Ladies who have been wearing the same bra for an extended period of time should consider swapping it out for a new one to help protect their breast health, according to a lingerie expert — and a board-certified dermatologist weighed in as well.
Katie Weir, the “bra whisperer” at lingerie brand Curvy Kate, has worked in the lingerie industry for 15 years, fitting thousands of women in person and virtually.
“If you are wearing your bra regularly — four times a week or more — and you don’t look after it as carefully as you should, it will only last for up to five months,” the U.K.-based expert told Fox News Digital via email.
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“By this time, the bra will be too stretched to offer you the right amount of support, which can negatively affect the support your boobs should be getting,” she said.
“However, if you do take care of your bra, it could last up to a year.”
Body changes due to hormone fluctuations, weight gain or weight loss can also result in an ill-fitting bra, she said.
To prevent this, Weir suggested women get a bra fitting every six months to ensure that it’s the correct size.
Wearing a bra for longer than recommended can result in the underwires penetrating through the fabric and digging into the underarms or sternum, she warned.
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“As the bra is stretched out, it will have lost shape and elasticity, meaning it won’t be holding your body and lifting your bust as much, which can lead to poor posture,” she added — and “even lack of self-esteem.”
When a bra has lost elasticity, the wearer will need to tighten the band and shoulder straps, leading to an uncomfortable and ill-fitting shape underneath clothing, Weir noted.
“When you get a new bra, you should always wear it on the loosest hook and eye,” Weir said. “This should feel firm with two-finger tension, enough to be pulled away from the body no more than an inch.”
Every five months, Weir suggests tightening the hook and eyes on the band.
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“After four months, this will be to the middle, and after eight months it will be on the tightest hook,” she said. “This will offer the same firm fit as day one.”
How an ill-fitting bra impacts the skin
Allison Leer, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder at Unity Skincare in Dallas, Texas, warned that wearing a bra that is too tight can lead to chafing due to the bra rubbing against the skin.
“There are certain pressure points on a bra that can leave visible red marks and irritation, such as your underbust and where the bra falls on your back and shoulders,” she told Fox News Digital.
“The constant rubbing of the skin causes rashes and inflammation, which under certain conditions can lead to an infection.”
Wearing a bra that is too large can also have adverse effects on the skin, said Leer.
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“If the bra is too big, your breasts won’t receive the support they need, which leads to unsightly stretch marks,” she said.
Wearing a properly fitted bra can help avoid these issues while keeping the skin around the breast area healthy and youthful, Leer added.
Tips to extend the life of your bra
Weir shared with Fox News Digital some of her top tips to get the maximum wear out of a bra.
Machine washing can damage delicate bras by putting excess pressure on the underwires, she said, and fast spin speeds and hot temperatures can distort delicate and embroidered fabrics.
“If you do need to wash your bras, handwashing is the best route to go down, as your delicates might not fare well in a washing machine,” she said.
When washing lingerie, Weir recommended using a non-biological detergent.
Biological detergents use enzymes to better remove dirt from clothes, but they can sometimes be a bit harsh on fabrics.
Non-bio detergents do not contain these enzymes.
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“Also avoid using fabric conditioner, as it will break down the elasticity in your bras,” she said, which could cause the bra to become misshapen and less supportive.
Never put bras in a tumble dryer, said Weir, as the harsh, hot environment will cause shrinkage, wire damage and a misshapen fit.
“The best option is to air dry them without hanging them up by the straps, which may put unnecessary strain on them,” she said.
“Instead, dry your bras flat or air dry them on a rack by the middle of the bra.”
In between wearings, Weir recommended storing bras in a way that will help them keep their shape and avoid breeding dangerous bacteria.
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Avoid storing molded bras with a cup folded inside the other, she said, as this will lead to creasing and misshapen cups.
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“Try not to tangle your underwired bras, as this can bend the wires out of shape,” Weir added.
“Instead, lay them flat in your drawer or hang them in your wardrobe.”
To read more pieces in Fox News Digital’s “Be Well” series, click here.