Should you stop wearing a bra?
Do you buy a bra for its looks or its biomechanics? Do you ever wonder if it’s really supporting you? Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon from the University of Franche-Comté has announced preliminary data from his study of the effects of wearing bras on 320 women over 15 years. His research, which has not been peer-reviewed or published in a journal (but has been quoted in the media), shows, he says, that braless women may sag less than bra-wearers.
By measuring the height of women’s breasts using a slide rule and caliper, he found those who went without a bra were better at opposing gravity. In women aged 18 to 35 who went braless for a year, their nipples rose as measured by their distance from their shoulder tips, by 7mm. His hypothesis is that bras, in doing the work of the breast ligaments, may reduce their effectiveness.
The breast is an anatomically unusual structure in that it’s made mostly of fat and glandular tissue divided into lobules (small sections that radiate towards the nipple), with some fibrous supporting tissue (Cooper’s ligaments), that, when you see it during an operation, never looks up to the job of defying gravity.
You can’t do a lot to keep your breasts firm. One small study of 93 women suggested that smoking may make breasts sag by reducing the amount of elastin in the supporting ligaments. This study, which was done by plastic surgeons from the University of Kentucky in 2008, also found that breastfeeding did not make breasts sag but that having a greater number of pregnancies, having larger breasts to start with and ageing all contributed to droop.
There are conflicting studies as to whether bras make breasts feel more comfortable. Since breasts have a limited ability to support themselves, they move a lot, especially during exercise.
Up to half of women get breast pain, which can be affected by hormone levels. Scurr’s own biomedical research on 100 women found that exercise made breasts move an average of 10cm, mostly in a figure of eight pattern. Her paper says that compression bras (which flatten breasts) are better at reducing discomfort in smaller breasts, while encapsulation bras (with moulded caps that allow breasts to move independently) work better for bigger breasts.
Going braless may make you wobble if you run, but there is no evidence that not wearing one is harmful.
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