What is binding?
Using a binder to reduce the apparent size of breasts.
What does binding do?
- Upper body
How long does binding last?
The effects of binding only last whilst wearing the binder.
How do I stay safe?
The health risks of binding are almost entirely unstudied and unknown, and are associated with a number of health problems.
Use of a binder is almost always accompanied by some undesirable symptoms, most commonly back, chest or shoulder pain, overheating, shortness of breath, itching (possibly due to fungal skin infections 1, p.155), and bad posture. Rarer but more serious effects of binder use include scarring, swelling, rib fractures and respiratory infections.
Here are some things you can do that may reduce the risk 2;3:
- Make sure your binder is the right size
- Avoid binding for more than eight hours in a day
- Never sleep in your binder
- Take rest days where you do not bind as much as you can
- If you start to feel pain, especially chest pain, take off your binder
- If you suspect something is wrong, see a doctor as soon as possible
- Never use “home made” binders made from elastic bandages, duct tape or plastic wrap
- Only use binders from reputable brands. Ask others if you’re unsure if a brand is reputable or not.
The full health consequences and degree of risk of binding are currently unknown as few medical studies have been carried out 3. Before binding, you should decide whether the benefits to you of binding outweigh these risks.
What should I be aware of?
Long-term binding for several years can effect skin elasticity, which increases the risk of complications if you wish to surgically remove your breasts with an operation like double-incision or periareolar mastectomy 4, p.260.
Are there other options?
Some people use specially-designed tape for binding, rather than a binder. However, the long-term safety of this is relatively unknown compared to using a binder. Do not bind with duct tape or any other kind of tape not specifically designed for binding.
Safer but less effective alternatives to binding are wearing a sports bra or multiple layers of clothing to hide your chest shape.
An operation like double-incision or periareolar mastectomy can permanently remove breasts, eliminating the need to bind.
How do I bind?
The safest way to bind is to use a binder. Binders are a tight, elastic type of underwear that compresses the chest into a different shape. This flattens breast tissue, making it less visible.
You can get different styles of binders depending on where you get them from and your needs:
- Full length binders are in a tank top style. The compression is mainly in the chest area but there is some in the stomach area too.
- Tri top binders are in a crop top style. The compression is in the chest area and the stomach area is left free.
Binders cannot be bought in high street shops and have to be ordered online. There are only a few UK stockists.
How do I put on my binder?
There are two main methods to put on a binder:
- Pulling it over the head, like a sports bra
- Turning it inside out, stepping into it and pulling it up over your hips
Which of these is the best method for you will depend on the shape of your body and the type of binder you have. If your binder came with any instructions, these might tell you the best method.
You may need to adjust your chest once the binder is on to get the flattest look possible. Make sure that the resulting fit is comfortable enough for you to wear it, and avoid stretching or creasing your skin.
How much will it cost?
Binders typically cost £25-50. Some retailers of binders serving the UK include:
Buying from abroad may incur customs charges.
If you are unable to afford purchasing a binder from these sources, you may also be able to obtain free binders from:
- Point of Pride
- Scottish Binders
- Spectra London (for Spectra London social groups members only)
- TransgenderNI Binder Scheme
You may also be able to find other people in your area who are willing to donate a binder they no longer use.
- 1.Deutsch, Madeline B (ed.) (2016) “Guidelines for the primary and gender-affirming care of transgender and gender nonbinary people.” Link
- 2.Point 5CC (n.d.) “Binding 101: Tips to Bind Your Chest Safely.” Link
- 3.Peitzmeier, Sarah, Gardner, Ivy, Weinand, Jamie, Corbet, Alexandra and Acevedo, Kimberlynn (2017) “Health impact of chest binding among transgender adults: a community-engaged, cross-sectional study.” Culture, health & sexuality, 19(1), pp. 64–75. Link
- 4.Yelland, Andrew (2017) “Chest Surgery and Breast Augmentation Surgery,” in Bouman, W. P. and Arcelus, J. (eds.), The Transgender Handbook: A Guide for Transgender People, Their Families and Professionals, Nova Science Publishers Inc, pp. 251–264. Link
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