Going braless might not be as risky to the girls as you thought.

By Kelsey Mulvey
September 09, 2020
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In the past few months, we’ve traded in cubicles for home offices (or couches), swapped salads for sourdough, and relied on Zoom more than we ever thought we would. With all those shifts, it’s no surprise that what we wear on a daily basis has also changed: Gone are the days of business casual or office-appropriate clothing. Now, we’re all finding a lot of comfort in sweatpants, and, in a twist anyone with breasts saw coming, many women have chosen to forgo wearing a bra.

It makes a lot of sense. Who wants to be poked and prodded by underwire when they’re wearing their coziest clothes and have nowhere to go? But while ditching a bra might offer some temporary comfort, you probably haven’t thought about the long-term effects of not wearing a bra. So, what’s the deal? What really happens to your breasts when you stop wearing a bra?

Turns out, it’s a little complicated. We talked to a handful of experts, and the verdict on whether wearing a bra is actually bad for your breasts (or for you) is still out. At the end of the day (or the beginning, in this case), whether you want to put on a bra is entirely up to you, but knowing all the potential risks and consequences can help you make the best decision for you.

What to know about not wearing a bra

Since the dawn of time—OK, 1889—bras have been considered the best way to support your, erm, assets. According to Waqas Ahmad, MD, a family medicine physician and head of the medical advisory board at Insurecast, forgoing the bra can lead to less support.

“There’s a ligament called Cooper’s ligament that anchors around the breast tissue,” he says. “This causes more movement and bouncing around. In my opinion, the breasts will sag and get loose if a bra isn’t worn for a long time.”

While Dr. Ahmad sees some benefit to wearing a bra, he says you shouldn’t wear one all day, every day.

“Wearing a bra all the time is also not good for your health,” he says. “It will cause increased sweating, which will clog the skin pores and cause irritation and itching.”

Does that mean you should run to your dresser and strap on a bra, stat? Not so fast. A 15-year-long study that concluded in 2013 suggests that forgoing a bra can actually decrease any sagging. According to the study, the support of a bra can weaken the tissue surrounding the breasts, causing them to droop.

“What happens when you ditch a bra is that your breasts visually look like they are sagging since they are without the support they used before,” says Lina Velikova, MD, PhD, a medical advisor at Supplements101. “However, once you start using those muscles, the tone will improve and take over the support of your softer tissue that makes your breasts. If you want to help the process, you can do targeted breast exercises to develop the muscles and strengthen the ligaments faster.”

Breasts will sag due to gravity and age—two factors that are out of our control. But if you want to keep your boobs rounder and perkier for the time being, it might be in your best interest to keep your bra in the drawer.

Another perk to keeping the bra off? It can improve your body’s circulation. According to the 15-year study, there’s ample evidence to suggest that wearing bras for extended periods of time can cut off the circulation by your midsection and ribcage.

This makes a lot of sense: Anyone who has worn a bra knows the inexplicably soothing sensation that comes whenever you take it off, which happens because wearing a tight bra for extended periods of time can limit your circulation.

Of course, a bra can impact more than your breasts. According to Well + Good, not having a bra’s support can put a strain on your back and wreak havoc on your posture—even when you’re doing low-impact exercise. Whether you’re going on a socially distanced walk or working out, you might want to strap on a bra. (Trust us, your back will thank you.)

If wearing a formal, wired bra is out of the question, you can still find a happy medium with a sports bra or bralette. If you do want to invest in a few sports bras, consider looking into styles with an adjustable closure. That way, you can help create a fit that’s supportive, not constricting.

So, the million-dollar question: What happens when you don’t wear a bra? Turns out, the consequences aren’t as bad as we thought. (You don’t need to fear that your breasts will age 30 years overnight.) If you don’t want to wear a bra, you and your breasts will be just fine—though if you notice back pain or soreness in your breasts, consider wearing a bralette or comfortable bra to offer at least a little support. And if wearing a bra gives you confidence, by all means, keep clasping one on every morning.

No matter your bra-wearing preferences, it’s important to stay comfortable. After all, very few things can cramp your style like wearing a rigid, constricting bra. “A good bra needs to have good support to be comfortable,” says Dora Lau, founder of DLI, a company that develops bras for global brands. “The support is in the band and wings, not the shoulder straps.”

The key is to make sure the band is snug and comfortable. If you are a size C or larger, Lau recommends going up a cup size and down a band size to find your perfect, comfortable bra size. Learn how to measure bra size to get a bra that actually fits, and then check the best places to buy bras to find your favorite new brassiere. And if you’ve decided no bra is the way to go, no adjustments needed: Go forth freely.