Friday, May 17, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Contusion"/Bras!

(I know it's Friday, but the post was done yesterday :-) )

Another week is almost over, so welcome to the second Thesaurus Thursday: Bra Edition.  After remembering how much fun it was to write the first one, I have decided to do another.  Be prepared to see the occasional Bra Edition in the future!  Because the first had a lot of basic fitting information, I would like to share more personal experiences with bras and more specific fit issues.

Today's word is "contusion," a noun that means blemish or bruise.

If you notice angry red contusions that do not fade quickly around your ribcage, on your breasts, or on your shoulders when taking off a bra, you might be wearing the wrong size.

"They didn't tell you at the animal shelter?
It's a complimentary service.  I save boobs, one bad bra at a time."

It is normal to get marks on skin from fitted clothing.  Jeans, socks, underwear, tights; all of them can leave marks.  It's no different with bras.  But when you have bright red, painful, itchy, or deeply indented marks and chafing, you could easily be wearing the wrong size.  I say "could be" because sometimes it is possible to simply not know what the heck is going on; you'll be perfectly comfortable and supported in your bra then suddenly freak out when you take it off.

I have a faint shadow-scar around my ribcage.  At first, I thought it was from wearing my bras too tight.  Then Mr. Nerd said he has noticed it since high school, when I wore 34 bands that barely touched my skin.  Seriously, what gives?  After experimenting with various band and cup size combinations, I found that no matter what size I wore, I got marks that didn't fade for hours. I noticed that I would get marks from socks that didn't fade for hours as well, and I knew my socks fit OK!  I could sit down on an soft uneven surface and get up five minutes later with my legs looking like road maps and a weird bruise on the back of my thighs.  I knew that some doctors thought I was anemic in the past and had been surprised when tests came back negative/normal. So I've just resigned myself to getting marks that many would point to and go, "You need a different size!" despite being very comfortable in the sizes I choose and uncomfortable in other sizes.  And how a bra feels does matter.


All of that said, there are fit issues that can cause a bra to leave bruises or more pronounced marks than one would normally get.  These include:

Too much weight supported by the shoulder straps.  If the band isn't doing roughly 80% of the work, the straps likely dig in to your shoulders.  For some people, there's no way to stop the straps from digging in a bit, because 20% can still be a lot to handle.  A too-loose band can cause the straps to dig in more than is necessary, though.  Consider going down a band size.  Don't forget to go up a cup if you wish to keep the same cup volume!

Incorrect band size.  If there is a red line going all the way around your body parallel to the floor that doesn't disappear after a short time, especially if you feel deeper ribcage pain and notice discomfort bending or twisting, consider going up a band size/down a cup accordingly.  Check to make sure your cup is large enough first.  A too-large band and too-small cup can mimic wearing a band that is too small.  A band that is too large can also cause chafing as it moves around on your body.  You can usually spot this if there is chafing while the band is riding up in the back.

Too wide/too narrow underwires/incorrect shape for your breasts.  If you end up with marks in places like beyond the edge of your breast tissue toward your back or marks on some of the tissue while other parts of your breasts are fully encased by the cups, this could be the culprit.  Try on various sizes first to make sure that you are in the right size.  If no size in a certain bra seems to fit, check out this article by Venusian*Glow on whether you need narrow or wide underwires and see if it applies to you.

A lot of people who need narrow underwires will purchase 
Freya and avoid Panache, for example.
(Top: Panache Tango Balconette.  Bottom: Freya Rio Balconette)

Wide/high center gore and/or wires that come up high under the arms.  A high center gore can dig into your sternum.  If you're like me and have breasts that don't quite fully separate at the top, a high or wide gore can cause pain by poking the tissue.  High underwires at the sides that poke the armpits are a problem for many petite women, but they can also create issues for any woman with high-set breasts.  Sometimes you can find alterations to fix these; By Baby's Rules gives a great tutorial on how to narrow a center gore and lower stabbing wires.  At other times it is best just to find a different style of bra that suits your shape, like choosing a plunge over a balconette if you need a very low gore.

Other.  I include an "other" category because some people have physical conditions (like anemia) that make them bruise easily.  Dehydration can even cause clothing to leave imprints that fade less quickly.  If you suspect dehydration is an issue and just drinking more water doesn't help much, you can put moisturizing products directly on the marks to help.  I like cocoa butter, but I've heard great things about other moisturizers.  Remember that all people's skin is different, and there is always the possibility of allergic reactions to cosmetic products, so read labels and find one that works for you.

©Antonio Petronzio/Cosmo
And because this is a text-heavy post, 
here is another gratuitous picture of puppies with a bra.

While I am probably in the minority getting very noticeable, longer-lasting marks on my skin from a well-fitted bra, I can tell when one is a poor fit by the marks it starts to leave that are different than usual.  When I'm wearing a cup size that is too large, I get itchier red marks nearer my back.  If I wear a band that is too small, I start to get purple-y marks on my sides and feel pinching when I bend over or extend my arms.  If wires are too wide, my breasts are pulled to the sides, and I get the marks of a too-large cup but still get quad-boob in front.

To conclude, if you are wearing a bra that feels good and fits well, and still get marks like me, don't sweat it too much.  That is, if you find the benefits of wearing a bra and getting the marks outweigh the benefits of not wearing a bra.  If you don't feel comfortable with it, there's no shame in wearing soft cups or going braless.  And if you truly hate it, but you really feel most comfortable in underwired bras, I would suggest considering a dermatologist (or other health professional if you prefer alternative/homeopathic medicine).

Stay comfortable and supported, my friends!


  1. My red marks tend to last a while as well although my skin is sensitive too. The marks aren't painful, but my skin just reacts a little stronger. I blame my paleness!

    1. I definitely put some of the blame on paleness :-). Pale skin does have a tendency to be sensitive, and it also makes marks look more pronounced, too. I recently got a burn on my leg, and it looked 10x worse than it actually was just because the redness contrasted so starkly with the white around it!