What effects does it have?
- Upper body
What is it?
Using a binder to reduce the apparent size of breasts.
How long does it last?
The effects of binding only last whilst wearing the binder.
The health risks of binding are almost entirely unstudied and unknown, and are associated with a number of health problems. Research suggests you should take rest days where you do not bind as much as you can 1. Do not use “home made” binders made from elastic bandages, duct tape and plastic wrap.
Binders are a tight, elastic type of underwear that compresses the chest into a different shape. This flattens breast tissue, making it less visible. Safer but less effective alternatives to binding are wearing a sports bra or multiple layers of clothing to hide your chest shape.
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.
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 2), and bad posture. Rarer but more serious effects of binder use include scarring, swelling, rib fractures and respiratory infections. The full health consequences and degree of risk of binding are currently unknown as few medical studies have been carried out 1. Before binding, you should decide whether the benefits to you of binding outweigh these risks.
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 3.
Binders cannot be bought in high street shops and have to be ordered online. There are only a few UK stockists but you may be able to find some on Amazon and eBay. If you’re worried about receiving a binder at your home address, you could try having it delivered to a nearby Amazon Locker.
Binders typically cost £25-50. Well known retailers of binders serving the UK include:
- Spectrum Outfitters
- F2mbinders - formerly known as Underworks
- T Kingdom - best for slim/small chested people
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:
- the MORF Binder Scheme
- the Northern Ireland Binder Scheme in Northern Ireland
- the Trans*Form Cymru Binder Bank in Wales
You may also be able to find other people in your area who are willing to donate a binder they no longer use.
- 1 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.
- 2 Deutsch, Madeline B (ed.) (2016) “Guidelines for the primary and gender-affirming care of transgender and gender nonbinary people.” [online] Available from: http://transhealth.ucsf.edu/pdf/Transgender-PGACG-6-17-16.pdf
- 3 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.
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Page last updated: April 2018