What Really Happens To Your Body When You Stop Wearing A Bra

Honestly, name a better feeling than getting home after a long day, kicking off your shoes, unbuttoning your suffocating pants, and — drum roll please — unhooking your bra. We'll wait. Yeah, no. There is none. The feeling of it falling to the floor is nothing short of pure, utter bliss. It's sort of like biting into an oatmeal raisin cookie and realizing it's actually chocolate chip. And it's freshly baked. Or like the sweet release of yanking too-tightly tucked bedsheets to cradle your cold feet at night. Or like finding a rest stop when you've really gotta go along a road trip in the middle of nowhere. In a word: It's relief. 

Now imagine never wearing a bra again. Sure, your mom might have told you that if you ditch the bra, your boobs would sag. But your mom may not have been right about this one. Yes, although moms admittedly know most everything, there's bound to be a little bulls*** sprinkled in, right? In reality, forgoing your bra can feel liberating and is even ideal for your health in many ways. Here's what will really happen to your body if you go braless — all backed by science. Sorry, mom!

Age may lead to boob sag, regardless of your bra sitch

In case you didn't know: Boobs sag. It's just a thing that happens to the best of us. With age. It's natural. It's gravity. Your boobs simply can't defy the laws of physics forever — unless they're made of plastic, in which case, they sort of can. And, hey, to each their own! But your boobs are bound to sag at some point in life — whether or not you wear a bra. This is especially true if you're bigger-breasted.

"Like all the tissue in your body, [your breasts are] made up of collagen and elastin, which break down as you age," Dr. Dan Mills, vice president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, told Health. Additionally, Andrea Madrigrano, a breast surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, told Shape that how much your breasts sag is dependent on their density. If they are made up of more fat than fibrous tissue, they're more likely to droop. Other factors play into it, too, Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and author of "She-ology," told Shape. Think: weight, pregnancy, genetics, et cetera. 

Your back might ache sans support at first, especially if you have bigger breasts

If you are blessed with a bigger bosom, the chances are that you are also cursed with back pain. It's no secret that donning a bra can help to relieve some of the strain your breasts put on your back and shoulders. After all, the sole purpose of a bra is to provide support. So it makes sense, then, that ditching the whole bra concept may lead to more back pain — especially if you have a larger cup size.

In fact, according to one study published in The Open Orthopaedics Journal, a large cup size is a cause of neck and shoulder pain. "Women with large breasts usually have a number of complaints relating to the skeletal system, and complaints such as neck strain, headache, aching shoulders, [et cetera]," according to the researchers. Wearing a bra can certainly help to alleviate some of that pain, which would mean that ditching your bra could potentially worsen it. But wearing a bra can only help alleviate your body aches if you wear a bra that fits right. And the reality is that most women don't wear the correct size.

Your posture may worsen

We'll be honest: If you stop wearing a bra, there is the chance that your posture could worsen over time. According to a study published in Gait Posture on "biomechanical intervention" and "breast kinematics" — the study of how bras can affect your posture — wearing specific bras can reduce your risk of musculoskeletal pain that accompanies poor posture. "A biomechanically informed posture bra was able to effectively support the breasts and improve scapula position without compromising spinal curvature," the study revealed.

"Having absolutely no support can even be painful," Phoebe Kunitomi, founder of an intimate wear company, told Well+Good. "For some of us, boobs are heavy, and without any support, that weight can strain your back and worsen your posture, especially if you do anything more than low- to no-impact activity." But, in order for this to be true, you have to be wearing the right-size bra. And the vast majority of women don't (via Harper's Bazaar).

You'll probably let out a big sigh of relief

Going braless just plain feels good. Unless, of course, you have bigger breasts and are doing some sort of physical activity. The bouncing bit of it all doesn't feel great. But taking your bra off, generally speaking, is a damn good feeling. "Going fully braless can deliver that satisfying ahh moment of liberating comfort after a long day out and about," Phoebe Kunitomi, founder of Okko, an intimate wear brand, admitted in an interview with Well+Good.

However, it isn't unusual to feel a little uneasy about your decision, particularly at first. But you, and your body, will get used to the idea. Dr. Lucky Sekhon, an OB-GYN in New York City, told Well+Good, "Women with larger breasts may initially feel more uncomfortable than those with smaller breasts as their muscles may initially be weak and not feel strong enough to provide adequate support. Over time, though, their bodies will adjust and naturally start to support the breast tissue appropriately, without the aid of a bra."

You'll give your skin a break to breathe

Let your boobs breathe! Taking off your bra not only feels good, but it also does good for your skin. "Wearing a bra all the time is ... not good for your health," Dr. Waqas Ahmad, a family physician and the head of the medical advisory board at Insurecast, told Real Simple. "It will cause increased sweating, which will clog the skin pores and cause irritation and itching."

Others agree, including Dr. Lucky Sekhon, an OB-GYN based in New York City, who told Well+Good that bras can irritate the skin surrounding your breasts. Board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical, Dr. Morgan Rabach, also told the publication that this skin irritation could be acne mechanica. "This is a type of acne that comes from rubbing of the skin, friction, or pressure on the skin," she explained.

Dr. Heather Downes, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Lake Forest Dermatology, told Healthline that tight clothing like bras can also cause inflammation of the hair follicles. "Bacteria and/or fungus on the surface of the skin can more easily penetrate into these hair follicles, causing infection," she explained.

You'll work the muscles under your breasts more

Wearing a bra all the time means the muscles underlying your breasts never really have to work all that hard. After all, the bra is supporting them. However, by taking off that bra, you will actually put those muscles back into action.

"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," family medicine physician Lina Velikova told Real Simple. But once you start using those muscles again, you will eventually be able to improve the tone of your breasts, she explained. "If you want to help the process, you can do targeted breast exercises to develop the muscles and strengthen the ligaments faster," she added. Ultimately, your body is built to support itself — and it will do just that (as long as you let it).

You may catch more z's at night

If you have ever slept in a bra, well, you must be a damn good sleeper. Sleeping in a bra can be incredibly uncomfortable. The underwire that digs into your ribs. The hooks that cut into your back. The straps that pinch your shoulders. Ditching the bra may mean catching more z's at night.

"Wearing a bra while sleeping may cause discomfort, disturb your sleep cycle, and can even impact your circadian rhythms," according to the Montclair Breast Center. And it's no secret that poor sleep can lead to a whole host of physical and mental health problems. Sleep deprivation can even lead to depression, according to the National Sleep Foundation. So ditching your bra, at the very least at night, can help you sleep better, which can help you function better overall. And who doesn't want (ahem, need) that? You do. We all do.

You'll improve your circulation

Wearing a bra for a long time can feel super constricting and uncomfortable. On the flip side, ditching the bar can actually help you to improve your blood circulation, especially if you've been out there wearing bras that are too tight on you all this time. 

"[A bra] can impede blood flow to the muscles in the back and chest wall, and this reduction in blood flow can lead to aching back muscles," Dr. Lucky Sekhon, an OB-GYN based in New York City, told Well+Good. According to Sekhon, these improvements in circulation are likely to be more drastic for women who have bigger cup sizes. "Bras supporting larger breasts tend to fit tighter than those worn by women with smaller breasts measuring A to B cup in size," she explained.

So the next time you're feeling like you can't breathe in your bra, remember that it may quite literally be cutting off your circulation. Bra, bye.

You won't decrease your risk of breast cancer, despite the rumors

While we wish it were true, going without a bra will not actually reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, this is only a myth. According to BreastCancer.org, there is no evidence to support that wearing bras is linked to cancer, so one cannot say that going without bras would be able to decrease your chances.

"Underwire bras do not cause breast cancer," BreastCancer.org explained. "Being overweight does increase breast cancer risk though, and women who are overweight are more likely to have larger breasts and wear a bra. Women who don't wear bras are more likely to be at a healthy weight. This difference in weight is probably why this myth continues to circulate." Cancer.org also purports that the whole bra-and-breast-cancer claim is a myth.

According to Harvard, more research will likely be done on this debate. But science says that bra-wearing is not linked to breast cancer, as of this writing. And so not wearing a bra will not reduce your risk of breast cancer either.

Your breasts might even stay perkier and retain their shape more over time

Your breasts might even stay perkier and retain their shape more over time when you stop wearing a bra. "Medically, physiologically, anatomically — breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity," Jean-Denis Rouillon, a sports science expert from the University of Besançon in France revealed, citing a 15-year study (via Medical News Today). "On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra." According to the results of the study, the nipples of women who never wore bras were, on average, 7 millimeters higher (relative to their shoulders) each year compared to the nipples of women who regularly wore bras.

So the next time your mother (or anyone else) tells you that if you keep up the whole braless thing, your boobs are going to fall to the floor, just kindly refer them to this research that says otherwise. 

You might do some damage while working out

Okay, we'll admit it, you might do some damage while working out if you don't wear a bra — especially if you have larger breasts. "Back and neck pain or discomfort has been frequently noticed among women who don't wear a sports bra while exercising," Dr. Nupur Gupta, director of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Fortis Hospital, in Gurugram, India, told Health Shots.

A sports bra is a lot different than wearing a pushup bra from a lingerie store. It serves a purpose of its own. "A sports bra provides all the support to the breast and reduces pain, soreness and discomfort while working out," explained Gupta. "If you wear a regular bra, or no bra for that matter, you will bend forward due to the weight of your breasts, which can lead to an incorrect posture and more discomfort."

Thankfully, sports bras are generally a lot more comfortable and tend to fit easier than everyday bras. While you might choose to forgo bras at the office, school, around the house, et cetera, it's still a good idea to keep wearing sports bras while you work out.

Your confidence and self-esteem could take a hit

A wealth of research suggests that lingerie can help women feel sexy. After all, there is a lot of psychology behind the type of underwear you choose to wear and why. Not wearing bras means not getting to relish in that feminine feeling, if that's a feeling that bras indeed provide you.

"Wearing nice quality underwear or lingerie sets boost our confidence and self-esteem, even if no one sees it," Carolyn Mair, a behavioral psychologist and author of "The Psychology of Fashion," told the HuffPost. "Feeling confident can make us appear more physically attractive because we tend to stand, walk, speak, and gesticulate differently."

Additionally, research published in PLOS One found that intimate apparel can send "subtle sexual signals" to partners. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Culture revealed that women consider lingerie as something powerful.  So, if you do decide to no longer wear bras, you will have to find other ways to empower yourself and feel confident.

You'll never have to deal with the discomfort of a poorly fitted bra ever again

According to one study published in Chiropractic & Osteopathy, most women wear the wrong size bra (we're talking 80%), and the majority of such women are wearing bras that are too small (70%). That is a lot of women wandering around the world wearing bras that don't fit them correctly. And that just does not feel good. In fact, wearing a bra that is too tight can lead to a whole host of health problems and just plain feel uncomfortable.

"Cups that are too small can be painful to wear, especially if they have underwires," Robynne Winchester, owner of the ingerie chain Revelation in Fit, told Healthline. She added that the most common bra fit issue is a cup that isn't quite big enough and a band that is too loose. This can end up hurting your back and shoulders.

You may find relief from acid reflux

Struggling from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)? GERD happens when stomach acid pushes into your esophagus, according to Mayo Clinic. This phenomenon is known as acid reflux, and it "can irritate the lining of your esophagus," the site confirmed. This causes a burning sensation in your chest or throat. But did you know that one way to potentially relieve acid reflux is by ditching your bra?

Any clothing item that is too constricting can lead to acid reflux, according to Healthline. "Tight clothing, such as Spanx, on the abdomen can increase intra-abdominal pressure to the point that one can experience acid reflux from acid being pushed from the stomach into the lower esophagus," board-certified dermatologist Heather Downes told the publication.

Wearing an ill-fitting bra can do the same, Dr. Kristle Lynch, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, confirmed to The Healthy. So, of course, not wearing an ill-fitted bra (or any bra, for that matter) can help. It's simple math. Give it a try the next time you start to feel some burning in your chest or throat.