I just joined the International Bra Fee Study. Its free to sign up to find out more and pledge to try out bra-free living via the website International Bra Free Study.
Amongst emerging reasons for ditching the bra at last is that bras cause far more pain and health risks than any of the benefits they profess to offer. Studies show that breasts actually tend to become rounder and firmer, more self-supporting, without them. Its the same as any other muscle; use it or lose it!
I can agree – I haven’t worn one for years and resort to a soft bamboo cropped vest style “bralette” if I really need to when I dress up to go out. I haven’t suffered any detrimental effects from this; quite the contrary and, in fact, studies also suggest that the way bras constrict lymph movement, causing the body to hold onto toxins for far longer than is advisable, means that bra-wearing breasts often become heavy with water retention; and you know the effect of that at the end of the day when you set them free!
When I gave them up, it was because of exactly this sort of pain. My breasts would often feel hot and itchy, “electrical” and sore at the end of the day, like the kind of chilblains you get when circulation rushes to your feet or fingers after time spent out in the cold. It was a case of too many toxins flooding tissue all at once; the floodgates of circulation opened (just before becoming most sedentary then going to sleep…not a good scenario). I reported to the doctor more than once with a feeling of a hot painful lumpiness under the arms during those years before learning what I needed to do. On the days I refrained from wearing one, my evenings went more smoothly and these problems ironed out. I have also found that wearing constricting clothing of any kind adds to chronic fatigue, bowel issues and widespread nerve pain; as though my entire nervous system is working at a disadvantage the whole time (more on that below).
From the website “Bras Can be a Pain. Literally. In fact, research shows tight bras can cause breast pain, cysts, and even cancer. The tighter and longer the bra is worn, the higher the risks. While the bra-cancer link is still being resisted by affected industries, the fact is that bra-free women have the healthiest breasts. The Bra-Free Study will prove that and show that this group of women will have lower breast cancer rates compared to women who wear bras.”
Another risk I identified, which is less-often talked about, is that wearing bras with metal supports turns you into an aerial for attracting EMFs from mobile phones. Avoiding metal fixings on these garments is hard to do, though not impossible of course…but how many women give this a thought? For more on this, see article below.
The idea that bras were connected with an increase in breast cancer was first raised by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, both of whom are on the advisory board of the above study. In their 1995 book, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras they share their research with 5,000 women between 1991 and 1993 via which they discovered that breast cancer risk dramatically increased in women who wore their bras over 12 hours per day. This is a summary of what they found:
- Women who wore their bras 24 hours per day had a 3 out of 4 chance of developing breast cancer.
- Women who wore their bras for more than 12 hours but not to bed had a 1 in 7 risk for breast cancer
- Wearing a bra less than 12 hours per day dropped breast cancer risk to 1 in 152.
- Women who never or rarely wore bras had a 1 in 168 risk for breast cancer.
- Overall, women who wore their bras 24 hours per day increased their breast cancer risk by 125 times over women who rarely or never wore a bra.
Cancer is just the tip of the iceberg – wearing a bra can cause headaches and chronic pain, cysts, back pain and trigger a full-body stress response impairing the autonomic nervous system, with cascading health repercussions which, if you have any other chronic illness issues going on, should pique your interest.
According to one study, “The main results can be summarized as follows: (1) urinary excretion of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol was facilitated, and the amounts of urinary excretion were significantly higher when TC (tight clothing) were worn. Heart rate was significantly higher in the TC group; (2) nocturnal urinary melatonin excretion was significantly greater in the TC group. These results are discussed in terms of an enhancement of diurnal sympathetic nervous system activity caused by pressure on the skin produced by tight clothing.”
Other studies have pointed at it causing constipation, reduced intestinal mobility, headaches, back pain, longer menstrual cycles and hampered breathing (see article below for more, with study links).
Wearing a bra could therefore be a contributing factor or, at least, slowing your recovery from, chronic health conditions; which is how it felt to me. When I ceased wearing mine, my back, shoulder and neck pain reduced immediately, breathing became easier, my ribcage ached far less often (beforehand, costochondritis was a regular occurance, for which I received repeated treatments), facial pain reduced, digestion became less sluggish or laboured and episodes of tight or short breath reduced. I generally felt less wiped out at the end of days when I went bra free and my skin irritation was much reduced.
If you suffer from allodynia, other kinds of sensitive skin or have Asperger’s (also like me) you will probably dislike wearing tight, constricting clothing far more than the next person….which means it is distressing your body even more…though many women put up with the discomfort in order to be “normal”. But what price normal? And normal is only tomorrow’s bad idea, once we move on from it and find a more comfortable and, yes, logical way. This throw-back to Victorian sensibilities has, surely, had its day and has no future in a world informed by real women’s lib.
These days, wearing even the soft stretchy “hammock” style of bra, as I call it, can feel so constructing and unpleasant that I prefer to go without and look on in wonderment at all the women who continue to spend so much on these fashionable torture devices. Even the new-age style of bras made of innovative “wicking” fabric that promises to absorb sweat and which manufacturers say you can, or even should, wear around the clock, including in bed, quite horrify me due to the inherent health risks of having something so close to the skin all the time.
At the very least, I suggest taking your bra off as soon as you get home and at weekends, and never sleep in it…for goodness sake, you would have to be mad to think this was a good idea. The power of marketing and peer group pressure really needs to be brought up short by common sense so come on girls. The last time we said we were burning our bras, we only seemed to make them even tighter and more compulsory but I, for one, mean it this time. Calling for some solidarity too; lets stop eyeing with such disapproval those who clearly arn’t wearing one but, like sisters (whatever our personal choice), cheer this decision on as we did with public breasfeeding a decade or so ago, even (perhaps especially) in the work place, in restaurants and walking down the street. Its time we got real about what is good for the body, over social convention, and stood by one another.
Caveat added October 2020:
As I have got deeper into the experience, and my understanding of, having Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which I was only just coming to terms with a year ago (covered in more recent posts), I have had to concede that there are days when supportive clothing is a must. When all of your inner elastic has “gone” for the time being, a feeling of heaviness or misplacement of body organs is not an option and can make pain much worse. These days, I mostly wear one of my “hammock” style bras in soft breathable bamboo (sourced from Boody) apart from days when I really cant bear closeness to my skin, in which case I wear a cotton or bamboo vest. I would still never go back to a structured bra with metal or plastic supports or fastenings. I take the garment off early evening to give my body a rest. Breathability of fabric is close to the top of my list of criteria; no laces or synthetics. I also remove the padding; who needs it! Making sure the bra-thing is loose enough to be comfortable, not fitted tight to squeeze the body into a distorted idea of “pert” is also key, so I err on the large size. The effect is of almost being braless (it often looks that way without the padding) but these types of garment allow my body maximum comfort without pain or health risk.
International Bra Fee Study – Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease
Dressed To Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras – Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer
Effects of pressure on the skin exerted by clothing on responses of urinary catecholamines and cortisol, heart rate and nocturnal urinary melatonin in humans – International Journal of Biometeorology