The freedom of going braless comes at a cost

On top of the dance challenges and prank videos, TikTok has become the home for some weird wellness trends from putting laundry products in drinking water to mouth taping. But the latest trend is something any person with a bust can understand—freeing the boobies. 

The “No Bra” hashtag has gone viral with more than 670 million tags on the social media platform. TikTok users are posting videos about how they feel liberated from not having to wear restrictive and uncomfortable undergarments. Others are choosing not to wear a bra because it clashes with their outfits, opting instead for bralettes and crop tops. 

Going braless is nothing new. About 25 percent of women in the US report taking off their bra the moment they get home and 52 percent do it within the first 30 minutes. But there’s a big difference between taking a bra off for a couple of hours versus never wearing one again. The lack of underwire can change the body over time.

“Wearing a bra is a personal choice,” says Jacob Freiman, a plastic surgeon at CG Cosmetic Surgery in Florida. “But know there are consequences to not wearing one.” If you’re considering banning bras for good in your own life, some doctors recommend considering the pros and cons of the long-term effects on your breasts, back, and skin.

Boobs are made up of fats and ligaments. As you get older, breast tissue stretches out and the skin loses elasticity. “When you’re younger, it tends to be more dense and keep the shape better. But as you age, all the fibers that keep it in that high position do not hold up as well,” explains Steven Ip, a plastic surgeon in California. Combined with Earth’s gravitational force, breasts naturally droop over the years. Bra support can at least delay those changes.

There are a few other factors that contribute to sagginess. Genetics might be the most important, Freiman says, as some people are born with tighter skin than others. Having a kid, losing a lot of weight, and being a smoker can also affect skin elasticity. 

Breast cup size matters too. According to Ip, going braless is less of an issue for people with A-cup breasts who have tighter skin and less mass on their chests. But the lack of support becomes a problem for people with a B cup or higher. “A D cup is not going to somehow defy gravity and stay up. It makes sense they would sag more if you don’t wear a bra,” adds Freiman. 

[Related: It’s time to figure out your real bra size]

For people with naturally big breasts, going braless can cause pain in their upper back, neck, and shoulders. To compensate for the weight in their bust, Ip says they may adopt a hunchback posture called kyphosis where they roll their shoulders forward, curving the spine and rounding the upper back. They are also more likely to get injured when engaging in physical activities. Freiman says that not wearing sports bras will ultimately lead to stretching in the scaffolding around the boobs.

There are some benefits, however, to losing a layer if you’re wearing ill-fitting bras. Sean Ormond, a pain management doctor at Atlas Pain Specialists in Arizona, says that going braless can actually help relieve back, neck, and shoulder pain because it puts less pressure on these areas. If someone is wearing the incorrect size, the bra could constrict blood flow to the breasts and increase pain and swelling. Lastly, bras can trap sweat, which sometime causes skin irritation and breakouts. “Going braless can help to keep the breasts cooler and drier,” Ormond explains.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you want to keep wearing a bra. Just keep in mind whether you’ll still be happy with your decision 10 to 15 years from now.