Healthier and Safer Ways to Bind Your Chest

BY Sarah Wednesday, 18 October 2017

You've gotta make sure you do it right

Some people bind their chest as a way of dealing with chest dysphoria, presenting as masculine in public spaces or even just cosplaying as a character with a flat chest. You should chat to a trusted health professional before you start binding.

Unfortunately 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. Check out this super useful guide on how to bind safely, including some more cost accessible methods.

Different Binding Methods

1. Bandages
Don’t bind with bandages. Nope. Not even just for a day. Don’t do it. Yes, I 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, I promise you. Especially Ace Bandages! They’re designed to get tighter with movement - which is the last thing you want!

2. Layering shirts
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. Better than nothing. A tight sports bra or undershirt under one or two larger shirts (button up shirts hanging loose, particularly ones with pockets on the chest are great for this) can make your chest look dramatically smaller.

3. 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, and 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! I keep to a rule of 8 hours tops. 

4. Neoprene
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! 

5. Sports compression wear
A lot of athletic companies make compression shirts. They’re easy to put on and often in stock at places like SportsMart so you can even try them on!

6. 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. 

7. Professional binders
There’s a few companies that sell binders specifically for dealing with gynecomastia (growth of breast tissue) in cis men, and some that are even designed for trans people especially! 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! 

Safety Tips

Some use binding methods to help alleviate body dysphoria, but it has 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 lethal. 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. However, if you experience any issues around chafing, 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 8 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!