaches.
“As soon as the neck muscles become overworked, you are far more likely to get headaches (known as cevicogenic headaches, or neck in origin headaches),” Tim Allardyce, physiotherapist and osteopath, told the magazine. Of course, if you are not quite ready to keep the bra off permanently, you should consider getting resized to make sure your girls are being properly supported. If not for your breasts, do it for your neck and head!
You may breathe better if you stop wearing a bra every day
Chances are you’ve been wearing the wrong size bra all this time. As it happens, almost 80 percent of women are wearing a bra that doesn’t fit, Harper’s Bazaar reported, and this can lead to a whole host of potential issues.
One common consequence: shallow breathing. Physiotherapist and osteopath Tim Allardyce told British Telecommunications, “There is the opinion that bras that are too tight can restrict the movement of the ribs.” He continued, saying, “Although this won’t cause any noticeable change in breathing rate or shortness of breath, it does impact on the breathing mechanics and makes it more likely you will be a shallow rib breather. This can affect the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, so deep breathing is always more preferable.”
Additionally, the expert explained that it can put further strain on the neck, creating that vicious cycle of bra-induced back pain. In short: You will breathe a whole lot easier when you lose the bra. Inhale deeply — do you feel that? It’s called freedom.
You might experience discomfort if you stop wearing a bra every day during pregnancy
You might want to rethink the bra-free life if you are currently pregnant or planning to be with child anytime soon. The hormone that sustains pregnancy, progesterone, can cause serious breast tenderness and discomfort, according to Medical News Today. What’s more, as your baby grows throughout that incredible nine-month gestational journey, so will your breasts, which may feel swollen and heavy. This change is even more pronounced as the body prepares for a newborn’s arrival and starts producing milk. Fortunately, a good, supportive maternity bra can help to bare the weight of those ever-growing girls of yours.
Suffice to say, you may want to wait until after baby arrives to go braless — and maybe even for a while thereafter. Nursing moms will continue to have heavy milk-filled breasts. Plus, potential leakage can be added to the list of braless consequences.
Your breasts may hurt more during your period if you stop wearing a bra
Women who suffer from PMS endure their fair share of aches, pains, and ailments, which range from severe cramping and diarrhea to fatigue and acne, according to the Mayo Clinic. But if you have hopped on the no-bra bandwagon, you can likely add extra breast tenderness to your list of premenstrual afflictions.
As noted by Health, changes in hormones can lead to “extra water retention in the breast and abdominal area, which can make your boobs feel bloated and popping out of your bra.”
If you have decided to stop wearing a bra, you may want to keep a spare one around for that uncomfortable time of the month. “Close-fitting sports bras are helpful in keeping the breasts close to the body, which keeps their movement at bay, and thus decreases the pain associated with unrestricted movement,” Dr. Kecia Gaither, a New York City-based obstetrician-gynecologist and maternal-fetal medicine doctor, told the publication. In other words, when Aunt Flow comes a-knocking, embrace the bra and put your own knockers away — at least for a while.