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Chest Binding: How to Bind Safely



Chest binding is the practice of compressing breast tissue to give the appearance of a flat chest. It is done in different ways by all kinds of people. For some it is gender-affirming, others simply like the way it looks, and others may bind for cosplay, theatre, sports, or other reasons. Before I got top surgery, I experimented with several different ways to achieve the look of a flatter chest, often depending of the outfit I was wearing or the way I felt that day. No matter what your reason, understanding how to bind safely is important as it can cause serious health risks if done wrong.


Methods of Binding

Kinetic tape is designed to stick to skin without causing damage. Tape from the outside of the nipple closest to the center of the chest to a few inches under the armpit, then repeat this process on the other side. Avoid using tape if you have sensitive skin.


Layers: you can strategically layer clothing to reduce the prominence of your chest. Start with a tight-fitting shirt or sports bra, then a slightly looser-fitting shirt, then one more on top of that. In cooler weather, vests and jackets can be worn as well.


Sports bras: a tight-fitting sports bra can help flatten the chest and be used in layering.


Athletic shirts: many athletic shirts are constraining but with flexible fabric which can help flatten the chest.


Binders are specifically designed to flatten the chest. They traditionally come in full or half-length. Some resources for finding a binder that works for you:


How to Bind Safely

Try to take breaks from the binder throughout the day, even for just a few minutes. Take some deep breaths or do some breathing exercises during your break or after wearing your binder for a long period of time. 


For sports bras, it’s helpful to get professionally fitted so that you ensure your bra is tight but not too tight. For bigger chest folks like I was, don’t be afraid to shop around and try different styles - bras that clip or zip in the front often have more support, and while underwire bras are more supportive they also create more lift. It is especially important to wear a well-fitting sports bra when working out, as binding while exercising can be dangerous.


When buying a binder, always measure as advised by the binder company. Ask for help if you’re struggling to take the measurements alone. In both cases, wearing the correct size can lower risk of side effects. Hand wash your binder every few days to help prevent skin irritation, rashes, and fungal infections.


Keep an eye out for skin irritation, breakdown, cracking or bleeding. If any of these happen you may need to change your care routine. Try washing your binder more often, buying a larger size, using a method with more air regulation and sweat-wicking, or taking a break from binding. Looks for binders with breathable materials to help avoid skin irritation 


Always listen to your body- if you’re uncomfortable, having chest pains or having trouble breathing, you may need to talk to your doctor about the best method for safely binding.





Practices to Avoid

  • Try not to use duct tape, plastic wrap, or ace bandages. These things do not stretch with your body which can injure or bruise your ribs as well as causing rashes and other skin problems. I’ve tried this- while these products are the most easily accessible, they’re not worth it!

  • Avoid using your binder for more than 8 hours at a time or more than 6 days in a row. Wearing your binder constantly without breaks can cause chest pain, bruising, and breathing problems. It’s important to give your body time to breathe.

  • Do not sleep in your binder. This can cause difficulties when breathing which is dangerous while sleeping.

  • Avoid using your binder while exercising. This can limit the ability to take deep breaths, move comfortably, and sweat. Try a tight sports bra- there are many different styles with differing amounts of support

  • Don’t layer binders, put tape on top of your binder, or wear a binder smaller than your size. This can cause chest pain, difficulty breathing, and possible damaging of the ribs.


Tips

Putting on (and taking off) a new binder or wearing one for the first time can be a bit of a challenge. If possible, having a supportive friend, partner or family member is helpful in case you get stuck. They do eventually wear in and become easier to use.


Avoid tops with v necks or scoop necks, or wearing a shirt with a lighter color than the binder you are wearing. There are also some skin toned binders, such as these from GC2B.


Summary

If done correctly, binding can improve your mental health by reducing gender dysphoria or allowing you to explore your gender expression. However, it can also have negative side effects, including bacterial and fungal infections, tissue and muscle damage, loss of skin elasticity, and even restricting your ability to breathe. So be vigilant, listen to your body, and if you are experiencing negative reactions from binding, make sure to see a medical professional.





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