Red Marks Left Behind By Your Bra: Are they normal?
As the personal “Bra Lady” for hundreds of Perky Ladies that have come into our shop, I get a lot of questions. One of the most frequent is about [red] marks left by a bra. People ask, “Is that normal?” In this post I’m breaking down the marks we can expect to see in a well-fitting bra and what marks are cause for pause.
In the age of overly stretchy spandex (or lycra..or whatever), and baggy unstructured styles adjusting to a new properly fitting bra may take some time. Generally, we’re talking about a 2 week adjustment period – give or take. Don’t panic! Let me explain…
We have all kinds of technological advancements in fabrics, construction and socially cognizant design. Things designed for comfort, mobility, and aesthetics. Bras are no exception. In fact, most modern bras are engineering, architectural, and artistic wonder. Every element of their design (in a reputable brand) is meticulously thought out with every design element used address support, shaping, longevity, comfortability, placement, shape, size, etc. We typically think of bras like the restrictive corsetry of the past, but it is not. Even corsets, when worn properly can be quite comforting and comfortable.
Let’s take a moment to talk about what a bra is supposed to do for you. Depending on the type (yes, there are different types) it is meant to lift, separate, compress, hold, or just be eye candy until it’s ripped off.
No matter which functions your bra is going to serve it has to fit properly and have a solid foundation, the band. That band has to be firm fitting in order to effectively do the rest of its job.
The cups should encompass ALL of your breast tissue and lay securely against several points on your body. We are supporting a concentrated area of tissue ranging from a few ounces to many, many pounds. All while our bodies fluctuate and change almost daily. And it does this without restricting your breathing or movement. Hell, they are even pretty! I am constantly amazed by this!
Women immediately notice a difference when they first put on a properly fitted bra versus the $4 box special they got when they were 17. I hear things like “Wow, this is firm.” quickly followed by, “I love it. It feels like a really good hug. I see why my old bra wasn’t doing anything for me.” We love hearing this and that is our cue to educate you on what you may experience next.
Fast forward a couple of hours or days or weeks worth of wear in the new properly fitting bra. The bra still fits, is supportive and is doing its job. You may even say “Its so comfy. I don’t even remember I have one on!” However, when the bra is removed at the end of the day some women notice their bra leaves indents in their skin or red marks on their skin around the bra area for a short time. Marks akin to what we would typically expect to see after taking our socks from around our ankles or hairband off of our wrist at the end of the day. Quite common. Quite normal.
We are soft fleshy beings, wearing a [wo]man-made garment doing a job. The weight from our breasts coupled with lace, mesh, elastic and seaming team rather nicely to do that job. However, it does press into the skin because the garment is using your body as an anchor point. Again, like your hairband around your wrist at the end of the day. Regardless of if the material appears firm with minimal stretch or soft and forgiving you may still have indents or red marks that appear after wear. They will disappear after a matter of a few minutes to a couple of hours. It is normal.
It is also normal to experience red marks or skin irritation if you’ve worn the bra after a fit session and haven’t washed it yet. The bra is a new garment and the fabric can be startchy which can irritate the delicate skin where your bra sits.
Washing (by hand with a proper soap like the Soak wash we recommend in store) will not only help breakdown the starchiness, but it will also soften the fabric, remove any other irritants you might be sensitive to, and relax the fit for you. My grandma and mom made me launder every new piece of clothing we bought. I hated it because I was so excited to wear my new finds right now! As an adult, I still practice this. I know its better for my skin and my comfortability.
Another item that can cause red marks is wearing the same bra day in and day out. Wearing the same bra every day, new or old, creates pressure points on the body. You have to give your body (and the bra) a break. These marks are far more common and the easy fix is to switch up bras. There are slight nuances in fit to every bra you wear. By switching up you give your body a break. Always have more than one so you can change them out!
"Having that bra wardrobe includes having a bra or two specifically for your time of the month."
Having that bra wardrobe includes having a bra or two specifically for your time of the month. If you experience hormonal fluctuations regularly, have a menstrual cycle or retain water a lot you need another fitting during that time to ensure that you have something fitted for your body to address those needs.
Squeezing into your regularly fitting bra may result in some light bruising around the bra line or some more intense markings due to the water retention, puffiness, and whatever else you experience during that time. That is okay. There is no need to panic. Plan to take a shopping trip during that time and get fitted for your body then, so you will have a comfy better fitting option for your unique body needs during that specific time. You will thank yourself!
Having this occur is a wonderful time to slow down, take stock of your body and see what you need. If you’re bra typically fits well and you are not on your cycle (or fluctuating) what is it telling you? Use your bra fit as a tool, a scale. Analyze and see what you and your body need health wise.
To summarize, red marks and indents are completely normal and influenced by things like:
Heavy, dense, or pendulous breast tissue
Wearing the same bra every day and do not have a wardrobe of bras on frequent rotation
Priding yourself in having the exact same size in all of your bras, while lacking differing sizes and styled bras for specific times of the month/year (i.e. period bras)
The same bra is used for all manner of activities while lacking specialized bras for certain activities
Not laundering before wearing or improper laundering (Sometimes not washing is just as bad as throwing it in the machine)
Regular or frequent fluid retention, hormonal shifts, fluctuating weight, skin sensitivities, or have a softer body composition* (this does not mean overweight)
- Switching from your new bra back to your old ill-fitting worn out bra that originally made you search out a new bra because it was so bad.
Now that we’ve established what is normal with a properly fitting bra let’s take a look at what an ill-fitting, poorly constructed, or expired bra will do. These bras typically lack structure and won’t do its job of lifting, shaping, or separating. Often times they will lay on top of your skin and holds on for dear life trying to “contain” your breasts. Simultaneously, they may also dig into the skin around the band due to cheap or broken down elastics.
"These [ill-fitting] bras also encourage rash and fungus growth because the skin under and around your breasts don’t have access to airflow."
Sometimes an ill-fitting bra will leave red marks from friction causing skin irritation such as a rash or even broken skin. None of that is normal. It may also leave deep grooves in your shoulders from the straps. All these marks, up to and including bruising. These bras also encourage rash and fungus growth because the skin under and around your breasts don’t have access to airflow.
These are quite common in ill-fitting, poorly constructed, or expired bras no matter if the bra is cheap or an investment piece. While these marks are typical of ill-fitting bras – these marks are NOT normal. And they are certainly NOT healthy. If you experience any these marks from your bra take it off and do not put it back on. Seek medical attention if you feel it’s in your best interest.
Be advised, switching from your new properly fitting bra to your old bra you will notice a difference and its not advisable. Think of it like this: If you have a pair of heels that you aren’t happy with. They never really fit right and they always make you cry out in pain at the end of the day. Yet you continue to wear them. So you go buy new comfy cute sneakers. The next day when you put on your new comfy sneakers, you will still feel the pain left behind by the heel even though you don’t have those heels on. You bought the comfy sneakers because the heels weren’t cutting it anymore–why are you going back?
Pop into your local shop, like The Perky Lady, and talk with your fitter. They will be able to navigate your expectations and comfort level for your first fitting and develop a plan that works for you and your body over time. This is why I advocate for developing a relationship with your fitter and local bra boutiques.