Outplay model side view wearing a black gender neutral compression swim top Swimmee in low compression

The Dangers of Binders

What are the dangers of wearing a binder?

  • Restrict breathing or respiratory issues
  • Irritation to your skin around the breast 
  • Break skin around the edges of the binder
  • Cause overheating
  • Bruise or fracture your ribs
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Overheating
  • Weakness

Some skin issues that may be caused by wearing a binder are:

  • Acne
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Itching
  • Scarring
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness

Musculoskeletal issues that may arise are: 

  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Postural changes
  • Rib fractures
  • Shoulder popping

 Neurological issues that may arise are:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness
  • Numbness

2018 study that identified the possible negative effects of chest binding.

Outplay model wearing gender neutral compression top Swimmee swim top in black - side view

Model is wearing a low compression Swimmee

What is a binder?

Breast binding, also known as chest binding, is the flattening of breasts with constrictive materials such as cloth strips, purpose-built underwear or undergarments, often using materials like spandex or other synthetic materials. Binders may also be used as alternatives to bras or for reasons of propriety.

People who may bind can include females, trans men, and non-binary persons. 

Binding is not new and has been used throughout history over different time periods and for a range of reasons.

In China, during imperial dynasties era, showing women's breasts or curves was considered inappropriate so breasts were flattened or bound with the help of a garment called a hezi, also known as moxiong. In Japan, women wore an obi, which bound and flattened the breasts. This was worn under the traditional kimono, which also helped hide female curves. 

In Africa, adolescent Wodaabe girls had their breasts tightly bound to induce sagging, minimize sexual desirability, and improve their ability to breastfeed. 

Until early 20th century, many Catholic nuns bound their breasts under their traditional habit to deflect the attention from male clergy and diminish sexual desire in men. Then in the 1920's women having a boyish figure and look was the preferred style. Bras were designed and made to flatten breast as much as possible. “These 1920s brassieres have almost no curve. They are meant to flatten the bust” (Breast Binding 1920s)

Transgender and gender nonbinary people may choose various gender-affirming ways to reduce gender dysphoria or present in a way that is more congruent with their gender identity. One of these may be to wear a binder. 

Today there are many more safer alternatives than those worn by people centuries ago.  And there are ways to wear a binder, or a safer alternative to a binder, and be safe, making sure not to cause any bodily harm, internally or externally. 

If when wearing a binder you experience any difficulty breathing, any discomfort, or any other symptoms, remove the binder and consult your doctor. Even if you’re symptoms aren’t severe, long-term use of a poorly fitted binder can lead to chest and back pain. Change binders if you experience any pain while wearing your current binder. 

How long can you wear a binder?

 The longer you bind, the greater the risk of injury. It’s recommended that you shouldn’t bind your chest for more than 8 hours per day in a traditional restricting binder. If you are in a scenario where you will need to keep the binder on for longer, such as at work or school, its best to choose a product that is less restrictive or a safer alternative.

When you take the binder off at the end of the day, breathe deeply several times to ensure you aren’t experiencing any pain and to let your muscles stretch. It’s recommended that you take at least 1 day off a week from chest binding or replace the binder with a compression top that fits well enough to alleviate any body dysphoria and helps you feel yourself. 

Can you exercise in a binder?

It is not recommended you exercise in a binder as a traditional binder restricts your breathing and can cause serious harm and even blackouts or fainting. It is not recommended you do any strenuous activity while wearing a binder.

When it comes to swimming, a binder will not allow for full range movement and restricts  breathing, which can be very dangerous. A safer alternative to wearing a binder while swimming can help you move and be active without needing to sacrifice a more male-presenting look. 

Can you sleep in a binder?

It is not recommended you sleep wearing a binder. This can restrict the oxygen your body can take in during the night and can be dangerous. 

The mental health benefits that transgender and nonbinary individuals experience from binding are striking: according to a landmark study on binding practices in the transgender community, roughly 70 percent of surveyed individuals reported a positive mood after starting to bind compared to only about 7 percent who reported having a positive mood before binding. This explains why, in the same study, approximately 87 percent of transgender-identifying individuals reported using binding as a method for achieving congruence between their physical appearance and gender identity.

 Please be safe and listen to your body. If you experience any issues or discomfort, please seek medical attention as soon as possible. 



Underpinning the 1920s: Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners | Witness2Fashion

How to Bind Your Chest Safely | Health Essentials

What is Chest Binding | WebMD

Chest Binding and Care Seeking Among Transmasculine Adults: A Cross-Sectional Study | National Library of Medicine


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