How to bind your chest safely and healthily
Some people bind their chest as a way of dealing with chest dysphoria, presenting as masculine in public spaces. We have some good tips for you in this article, but we recommend chatting to a trusted health professional before you start binding.
There's a lot of misinformation out there about binding that can be unsafe, and it's important that if you do decide to bind, that you do it safely.
Different Binding Methods
Our first tip: don’t bind with bandages. Nope. Not even just for a day. Don’t do it. Yes, we know Lady Gaga did it that one time. Don’t do it. Bandages are the least safe way of binding out there. They can cause permanent damage to your chest tissue, lungs and ribs. It’s not worth the risk.
This can be super useful if you’ve already bound your chest and you still have some visible chest tissue, or if you don’t own anything to bind with. It’s not hugely effective if you have a large chest, but hey – it's better than nothing. A tight sports bra or undershirt under one or two larger shirts, like a button up shirt hanging loose, (shirts with pockets on the chest are particularly good) can make your chest look dramatically smaller.
Sports bra method
If you own a couple of sports bras at home, try this out sometime. A tight fitting sports bra can totally flatten a small chest. For those of us who are a bit bigger, try layering a couple. If you wear one bra normally and a second one backwards, it can be even more effective.
There’s a few guidelines to follow, though! Try not to wear bras that are more than a size too small – they might fit tighter, but they can be super damaging. And if they’re particularly tight, don’t wear them for too long! We recommend keeping to a rule of eight hours, maximum.
This is a thick, kinda rubbery material. Like wetsuits. Actually, exactly like wetsuits. You can buy back braces and the like made out of this that will work for chest binding too. Just do them up under your arm to hide the Velcro, combine with a loose shirt and you’re good to go. You might need to trim it a little bit to fit, but it’s easy enough to do!
Sports compression wear
A lot of athletic companies make compression shirts. They’re easy to put on and often in stock at sports and athletics stores so you can even try them on!
The pantyhose method
Stockings and pantyhose with a ‘control top’ can be converted into a super cheap binder. They’re not the most comfortable or effective things but when you’re stuck, it’ll help. Just trim the legs off, and cut a hole in the crotch for your neck- and voila! You might need to layer these, too, to make them more effective.
Keep in mind that this isn't the safest method, and try not to do it for long, but it's good for an emergency.
There's a growing number of companies that sell binders specifically for trans people! Most of these you can only buy online, and they tend not to be cheap, but they’re the most effective method out there. With a bit of googling you’ll also find some good reviews of most of these to help choose before you spend all your money!
Some use binding methods to help alleviate body dysphoria, but there's a level of risk attached to it. Because you are compressing tissue, it can cause damage and potentially even breakages to your ribs if done improperly. If things go wrong with your ribs, it has the potential to be really damaging. So it's important to be careful, safe, and use correct methods to stay healthy, and look after your own wellbeing. Always talk to a health professional if you experience any pain or major discomfort.
Use the safest methods you can afford, and watch out for chafing, excessive sweating, rashes and pain. If you experience any chafing issues, try wearing an undershirt or using a talcum powder under your binder of choice.
If you notice any pain in your chest, give yourself a breather and try to restrict yourself to eight hours of binding at a time.
If you are having any difficulty breathing or are experiencing pain, take your binder off straight away. And be sure to get yourself to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible if that doesn’t make it go away.
Take breaks from binding, too. If you’ve been binding every day for a week, maybe stay home for a day where no one will see your chest, or try layering shirts for a day or two.
Remember, above all else, to listen to your body!