Bras — when we’re tweens we can’t wait to need one, as adults, we can’t wait to take ours off when we get home at the end of the day. But do you really need to wear one?
If you’re about to go out for a run or take a HIIT class, the answer most of us agree to is yes. But are bras medically necessary? The answer might surprise you. We spoke with two top plastic surgeons to learn their best advice for getting the support your body needs.
What are the main benefits of wearing a bra?
At their most basic, bras prevent nipples from showing through the fabric of your clothing (hello, T-shirt bras) and can give your boobs a lifted look while you wear them. But they can also help combat the natural effects of aging, says Edward Chamata, MD, who specializes in aesthetic plastic surgery of the body.
“Aside from the aesthetic aspects that a bra provides — lifting the breasts into a more youthful position and creating a better shape in clothing — a supportive bra is extremely important to combat gravity’s effects on the breasts and keep them looking youthful for longer,” he says. This is the case no matter your cup size.
Another reason to wear a bra, particularly if you have large breasts, is that lack of support can lead to physical pain. That’s because some breasts can weigh several pounds and put pressure on the whole body.
“For women who require support and feel discomfort on a daily basis from the weight of their breasts, wearing a bra can serve as a therapeutic support option,” says Alexis Parcells, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Sunnie Skincare.
So, do I have to wear a bra?
You don’t need to wear a bra. It’s completely a personal choice. But if you have large breasts, you may find it more comfortable to wear a bra as a bra provides support that can help alleviate pain. And if you’re concerned about premature sagging, wearing a bra daily is also a good option.
How to find the right bra
It’s essential to find the right fit no matter which bra you choose to wear.
“Tight bras can affect the ribcage and your ability to breathe,” says Parcells. “If the bra straps are too loose and the back strap is tight, it can cause incorrect balance. When fitted correctly, the weight of the bust should distribute evenly toward the major back muscle and reduce overall strain. Breathing should improve.”
If you have large breasts, Parcells suggests wearing a properly-fitted underwire bra.
“For a woman with larger breasts, an underwire bra will undoubtedly provide more support than a bralette,” she says. “The best way to test if your bra fits properly is to ensure that the wire is sitting behind the breast tissue and never on it.”
You can do this by pressing on the wire — if it bounces back, that means it’s too small. Just don’t sleep in underwire because it can dig into your ribcage, notes Parcells.
We all know you can’t wear a bra with every outfit. For example, it’s impossible to wear a bra with backless dresses and often with low-plunging necklines. In this instance, Busties can be a great alternative to a bra.
This breast tape is an adhesive strip of fabric specifically designed for keeping breasts in a fixed position. The fabric is waterproof (who hasn’t spilled a drink on themselves?), sweat-resistant, and medical-grade.
“That could mean pushed together for more pronounced cleavage or holding them in a slightly lifted and shaped way,” says Busties founder, Alisia Coetzee. “Imagine if your favorite, most comfortable bra became nearly invisible.”
Easy to use, all you need to do is determine the ideal placement of your breasts, then begin applying smaller strips horizontally from the bottom of the breast toward the nipple or top.
Finally, pull the tape slightly upward and inward to create cleavage and lift. Repeat the same process on the other breast. So, no matter what you’re wearing, there’s always a way to get the support you need.