What Really Happens When You Start Wearing A Bra?

Women have had a love-hate relationship with bras ever since they were invented. While they're not as restrictive as the corsets that were worn a century ago, they can still be uncomfortable and annoying. We can all agree that there's nothing better than the feeling of taking off a bra at the end of the day. Women have typically been taught from a young age to wear support garments every day, but are they really necessary, especially if they're causing discomfort? This begs the question, are there health benefits to ditching your bra?

Sure, there are pros to wearing bras — they provide support, which is a plus for women with bigger busts, and they provide a perkier silhouette under form-fitting clothing. Sports bras are also a necessity for most people, especially when doing high-intensity workouts. The mere thought of doing jumping jacks braless sounds painful. However, when you start wearing a bra, you might have started noticing some aches and pains you haven't had before, as well as skin issues, which you may not have correlated to your everyday undergarment.

Your bra could be causing you back and shoulder pain

If you experience upper body aches, your bra may be the culprit. As reported by CBS, Harris Interactive for the North American Spine Society ran a poll with Maidenform and asked over 1,300 women if wearing a bra was painful. Over half of them shared that their bras caused neck, back, and shoulder pain. The main cause of discomfort was the straps, with the band along the bottom of the bra coming in second. The women also cited underwires and an ill-fitting cup size as reasons for irritation.

According to Elle, over 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size, and it could be that yours is as well if you're experiencing upper body pain. Osteopath Robin Lansman shared that the type of bra you're wearing matters as well, whether it's choosing the right sports bra or your average run-of-the-mill style. Lansman added, "There's also a myriad of factors that can contribute to a woman's back pain. For example, some women are less comfortable with their shape so may slump or arch their shoulders, which will have a big effect on how the back muscles affect their posture. When it comes to women's musculoskeletal pain and breasts, it's not just as a result of their size and bra." So while your bra may not be the only reason for back and shoulder pain, when it comes to size, the right one definitely matters.

On the other hand, going braless can cause back pain for women with larger busts

While wearing an ill-fitting bra will cause discomfort in your upper body, choosing one with the right support can do wonders for women with a C-cup and larger. Medical director of the Comprehensive Breast Center, Dr. Andrew J. Shapiro, shared with Real Simple that larger-chested individuals find that they have back and neck strain due to heavy breasts, which can be helped by a good bra.

The Spine Center of Louisiana suggests that those with bigger breasts wear a bra with full back support, which can help alleviate pain and improve posture. Don't go for the pretty, frilly ones either, as much as they're aesthetically pleasing. Splurge on a well-made support bra that will take some of the weight off your back. Make sure it's not too restrictive, however, as that can also cause pressure on your body, as well as respiratory issues. For the best fit, go to a professional to get measured. You may be surprised to find your numbers are completely off.

Wearing a bra to bed will affect your sleep health

Some people find it more comfortable to sleep with a bra on, as they may need extra support or are breastfeeding. However, your circadian rhythms can be affected by wearing an undergarment to bed, according to a 1999 experiment published in The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research. For the first night of the sleep study, test subjects went to bed braless, then switched to wearing a bra for the second night. According to the results, wearing a constrictive garment increased their body temperatures, while creating a dip in melatonin, which aids in sleep.

Going to sleep with a bra on can also affect your ability to breathe well. "Bras that are too tight or contain underwire may cause you to wake up with some discomfort. Those bras can decrease some of your circulation for the entire time you've been sleeping. So, be careful when choosing your sleep bra," breast surgical oncologist Dr. Margaret Thompson told the Cleveland Clinic. If you have to wear one at night, opt for comfort over support and consider choosing a bra with soft fabric.

Your bra can cause skin irritation

Bras are one of the tightest pieces of clothing to come into contact with our skin, and that may cause a host of issues. If you're experiencing a breakout on your shoulders, it's likely from your bra straps. "There may be a fungal rash under your bra straps that is pretty common to have in the spring months that can get very irritated when rubbed, called tinea versicolor," dermatologist Nava Greenfield told Well + Good. That's not the only area that can get irritated, either. Greenfield added that your bra combined with sweat underneath your breasts can cause a rash called intertrigo, which is caused by friction. As if that's not enough to toss your brassieres, Dr. Mona Gohara, a dermatologist, shared that sweaty boobs plus your bra can cause a yeast infection.

Tight bra straps can also irritate skin ailments you may already have. "What I see ... in my practice are tight bra straps that rub on benign skin lesions such as seborrheic keratoses and moles. These lesions can then swell or bleed and can feel painful," dermatologist Dr. Heather Downes told Healthline. Lingerie retailer Robynne Winchester suggested focusing the fit on the band, rather than having too-tight straps.

Experts differ on whether bras cause breasts to sag

Bras are thought to prevent breast sagging, but a 15-year study performed by Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon from the University of Besançon in France showed otherwise. As reported by Medical News Today, Rouillon used a sample of hundreds of women and found that those who didn't wear bras had higher nipples than those who did. He did, however, tell a French publication, "These are preliminary results. The small sample of 320 young women is not representative of the entire population — that would require something like 300,000 subjects." It should also be noted that the women were between the ages of 18 and 35. Rouillon stated that women who are older and have had children would probably find wearing bras helpful.

Alternatively, according to OB-GYN Dr. Sherry Ross, not wearing a bra will cause sagging. "If there's a lack of proper, long-term support, breast tissue will stretch and become saggy, regardless of breast size," the doctor shared with Shape. There are other variables that cause breasts to sag, like genetics and pregnancy. And, as Sir Isaac Newton has proven, we simply cannot fight gravity.

Your bra can give you boobne and bacne

Breakouts on your face are bad enough, but having to deal with body acne is a major pain. Wearing tight clothes, such as sports bras and even everyday styles creates friction, which is irritating to your skin. Your chest and back naturally produce a lot of sebum compared to other areas of your body. Combine that with sweat and bacteria that get trapped in the bra fabric, and you have a recipe for clogged pores.

To combat body acne, especially on a hot summer day, you can go braless and have your boobs free of any restriction. If that's not possible, make sure you're washing your bras often. "Wearing clean, fresh-smelling bras not only promotes better skin health but also enhances comfort and boosts confidence throughout the day, which impacts your well-being," dermatologist Dr. Kemunto Mokaya stated to Everyday Health. "As a dermatologist and skincare expert, I would recommend that bras be washed after every few wears to maintain proper hygiene and skin health," Mokaya advised. And, if you've sweated through your sports bra, we suggest washing it after each use.