What are the cons and pros of going braless? Is it a viable reality for everybody? What does science have to say about it?
This is definitely a highly polemical subject that has been tackled from many different angles. We’ve heard about the Free the Nipple movement, which as its own website explains, “focused on the equality, empowerment, and freedom of all human beings.” Among other things, the movement questions what bras have represented throughout history as a tool for oppression. It also believes that men and women are the same, so that female nipples shouldn’t be censored when men’s aren't. Now, this is great, and I totally agree with it, but what’s the viability of the movement when we're so used to wearing a bra?
As a short, personal parenthesis, I have to say that I’m a slave to bras. I find it very hard to go out without wearing one, and whenever I try, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable, as if I were exposed. I understand that most of what I feel, and that I bet many of you do as well, is nothing but a social construct, but apart from that, I can’t help but think about the many things I heard about in my teens regarding the physical drawbacks of not wearing a bra. If you google this, you’ll find so many articles claiming that not wearing a bra can have a negative impact on your boobs, while the next result will be the complete opposite. So, what would really happen to your breasts if you stopped wearing a bra, from a scientific point of view?
One of the things we’ve heard all our lives is that bras help the breast muscles keep their elasticity. The idea is that these muscles aren’t that strong, so if we let them hang free, they will get saggy and droopy. However, in 2013, Jean-Denis Rouillon, a French professor from the University of France-Compte, published a study that he had conducted for the past 15 years claiming that, actually, it's the other way around. First, he wanted to analyze the effect of bras on women. With that in mind, he gathered a group of 330 women ranging from 18 to 35 years old. With these women, he separated those who wear bras on a daily basis and those who don’t, and once he did that, he measured their breasts to see if there were any changes. Then, he checked on them and measured their breasts once a year for the next fifteen years to see what happened.
According to him, the alleged support bras provide to our breasts actually end up weakening the breast muscles, thus causing them to droop. Moreover, he realized that this idea of starting to wear a bra at an early age didn’t help the muscles get that support or avoid sagging. On the contrary, it made these muscles get used to that fake support, so they turned weak and lazy. For him, “medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra.” That’s the negative aspect, but what does this study have to say about the benefits of going braless?
According to Rouillon, in the cases of women not wearing a bra for the study, mainly the younger ones, the tissue of the breasts gained more tone and support. Moreover, these presented a 7-millimeter lift in their nipples, and in some cases even increased the mass of their breasts. What happens is that by leaving their breasts to fight gravity by themselves, these tissues start working out, which increases the production of collagen and elasticity, and that is what leads to this lift and growth.
Of course, at the end, the study states that by no means should these results be taken as an absolute truth, since even though 330 women is a good subject number, it isn’t an absolute representation of women around the world. However, this lets us see a pretty convincing result of the process our breasts undergo when we wear or stop wearing a bra. Though this isn’t the only thing we should take into account, there are many women who wear bras not just to prevent sagging or for a matter of comfort, but as a way to help them ease back pains and correct their posture (this is mainly for women with bigger breasts who can’t just go out without that support.)
In conclusion, the main advice here would be, first, to check if you’re actually wearing the right bra size (most of us don’t wear the right one) that will give you the proper support. One great option that’s proven to be better than regular bras is actually wearing a sports bra because they don’t have a wire and will help your muscles do their job. However, you should only use it for specific activities like working out, or whenever you know your breasts are going to be moving a lot, not all the time. The thing is that if we wear them all day, it inhibits normal blood flow and sweat gets trapped in there, even provoking rashes and blemishes that could lead to infections, if they’re not given the proper room to breathe.
Anyway, I get that it can be really difficult to take a stand, especially if you’re used to wearing bras on a daily basis, but at the end of the day, I believe that our mental comfort or if we wear them for aesthetic reasons shouldn’t be the reason why we opt for these garments. We should take good care of our breasts, and if we’re told that something isn’t being that good for them, we should at least compromise a bit.
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Images by @stellamariebaer