6 REALLY GOOD Reasons to Rethink Your Traditional Bra CHOICES

1. You Wear a Bra All Day OR LONGER (Not Advised!)

The average bra is worn 8 to 12 hours each day, and, for many even longer as they sleep in it (not advised). The bra embraces the second most porous area of a woman’s body which, when heated or exposed to moisture, will leach in and absorb whatever it is exposed to. You can test the skin’s absorbent qualities by applying natural essential oil to your skin; you’ll notice how the scent disappears in minutes as the oil is absorbed. Therefore a bra, among all clothing items in a women’s closet, may most significantly impact health.

2. Your Bra is the Closest Thing to Your Skin

A bra sits directly on a woman’s best protective barrier: her skin. The skin’s main purpose is to keep body water in and harmful substances out. However, it’s extremely porous and largely unprotected, particularly when heated or moist - typical conditions for many women throughout their days. Potentially very harmful compounds that are able to overcome the skin’s protective barrier can be absorbed into the body, leading to systemwide exposure. Because your bra is the closest thing to your skin, your body’s largest and most unprotected organ, understanding what you might be exposing your body to is important for your long-term health and well-being.

3. Traditional Bras Contain Unlabeled Toxic Chemicals that are Harmful to Human Health

In the United States, there is no law that regulates or requires the listing or materials outside of fabrics involved in the production of our clothing. Additionally, there is no one US Federal entity responsible for overseeing the chemicals used in clothing. Manufacturers use thousands of substances to produce clothing, and 99% of those substances do not show up on clothing labels.

There are over 1,000 compounds that have been declared illegal for use in products in Europe, Canada, South Korea, as well as many other countries. The US has banned less than 40 of these substances, forcing us to be our own advocates.

4. Get to Know Your Bra’s Toxic Chemicals - then Stay Far Away!

Some of the most common chemicals used in traditional bras include: Formaldehyde, Phthalates, NPE’s, TBT, Azo Dyes and SCCPs. These toxic chemicals can be absorbed by the body’s porous skin, causing harm, particularly given the cumulative effect of daily exposure for weeks, months and years.

Let’s take a look at these chemicals and why companies use them:

  1. Formaldehyde is used to prevent shrinkage during washing and to produce wrinkle- resistant fabrics. It is also the most frequently reported allergen and a known skin irritant and carcinogen hazardous to a woman’s health with high levels of exposure.

  2. Phthalates are used as softening agents and can be good resistors against water and oils - a chemical fabric softener that helps keep your bra comfortable to wear. They have been associated with adverse hormonal effects and considered members of the endocrine disruptors group.

  3. NPE’s are used as a commercial detergent to wash fabrics after the dying process is complete. Similar to Phthalates, NPE’s are known endocrine disruptors and above

certain exposure levels can impair human fertility and disrupt sexual development.

(NPE’s are currently banned from being discharged in Europe).

  1. TBT’s are antifungal agents that prevent mold and odors caused by the breakdown of

    sweat. TBT can build up in the body and affect immune and reproductive systems. (It is

    also listed as a priority hazardous substance under EU regulations.)

  2. Azo Dyes that allow bras to come in bright colors like pink or blue are easily rubbed off

    into the skin and can release chemicals known as aromatic amines, which are known

    cancer causing agents. They also cause allergic contact dermatitis.

  3. SCCPs are used as flame retardants and surface coatings. SCCPs are carcinogenic and can lead to skin dryness and cracking and have recently been found in women’s breast

    milk. (SCCPs are included in the EU list of Substances of Very High Concern and their use has been restricted in certain applications in the EU since 2004).

5. Underwire in Bras Can Harm Breast Tissue and Lymphatic Drainage

A bra with metal underwire restricts and compresses your tissue, evidenced by the uncomfortable and itchy impressions left your skin. Worn for long periods of time, these bras will not allow the skin a chance to recover and bounce back, leading to long-term indents in the tissue. The restriction and compression caused by metal underwire has also been shown to impede lymph node drainage around the breast and armpit, hindering the system’s vital function of flushing toxic waste products from the body.

6. Underwire can Lead to Weak, “Sagging” Breasts

Studies have shown that the constriction of natural movement caused by underwire in bras may contribute to weak or “sagging” breasts. Breasts need natural movement to support muscle and tissue strengthening. The tight restriction caused by underwire does not allow for this movement, preventing the muscles and surrounding tissues from strengthening in order to provide natural support for the breasts.

Knowledge is power. It’s time we took a close look at traditional bras and examined the potential effects of their toxic chemicals and restrictive wires on our bodies. Rethink your traditional bra. Go “clean” (no potentially harmful toxins) and “wire-free.”


This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not for the purpose of rendering medical advice. The article is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice.


Philip M. Tierno, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine

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Schindler WD, Hauser PJ. Chemical finishing of textiles. Elsevier; 2004 Aug 10. Textile Future by Virginia, Issue January 2012. ( aromatic amines; cancer) ( Drug Absorption through the skin) ( Exposure to

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and-nonylphenol-ethoxylates#what ( EPA assessment of NP and NPA)
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