Today, the subject of bras centers more on appearance and concerns for our health than on making a political statement. The question remains: To bra or not to bra? As a woman who has a large bosom, I have heard every piece of advice about how to treat my breasts properly. “Wear a bra all the time, even when you sleep; Never wear a bra; Don't wear underwires; Wear underwires--” the list goes on and on. For each bit of advice I’ve gotten in one direction, someone else has given me the opposite. Honestly, at the end of the day I’m thrilled when I can take it off and be free.
Although the bra is a relatively new invention, women have used various means to support or bind their breasts since ancient times. I’m glad we don’t live times when "civilized" women wore corsets and other "torture" devices to shape their bodies into a certain standard. The modern bra patent was issued to Mary Phelps Jacob in 1914 for a brassiere, and in all the decades since then women and society have changed how they view, wear, or choose not to wear a bra.
Let’s look at a few bra myths:
Myth 1: Sleeping in a Bra Maintains Perkiness
Some women maintain that wearing a bra overnight keeps their breasts perky, but according to research that's not the case. Dr. Carlos Burnett, a plastic surgeon based in New Jersey, explains that the so-called “suspensory ligaments” aren't getting stretched out significantly while you're lying in bed. I can’t stand wearing my bra overnight, but some women don't mind and they swear by it. So sleep in your bra or not, it’s not significantly helping or hurting you. Dr. Burnett also points out that sleeping in a bra will not harm your breasts in any way.
Myth 2: Wearing a Bra Causes Breast Cancer
Today, breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in women, but we can’t jump to conclusions as to whether bras cause it or not. One study done by Singer and Grismaijer suggests that women who wear bras 24 hours a day “may have more than a 100-fold greater incidence of breast cancer, compared to those who don't wear bras.” Their book, Dressed to Kill, explains their theories to the public.
Research is showing that breast cancer is caused by a combination of genes, toxins, poor nutrition, and bras. Why are bras pulled into the mix? During the time that women have been wearing bras, they have also been exposed to many toxins in the environment. These toxins were previously unknown, or introduced to the environment through chemical pollution of the atmosphere. While the toxins may be a major cause of breast cancer, bras complicate the problem by inhibiting our breasts from getting rid of the toxins.
Elizabeth R. Vaughan, M.D., F.A.A.E.M from Brafree.org explains that bras hinder the movement necessary to remove toxins from the body (which are stored in body fat), and can result in breast cancer. Breasts contain large amounts of lymphatic tissue that aid in the removal of toxins, however, wearing a bra could slow down or possibly constrict this process. She further states, “I'm convinced that the longer women wear tight restrictive garments, the faster the damage will progress.”
So going braless as much as possible lets your breasts breathe and move, which will activate the lymphatic system to help your body remove toxins and potentially reduce your chances of developing breast cancer.
Myth 3: Bras Make Your Breasts Sag
Jean-Denis Rouillon, a professor at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, published a study in 2013, claiming that bras provide no benefit to women and, in fact, may actually cause breasts to sag more over time. They looked at the breasts of more than 300 women ages 18 to 35 over the course of 15 years. Other experts say it's too soon to get behind the idea that bras make women's breast droop more so than going bra-free.
The researchers did not measure the distance to the base of the breast, but instead measured from the clavicle to the nipple. This is important because, according to Dr. Burnett, women's nipples often stay in much the same place as they age, while the bottom of the breast droops. They also did not consider the women's overall breast size. Rouillon found that women’s breasts benefit from not being confined in a bra. He noted that when women wear a bra, “supporting tissues will not grow and even they will wither and the breast will gradually degrade.”
The idea that not wearing a bra will cause breasts to sag was also debunked when Rouillon observed that women’s nipples lifted seven millimeters per year toward the shoulder for those who didn’t wear bras. Although Rouillon noted that his findings “validated the hypothesis that the bra is a false ‘need’,” he also emphasized that women who have been wearing a bra for a long time would not reap the benefits he observed if they suddenly decided to go bra-free from now on.
Myth 4: Wearing a Bra Helps Relieve Back Pain
These findings go against a common view of the benefits of wearing a bra, including helping women with large breasts who experience back pain because of their breast size. Rouillon, however, found that some of the 330 women in his study stopped using a bra because not wearing one actually helped reduce their back pain.
So to bra or not to bra? I believe it comes down to personal preference. Based on the findings above, I’m choosing to bra and not to bra. Balance is what I’m going for. At home and when I go to sleep I will be braless. Since I am blessed with abundance, I wear a bra when out, but I keep underwire and padded bra wearing to a minimum. If you are comfortable going completely braless, I say go for it. If you want to wear a bra all the time, I suggest wearing bras that are made of the most breathable material you can find. They should still give your breasts some wiggle room to wake up your lymphatic system and allow for eliminating toxins. What do you think?