Stories from Breast Health

Here’s Exactly What Happens When You Decide to Start Going Braless

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosMarch 25, 2020

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Photo: Stocksy/Jamie Grill Atlas

If we’re being honest with ourselves, the work remotely situation—due to the global spread of COVID-19—has led many people to forgo the grooming habits that we have when forced to go to the office. Think: not wearing makeup, not showering (or even putting on jeans) for days on end, and not wearing a bra. But… just what happens when you don’t wear a bra for an extended period of time?

“Going fully braless can deliver that satisfying ahh moment of liberating comfort after a long day out and about,” says Phoebe Kunitomi, founder of Okko, a brand of intimate wear. Generally though, going braless can become uncomfortable. “Having absolutely no support can even be painful. For some of us, boobs are heavy, and without any support, that weight can strain your back and worsen your posture, especially if you do anything more than low to no-impact activity,” she says. Jessica Pfister, vice president of Le Mystere, echoes this, noting that bras—especially for those with larger breasts—are key in “the maintenance of good posture.”

So ditching your bra for a while can give you some back pain and postural issues if your chest is on the heavier side. That said, Lucky Sekhon, MD, an OB/GYN and REI in New York City, says that there are a number of benefits that can be realized by women with breasts of any size. “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,” she says. “Over time, though, their bodies will adjust and naturally start to support the breast tissue appropriately, without the aid of a bra.”

By and large, pros tell us that ditching a bra doesn’t vary much cup size to cup size. However, those with a C cup and beyond will experience the same impacts of not wearing a bra, while those B cup and below can expect to have relatively the same experience when ditching a bra. Want to know more? Keep scrolling for all of the benefits you can reap when you #freethenipple.

Benefits of going braless

1. Improved muscle tone and breast shape: “There is evidence that wearing a bra can make the muscles and ligaments that support the breasts lazy over time, leading to breast sagging and laxity,” says Dr. Sekhon. She points out that this means the common misconception that going braless for an extended period of time makes your breasts sag is, in reality, the opposite: “Women who have gone long periods without wearing a bra often report that this leads their breasts to being firmer, rounder, and perkier over time,” she says. At first, those with heavier or fuller breasts may feel more back strain when not wearing a bra, though. “It can take weeks to months to build up the strength in their chest and back muscles for the breasts to become well supported without a bra,” she tells me.

2. Better circulation: As we all know, wearing a bra for hours on end can feel constricting. “It can impede blood flow to the muscles in the back and chest wall, and this reduction in blood flow can lead to aching back muscles,” says Dr. Sekhon. “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 measuring A to B cup in size,” she says.

3. Increased comfort over time: Dr. Sekhon points out that so many women are used to wearing bras for the majority of their days, meaning that when they go braless, it can make them feel exposed. But in the long-term, she says that women report that they become “desensitized, and these feelings are replaced with feeling much more comfortable and free overall.” The combined feelings of comfort and better circulation can even contribute to better sleep, she adds. Depending on your breast size though, Dr. Sekhon says that women with smaller breasts may have a less drastic improvement in comfort when not wearing a bra versus women with large breasts, since “the weight of larger breasts can cause a lot more tension on the shoulders, especially where the bra straps sit.”

4. Better breast skin health: Wearing a bra regularly tends to trap moisture, dirt, and sweat against the skin of your breast, according to Dr. Sekhon, who notes that this can predispose you to clogged pores and skin irritation. That’s because, according to her, sweat in women with larger breasts gets trapped under the breasts, which can lead to skin irritation, whereas women with small boobs are less prone to this happening. Board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical in NYC Morgan Rabach, MD,  says that this skin irritation can be acne mechanica. “This is a type of acne that comes from rubbing of the skin, friction, or pressure on the skin,” she says. “Some people can get this from bra wearing, especially when they work out and leave sweaty clothes on.” Well, I’m feeling validated, HBU?

This is how to figure out how bralette sizes fit, if you’re into the more casual form of breast support. And here’s how to shop for underwear that’s *actually* comfortable, according to a pro. 

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