One of the most heartbreaking experiences in the world is going through body dysmorphia.
Body dysmorphia is a struggle that comes from gender dysphoria experienced by transgender men, women, and non-binary people.
Chest dysphoria and full-body dysphoria can be stressful, isolating, and frustrating when you feel like the person inside doesn’t match the person on the outside.
First and foremost, if you are experiencing this kind of dysphoria, know that you are loved just the way that you are, and you’re not broken or wrong.
Secondly, If you have found yourself here looking for an answer or a fix, one possible solution could be chest binding.
If you believe that chest binding is the right solution for you and you’re ready to learn more, then this article is for you. Here’s how to safely and wisely bind your chest:
What Is Chest Binding?
Many individuals who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender-fluid utilize chest binding as a way to help manage their own dysphoria.
Chest binding is a gender-affirming practice used to flatten and minimize the appearance of the breasts. Chest binding may seem like a quick and easy fix to this overwhelming feeling. However, if not done properly, it could lead to some healthcare concerns.
What Are the Types of Chest Binding?
There are several ways to chest bind, but the most popular is by using a dedicated commercial binder.
Commercial Chest Binders
A commercial chest binder is a type of top made specifically for flattening the chest down. Many are made in a full-length style or a half-cropped style, and it is really up to your personal preference. Commercial chest binders need to be worn carefully as they can be overly constrictive at times.
There are also some different kinds of compression binders that are less restrictive than a regular binder but still get the job done. These are generally made of more lightweight materials and often have more give than a regular binder.
We’ve got a wide variety of compression tops at TomboyX. Unlike traditional binders, compression tops are less restrictive and more comfortable. Unlike commercial binders, compression tops are safe to work out in — as long as the size is correct.
They should be high quality, lightweight, and help give you comfort in your mind and your body. Our classic Compression Top is made from OEKO-TEX-certified polyamide nylon and 41% elastane. Available in sizes from 3XS to 6XL, this super soft but powerful compression top is a gentler alternative to commercial chest binders.
Another way that individuals chest bind is by using Kinetic tape, which is sometimes called transtape. Kinetic tape is medical tape specifically used for use on skin that many use for chest binding.
Products not meant for use on the skin (like duct tape or plastic wrap) shouldn’t be used in binding practices.
These materials can lead to some serious skin irritation, rashes, and discomfort while being worn. In some cases, they can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing due to the tight, abrasive material.
If wrapping with kinetic tape, place soft tissue or similar over the nipples to avoid rubbing. Never put kinetic tape on irritated skin.
Are There Risks to Chest Binding?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of research about the actual side effects of chest binding for trans people.
Many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community that participate in chest binding often note similar symptoms after long-term wear or wearing a binder of the wrong size. However, for chest binding that is properly fitted, washed, and worn the right amount of time, there’s little to no risk.
Granted, everyone’s chest tissue is different, and those with larger chests may experience some more struggles in the early stages of chest binding.
On the other hand, folks with flatter chests may find the whole process much easier. Before you purchase your binder and start layering it under your everyday clothes, make sure you know the fabric and material to help ensure there will be no allergic reactions or irritation of any kind while being worn.
One of the keys to successful chest binding is properly washing your undergarments. Not only does this keep them clean and hygienic, but it also helps increase their overall lifespan and can help keep you happy and healthy.
The few risks often associated with chest binding are irritated skin, muscle and joint pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms in the same category. All of these complaints came from binders that were not fitted properly or binders that had been worn too long.
If you are properly washing, wearing, and caring for your binders and yourself, you’ll most likely not have to worry about any of these symptoms.
Chest Binding: 10 Tips and Tricks
Chest binding has become one of the most popular practices to help diminish or eliminate body and gender dysphoria.
It’s crucial for your health and safety to first research chest binding before diving right into it. When done incorrectly, it can lead to notable health issues down the road, from overheating to fungal infections. There are a variety of different ways that you can do this, but safety has got to be your first priority while you are on this journey.
Here are ten tips and tricks to help ensure your safety and comfort while chest binding:
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your body is to take breaks from chest binding.
While chest binding can boost your confidence and benefit your mental health, it’s important to let your body rest from the stress of it as well. If you find yourself binding every day, take frequent breaks to ensure the overall being of your mind and body.
It’s recommended not to bind for more than eight hours.
Don’t Bind and Grind
It’s not recommended to wear a binder and work out. We recommend switching out a sports bra for a binder if you are going to be doing strenuous physical activity.
The last thing you'll want is to feel tight and rigid after a workout, on top of being sweaty combined with that tightness in your chest: Trust us.
Surgery on the Horizon
If you are an individual considering top surgery (surgery to permanently remove or reduce breast tissue), you may want to consider binding less.
Chest binding can actually affect your skin's elasticity and could overall decrease your skin health, making it difficult to conduct surgery or have a swift recovery.
While it’s essential to stay hydrated, it’s vital on days that you are binding.
Your body may be under more physical stress than it’s used to, so stay cool and stay hydrated while you are working towards the best version of yourself.
Wearing a binder can be physically strenuous when worn too long or worn improperly. It might take some extra energy out of you. Focusing on staying hydrated and well-rested will help the experience go much smoother.
Properly Wash Your Binder
The last thing you want is for your skin to be irritated while binding. One of the easiest ways to ensure the overall cleanliness and quality of your binder is by washing it properly and washing it often. Like other delicate undergarments, your best bet is to hand wash and hang up to dry.
Double-check the fabric of your binder before washing it. Depending on the fabric, this could affect the way that the binder is washed or dried. Take a good look at your label before throwing it into the wash.
Don’t Sleep in Your Binder
One of the worst things you could do for your body is to sleep in your binder. Always remove your binder before bed so you can fully relax your body and sleep with no worries. Be especially mindful of removing your binder if you have sleep apnea or another sleep-related issue.
To stay comfy and totally you after lights out, consider gender-neutral sleepwear that’s as gender-confirming as it is stylish.
Get the Right Fit
Like anything else you wear, you want it to fit properly. Your binder is the same way. While you want it form-fitting and tight, you still want to be able to breathe normally while wearing one.
Take the time to check the sizing guide to ensure you are buying the right size and fit for your needs. The bottom line is: if it restricts your breathing, it’s the wrong one.
Refer back to a sizing chart throughout the process of picking a binder to make your decisions easier.
Consult Your Healthcare Provider
While we do know a lot about underwear, we are no medical professionals. Always consult a transgender health expert before diving into something like this.
Your doctor may be able to give you peace of mind in not only how to move forward with chest binding but how to move forward on your journey of gender discovery. It never hurts to talk to a pro who is willing to lend a helping hand as you navigate something new.
Know Your Body
If you find that your armpits and chest are hurting in any way during this process, then it is time to stop. Binding can take some effort, but to many people, it is 100% worth it. You should never be at a point during binding where you lose breath, bruise ribs, or injure yourself in any way.
If you find that binders are a bit too one-size-fits-all, try an Adjustable Compression Top. This compression top comes in sizes from XS to 4X and in three neutral colors. The adjustable straps allow you to customize your fit to avoid any chafing, even while working out.
Trying something new, like chest binding, can be a little scary, especially if you have that first moment where you look in the mirror and say, “finally.”
Give Chest Binding a Try
Something as “small” as chest binding can have a significant impact on your mental health and well-being and affect your overall mood and self-esteem in a positive way. Don’t be afraid to try new things that might have such a major impact! And most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out to supportive individuals and resources in your life when you need a helping hand.