As the lovely ladies of Girls so boldly illustrate to us every Sunday night, twenty-somethings have the best boobs. Unfortunately, we won’t always be the proud owners of such perky, perfect breasts. Time and a pesky little thing called gravity are working against us, and none of us are looking forward to the day when what used to be firm and bouncy starts feeling loose and droopy. While we know saggy boobs are in all of our eventual futures (hopefully our far, far-away futures), we’re still fighting back. We can stave off the sagging for a few extra years by giving our girls the support they deserve today!
Why it happens
Before we try to delay the sagging, we have to understand why it happens in the first place. Just what is it that makes our girls let loose?
Nature or nurture?
According to Dr. Fardad Farouzanpour, a plastic surgeon and founder of Beverly Hills Cosmetic Surgical group, sagging is based in biology.
“Breasts are composed of fat cells, milk ducts, milk glands, and Cooper's ligaments,” he explains. “As women age, milk glands in the breasts are replaced with fat tissue [that has] less support.” While he says that breasts can sag at any age, he adds, “Most females do not experience sagging during their teenage years or early twenties unless their breasts are extremely large [or] the person is obese.” What does this mean for us collegiettes? That we’re only just entering our prime!
Sagging isn’t purely biological, however. Dr. Farouzanpour notes that a number of external factors can speed up the process. In addition to genetics and the stretching of the skin and the Cooper's ligaments, he cites “gravity, weight gain and weight loss, pregnancy, certain sports that can cause the breasts to bounce, and possibly cigarette smoking” as key factors behind the boob droop.
How to stop it
Thanks to biology and genetics, it’s an unavoidable truth that our beautiful boobs will one day sag. The silver lining, however, is that most of the external factors that Dr. Farouzanpour attributes to sagging fall within our control, which means we can easily delay the inevitable (without turning to surgery).
1. Wear a supportive sports bra
We like to let our best buddies hang free as much as the next girl, but there’s a time and a place for bralessness. Here’s a hint: it’s not when we’re running on the treadmill, playing tennis, or sweating out our last meal at CrossFit. And it’s not even during our sneaky dorm room workouts – sad, we know.
Dr. Farouzanpour says a snug sports bra is the key to maintaining firmness. “[A supportive sports bra] can prevent the skin and ligaments from stretching,” he explains. “Women with larger breasts [especially] should wear more supportive bras to prevent the breasts from bouncing while jogging.” Bouncing only puts more strain on our skin.
We know that, like us, you’re now looking at your sports bra collection and wondering to yourself, “How the heck can I tell if it’s supportive?” The definition of support goes beyond simply preventing the girls from flying in our face mid-workout. Look for sports bras with adjustable straps, inner seaming that circles the sides and bottom of the breast, and cup size differentiation (rather than just XS-XXL). If it’s thin, flimsy, and unstructured, chuck it in the trash. Try these top-notch sports bras instead:
- Champion® The Smoothie™ High-Support Sports Bra, $28
- Shock Absorber Flexi Wire Sports Bra, $79
- Champion® Shape Too! Underwire Sports Bra, $39.99
2. Have a professional bra fitting
Would you use a half-gallon jug to carry a gallon of milk? No. So why are you squeezing your C-cups into a B-cup bra?
Most collegiettes don’t realize that they aren’t wearing the right bra. You could chalk it up to the fact that we’re focused on more important things – term papers usually trump underwire on the to-do list – but we aren’t the only ones making mistakes; 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size. It would be one thing if incorrect bra sizing only resulted in mild discomfort, but it turns out that the right bra can keep our boobs perkier longer.
For the same reasons that they recommend a supportive sports bra, Dr. Farouzanpour and Rebecca Jennings, CEO of the plus size lingerie company Hips & Curves, stress that the support of a properly fitted bra is our first line of defense against sagging. According to Jennings, the best way to ensure your bra is cupping your breasts correctly is to have a professional fitting, which is free at any lingerie store and major department stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom. You can also use a service like True&Co. which sends you a curated selection of bras to try on and choose from at home based on your answers to an online questionnaire about your boobs and how your bras currently fit.
“Lifestyle [and] weight or health changes all can affect the type of bra that’s perfect for you,” notes Jennings. Your sizing could change over time without you even knowing it, so you should be fitted by a professional periodically to make sure that you’re still sporting the right fit. “Definitely don’t ignore your bra [sizings] for more than six months to a year,” advises Jennings.
While a fitting is best because the professional will tell you exactly what size you should be wearing, you can also determine for yourself whether or not your boobs are experiencing the Goldilocks effect. An ill-fitting bra “may slide up in the back or the cup may have some gaps. Both are signs that the bra is too big,” says Jennings. “You know a bra is too small if your breasts spill out the sides or the band is uncomfortably tight.” Another easy way to tell is by pulling your bra away from your back. If it stretches more than two inches away from your skin, you need a smaller size.
3. Don’t Smoke
As if you didn’t have enough reasons to stay away from cigarettes before, we’re giving you another that you probably hadn’t considered: your boobs! “Smoking... can also cause stretching of the breast tissue,” Dr. Farouzanpour elaborates. “So, [this is a] no-no if a woman wants to prevent her breasts from sagging.”
According to a 1998-2006 study on 132 women seeking breast lifts and implants, smoking does appear to exacerbate breast sagging. Brian Rinker, one of the plastic surgeons who contributed to the study, notes, “Smoking breaks down a protein in the skin called elastin, which gives youthful skin its elastic appearance and supports the breast.” We’d like to keep as much elastin as possible, thank you very much, so we’re passing on the cigarettes.
4. Protect the girls from UV rays
Sunburns are never any fun, no matter what part of your body they’re affecting. The good news is that most burns fade within a few days. The bad news is that if that burn happened to be on the undersides of your breasts, you’re more likely to have droopy boobs down the line.
One of the four scary truths you didn’t know about going tanning is that when UV light from a tanning bed (or sunshine from a topless afternoon by the pool) hits the sensitive, rarely-exposed skin on your breasts, it burns it far too quickly. Like all sunburns, it damages your skin cells and negatively affects elasticity, causing the tissue to wrinkle earlier in life. Lather on the sunscreen and always cover up your breasts while tanning. We’ll take tan lines over lackluster boobs any day!
5. Maintain a stable weight
Another major cause of breast sagging is weight fluctuation. “Weight gain associated with the consumption of alcohol and junk food” – i.e., weight gain from an unhealthy diet rather than weight gain from muscle-building exercise – “can also cause stretching of the breast tissue,” Dr. Farouzanpour elaborates. While muscle building makes you heavier, it doesn’t affect your breast tissue (which is why, sadly, no specific exercise or workout will keep your breasts firm and tight). Weight in the form of body fat, however, does affect breast size.
Unfortunately, our bodies oftentimes change without our say-so, so the best we can do is to stay consistent with healthy eating habits and exercise (with a supportive sports bra, of course!). The stretching and shrinking that accompanies weight fluctuations adds to the strain on your skin and ligaments (think of stretch marks), so it’s best to steer clear of fatty foods and fad and crash diets (which are bad for more than just our boobs, anyway). Be choosy in the dining hall! Unfortunately, Dr. Farouzanpour says there is no one diet or vitamin that is known to keep the girls firmly in place, so we’re trusting our healthy instincts... and our Pinterest recipes page.
“The way your curves change at any given age really depends on body type, lifestyle and heredity,” concludes Jennings. “What’s most important throughout our lives is to love and embrace them!” We love our perky boobs today and we’ll love them just as much when they’re starting to sag (we swear!). There’s nothing wrong with delaying that droopy day, though. Slap on a sports bra; get yourself fitted for support; and keep your skin from stretching by ditching the butts, the tanning beds, and the Big Macs – your boobs will thank you later!