Kendall Jenner does it … but should you?
The fifth sibling in the Kardashian family has recently been touting on social media her decision to go braless.
Jenner joins other celebrities, such as the singer Rihanna, who this year have promoted the natural freedom of not wearing a bra.
They are not alone.
Millennial women appear to be ditching the traditional bra by purchasing wireless bralettes or not wearing the undergarment at all.
Retailers such as Victoria’s Secret are reporting declining sales for bras, according to an article in USA Today.
There was even a national No Bra Day last week.
The growing trend has renewed debate over whether losing the bra has any health effects.
The answer appears to be that, as far as health goes, it doesn’t appear to make much difference whether you wear a bra or not.
“We don’t have any evidence that says going braless hurts you,” Patricia Geraghty, a nurse practitioner in California who specializes in women’s health, told Healthline.
Not much research
One of the few research projects to provide any kind of conclusion was a 15-year study completed in 2013 by Jean-Denis Rouillon, a professor in France.
In his research, he concluded bras provide no benefits to women and might actually be harmful to breasts over time.
Rouillon said his study involving 300 women ages 18 to 35 showed that women who did not wear bras developed more muscle tissue to provide natural support.
He added that the restrictive material of bras prevents tissue from growing and may actually encourage breasts to sag.
Rouillon did caution women who have worn bras for decades not to throw out their undergarments. He said they would not benefit from taking off their bras at this juncture.
Otherwise, there isn’t any substantial research either way on bras and breast health.
The American Cancer Society states there is no scientific evidence to show that wearing a bra increases or decreases the risk of breast cancer.
In 1999, there was a study in Australia on breast pain and breast movement involving women who wore fashion bras, sports bras, crop tops, and no bras.
However, that study dealt more with comfort than any health effects.
Geraghty said one problem is that it’s difficult to do long-term studies on the topic.
She said researchers would have to follow women for decades who wore bras and ones who didn’t.
Even interviewing older women about their personal histories would require taking other potential risk conditions into account.
Drooping, fashion, and freedom
In the 1960s, some researchers coined the term “Cooper’s droop” for the sagging of the breasts they said occurred when women went braless for an extended period of time.
The name came from the Cooper’s ligaments that help hold up the breast.
The research coincided with a campaign by women’s rights activists for women to go braless. That movement, however, was politically motivated as opposed to health related.
The Cooper’s droop theory has fallen out of favor.
In fact, Geraghty said, research has shown that sagging breasts in older age don’t appear to be linked to bras or even breast-feeding.
She said it’s probably more closely linked to the number of pregnancies a woman has and how far apart those births were.
Geraghty said going braless is really more a fashion statement than a health matter. She noted that the restrictive clothing of the 1800s was probably more harmful to health.
“Fashion doesn’t much have a basis in health,” she said.
Magazine articles this year have touted the benefits of not wearing a bra. However, the reasons don’t have anything to do with health.
A Good Housekeeping article in June listed 12 reasons for going braless.
Among the benefits were showing off your natural chest, saving money by not buying bras, the absence of bra “pressure lines,” and that “just took my bra off” feeling you can have all day long.