How To Bind Without a Binder, Safely

person wearing a compression top

For those of us who experience gender dysphoria, it can be a difficult feeling. It’s safe to say that everyone, regardless of their gender identity, wants to look in the mirror and like what they see. When we have gender dysphoria or are gender non-conforming, we want the person we see on the outside to match the person we know on the inside. 

One solution to this feeling is that many transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid individuals practice chest binding. Chest binding is a practice that involves the flattening of the chest for the purposes of gender or body affirmation. 

The most common way people chest bind is with a binder — an article of clothing that an individual will wear to constrict and flatten their breasts. A binder may seem like the easiest answer here, but what if you can’t get your hands on one?

Maybe you are testing the waters on your journey and want to try some other gender-affirming options before you fully commit to buying and wearing a binder. If that sounds anything like you, then this article is for you.

Here are some common ways to (safely) chest bind without using a binder: 

What Is Chest Binding? Why Do It? 

Chest binding is the practice of wearing a binder or another material to compress or flatten the chest. Many transgender, non-binary, or gender-fluid individuals utilize the practice of chest binding to aid them in their gender journey or method of personal expression.

No one says that you have to bind to be valid in your gender identity or that you have to identify as transgender to participate. The practice of binding is for everybody and encourages us all to feel safe in our own skin, no matter how we identify.

Chest binding and or top surgery isn’t always accessible to everybody, though, and some may find themselves struggling if they cannot participate. Some transgender individuals may never want to commit to top surgery or find themselves wanting to bind for personal or financial reasons. 

Many binders that you find are on the expensive side and can be made of expensive high-grade materials. Such a tool may not be accessible to everyone who wants to participate. 

So if you find yourself in that boat where you want to chest bind but find yourself wondering how or why to do it without a binder, then this is the space for you.

Are There Risks to Chest Binding?

The simple answer is that there are few things without any risk in this world. Chest binding is not inherently risky or dangerous unless done improperly.

Binding can affect the skin, muscles, and movement if done incorrectly or for too long. When skin is being bound too tightly by the materials of a binder, there’s little to no free-flowing air. This could be a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal infections.

Note that this goes for any item of clothing that ends up in sensitive areas like the chest. Always properly wash and dry your garments to help avoid future infections and irritations. 

Another underlying issue is how binding could affect muscle movement and even breathing. It’s vital to have the right size when you are chest binding. The binder should not restrict your breathing or cause your muscles to hurt. If that’s the case, then it’s time to switch it out.

5 Ways To Bind Without a Binder, Safely

Sports Bra  

One of the most common ways to chest bind without wearing a binder is with a sports bra. Not only is this a less restrictive option than a binder, but you probably already have a sports bra or two, so you wouldn’t need to purchase anything new.

For optimal results, try on a sports bra that is only a size or two smaller than your normal size — the band should still be comfortable and not overly constricting. 

If you have a larger-sized chest, perhaps try layering your sports bra for more coverage and support. It also helps if you find a sports bra that is tight-fitting and designed for “no bounce!” Usually, the bra will say on the label if there is bounce or not.

Additionally, some sports bras have cups that can’t be removed — while this can be gender-conforming for some, others might want to avoid this feature. 

Sports bras are overall a comfortable and high-quality choice for everyday wear, especially on an off-day when not binding. Experts say it’s not wise to wear a traditional binder every single day. To wear a binder safely, taking one day off a week is recommended, as is not wearing a binder for more than eight hours.  

Kinetic Tape

Another common way to bind safely without a binder is by using kinetic tape. This may not be the best option if you are a larger-chested individual or are prone to irritation due to sensitive skin, but it has been effective in compressing the chest down as a binder would. 

How To Use Kinetic Tape

Start with clean skin. The last thing you want is your tape yanking on hairs and oils that were left behind. Make sure that the area you are taping is clean and ready for wear. Basically, the important thing to note during this entire process is to avoid taping your nipples. 

Follow the steps below:

  • Try taking a little bit of toilet paper to cover each nipple before taping.
  • Cut the tape with scissors to the proper size shape. 
  • Place the tape over your breast and gently pull it to the side. (This furthers the illusion of a flat chest since your arm hides a majority of that breast tissue.)
  • Smooth out the chest with any final pieces of tape that may be needed.
  • Repeat on the other side, and voila! 

Baggy Clothing

While this method does not involve binding at all, it may be helpful anyway. If you are beginning to walk this path and are uneasy or unsure, then this may be a convenient option. Sporting baggy clothing could possibly help take away any shape or form, which could soothe overall gender dysphoria.

Not to mention, baggy clothing is comfortable for day-to-day wear, and you won’t feel restricted after long-term wear. If you’re on the hunt for stylish baggy clothing, consider gender-neutral activewear. Much of athleisure, like joggers, windbreakers, and t-shirts, have a relaxed fit that works with any wardrobe and any identity.

Along a similar note, gender-neutral loungewear is excellent for low-key days. Try eco-fleece joggers, rugby shirts, or long-sleeve tees to stay comfortable in all that you do. 

Try a Compression Top 

A new, safer alternative to chest binding is the use of a compression top. Compression tops are built from gentler fabrics than most other binders on the market right now. 

Compression tops are designed to compress the chest in a gentler fashion to help improve overall comfort, safety, and movement capabilities. They’re designed for long-term or all-day wear, which you can’t usually get away with a regular binder.

Compression tops are designed specifically for daily, long-term wear. You can easily sleep in them, wear them while working out, or simply wear them every day. Many individuals, not only transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid individuals, prefer a compression top. 

At TomboyX, we offer an extensive list of size-inclusive compression tops. Check out the Compression Top in Silver. It’s designed with active days in mind, as well as the days spent hanging out by the pool. The scoop neckline accommodates your favorite shirts, and eight different color options mean you can choose your favorite color too! Say goodbye to chafing with durable, flatlock seams and OEKO-Tex-certified fabric; the compression top is gentle (and powerful). No underwire and no padding. 

Other styles like the Racerback Compression Top works amazingly well with tank tops, and the silky, smooth stay-put chestband keeps the top in place. In addition, our new Compression Tank is ideal for for wearing with another compression top. The combination of these two garments provides even more chest compression — without sacrificing comfort.

Gender Euphoria

While binding is a great way to prioritize gender euphoria, remember that it is not necessary to be valid in your gender identity! Not everyone who is transgender has to bind to be seen as valid in their identity or in who they are. For those of us who prefer not to or are unable to, we still can feel like our best selves without binding

The best thing you can do for yourself is just to simply be you. Whether we decide to bind or not, we are valid just the way we are, and we can embrace that!


How to Bind Your Chest Safely, According to Experts | Insider 

Dressing Well Without Binding | Point of Pride

Gender dysphoria | NHS

12 Chest Binding FAQs: What to Use, COVID-19 Considerations, and More | Healthline

Top surgery for transgender men and nonbinary people | Mayo Clinic