Like many, during the pandemic, I largely ditched bras without a thought about any consequences. It just felt freeing to not be strapped into something all day.
I was already aching for a way to get out of wearing bras, which is why I had converted to bralettes almost exclusively. Growing up, years of underwires digging into my skin and weird, ill-fitting straps built up a strong dislike of bras. The truth is, even though bras have been around for thousands of years, finding the right bra and the right fit for your body is a challenge, and many would rather go without when possible.
But there’s also that pervasive myth that looms over the idea of ditching your bra. Is it bad for your breasts? Will they sag without the support? Will you be in back pain? Between a thousand different bra types and infinite body shapes, the truth is a bit more nuanced.
Meet the Expert
What Happens When You Don’t Wear a Bra?
It’s more complicated than being simply good or bad.
“There hasn’t been any scientific evidence that not wearing a bra has any long-lasting effects, but we do know that skin can begin to sag over time with gravity and other natural effects, supporting ‘the girls’ is an important part of preserving lift and elasticity in the skin tissue,” CEO of breast-inclusive bra company AnaOno Dana Donofree told Byrdie.
“On the other hand, not wearing a bra can be argued to improve circulation and blood flow, which can help keep your skin healthy,” Donofree added. “Not to mention no rashes or irritations from underwires and itchy elastics.”
Not wearing a bra can lead to saggier breasts, depending on their size. At the same time, wearing an ill-fitted bra can also do damage.
“Listen to your body. If you're noticing bruising or chaffing, if your ribs hurt from the band, if you're experiencing neck, back or shoulder pain, these can all be attributed to your bra,” shares Stephanie Montes, founder of breast tape bra brand Nue.
Rather than a black-and-white answer, not wearing a bra has its pros and cons, especially depending on the size of your chest. With larger breasts, not having the support of a bra could lead to more back pain and sagging. But with a smaller chest, it’s likely that not wearing a bra will cause any drastic changes.
How Often Should You Wear a Bra?
How often you wear a bra is all about how often you want to and need to wear it.
"For some with large or tender breasts, it could be non-negotiable to wear a supportive bra every day. However, if your bra doesn't fit correctly… it can be painful and affect the muscle tissue,” says Montes. “Underwires that dig into your ribs, excessively tight shoulder straps, and binding bands can cause bruising and chaffing and damage the shoulder and breast muscles over time.”
If you’re the type of person who throws your bra into the corner of the room you get home from work or you lounge all day braless, either is fine. If you wear your bra all day and don’t ever daydream about the moment you take it off, that’s also no problem. In fact, it could even be helpful to wear your bra to bed.
What’s more important than how often you wear a bra is that your bra fits correctly in the first place.
Getting fitted in-store can help get around the issue, or try out coveted brands known for great fits, technology, and return policies aligned to help you find your perfect bra. My absolute favorites are CUUP, which offers free “Fit Therapy” sessions and free returns. Negative makes heaven-sent upholstery that’s supportive, minimalist, and never restrictive. Then, Harper Wilde and ThirdLove make comfy bras with the softest fabrics.
Too many people force themselves into underwire bras that are ill-fitting and uncomfortable, and it isn’t necessary.
Which Bra Should You Wear?
Just like how often you decide to wear a bra, the type of bra you wear is best decided by what makes you most comfortable and feel your best. There are many different types of bras but five main categories—underwire, wire-free, padded, unlined, and bralettes—that offer different advantages and disadvantages.
If you have a larger chest, shift your attention to underwire and padded bras that’ll give your chest the support it needs. If you despise wearing bras and want to feel it barely there, try looking into wire-free, unlined options, or bralettes. Whatever your preferences are, find the bra that matches them.
Ultimately, the bra you should wear comes down to self love and not trying to fit into anything that doesn’t feel good. “Too many people force themselves into underwire bras that are ill-fitting and uncomfortable, and it isn’t necessary," says Donofree. "Going underwire-free, loving your breasts in the shape and size they come in, can be freeing in so many ways!”
Now that you know all this, you may be thinking about what’s best to do next. First, make sure you’re taking care of your bras and setting them up to last with our eight tips. If you want to find a new bra, we've rounded up the best for large busts, small busts, and all sizes in between.