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 are a long way from the restricting corsetry of the past. Like I said – advances.
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 function 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 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 Walmart 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 but have to warn of the tradeoffs.
Fast forward a couple 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 wearing a sock or waistband. 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 socks on your ankles 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 couple hours. (If you’ve worn it for an hour, expect less.)
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!
To summarize, red marks and indents are completely normal and influenced by things like:
Heavy 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
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)
Now that we’ve established what is normal with a properly fitting bra let’s take a look at what an ill-fitting bra will do. Ill-fitting 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.
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. (Read more on bruising here.) The poor fitting bra also encourages 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 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.
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.