5 REALLY GOOD REASONS TO RETHINK YOUR TRADITIONAL BRA
Many of us wear a bra between ten to twelve hours hours each and every day. Others of us wear a bra for longer periods of time - and some even during sleep, too. Women are trained from a young age that a bra must be worn under all clothing, so chances are that we don't think much about it. But could our bras, which touch our skin directly for many hours each day, have an impact on our health?
1. Your Bra is the Closest Thing to Your Skin
To hold your breasts in place, your bra must sit firmly on a your body's biggest organ and best protective barrier: your skin. Your skin’s main purpose is to keep body water in and harmful substances out. However, your skin is also extremely porous and when heated or moist, typical conditions most women experience while wearing a bra, will absorb anything it's exposed to, including potentially very harmful chemical compounds that can have a detrimental effect on your overall health and well-being. By the way, you can test your skin's absorbent qualities by applying a natural essential oil to it and noticing how quickly the scent disappears as it is absorbed.
Because your bra sits directly on your precious and porous skin, understanding what chemical compounds are located in your traditional bra is crucial to help you determine what you may be exposing your body to on a long term basis.
2. Traditional Bras Contain Unlabeled Toxic Chemicals
In the United States, there is no law that regulates or requires the listing or materials outside of fabrics involved in the production of clothing. Additionally, there is no one U.S. Federal entity responsible for overseeing the chemicals used in clothing. Manufacturers use thousands of substances to produce clothing, and 99% of these substances do not show up on clothing labels. Europe, Canada, South Korea and many other large countries have declared over 1,000 chemicals illegal for use in their products whereas the U.S. has banned less than 40 of them.
What are some of these potentially harmful chemical compounds?
3. Your Traditional Bra's Toxic Chemicals - Stay Far Away!
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.)
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.
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).
4. Underwire in Traditional Bras Can Harm Breast Tissue and Lymphatic Drainage
Beyond potentially harmful chemicals, traditional bras also contain underwire that studies have shown can have a deleterious effect on breast health. Metal underwire can restrict and compress your breast tissue, evidenced by the uncomfortable and itchy impressions left your skin after you remove it. Worn for long periods of time, traditional 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.
5. Underwire in Traditional Bras Can Lead to Weak, “Sagging” Breasts
Studies have shown that the constriction of natural movement caused by underwire in traditional bras may also 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 which can cause them to take on a "sagging" appearance.
Knowledge is power. It’s time we took a close look at traditional bras and examined the potential effects of their potentially toxic chemicals and restrictive wires on our bodies. Rethink your traditional bra. When you need to wear a bra, go clean, ditch the potentially harmful toxins, and wire-free to best support your breast health. And when you don’t, ditch it and go bra-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
Lacasse K, Baumann W. Textile Chemicals: Environmental data and facts. Springer Science & Business Media; 2004.
Windler L, Height M, Nowack B. Comparative evaluation of antimicrobials for textile applications. Environment international. 2013 Mar 1;53:62-73.
Schindler WD, Hauser PJ. Chemical finishing of textiles. Elsevier; 2004 Aug 10. Textile Future by Virginia, Issue January 2012.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9498898 ( aromatic amines; cancer)
http://adc.bmj.com/content/archdischild/62/3/220.full.pdf ( Drug Absorption through the skin) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969717306022 ( Exposure to
Benzothiazoles from textiles)
https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/ehp2998/ (Risk assessments for chemical toxicity values) https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/fact-sheet-nonylphenols-
and-nonylphenol-ethoxylates#what ( EPA assessment of NP and NPA)
Sinclair R, editor. Textiles and fashion: materials, design and technology. Elsevier; 2014 Nov 8.