I’m 30 and I have saggy, deflated boobs. The medical term for it is actually ‘severe ptosis’. There. I said it. The words ‘deflated’ and ‘breasts’ are two words most women generally don’t want to combine into a phrase to describe an aspect of themselves.
The funny thing about ending up with sagging breasts is that they can often come after the occurrence of a positive life event for women. You carry a child for 9 months, and your breasts increase in size, due to a combination of hormonal changes and your milk-producing glands changing shape. And then when it’s all over, you will find that your boobs have changed too.
Your breasts will also start to sag as you get older. Now, some people might say that as a woman, getting older is not a positive life event. But if you consider the alternative, an untimely demise, I would prefer to think about growing older as a positive thing. Wisdom, confidence, and just a vast array of life experiences are part of the joys of getting older.
Then there’s the sag that comes from weight loss. Maybe you decided to get up one day, and start on the path to getting healthier. As the number on the scale started to drop, you noticed that many parts of your body started to look smaller too. I mean, the weight had to come from somewhere.
The list doesn’t stop at positive events of course. Other factors, like gravity (and the size of your breasts), heredity (don’t underestimate this one), and smoking also affect the sagging of your breasts.
How I ended up with sagging breasts
In 2010, I decided enough was enough. I was 5’7, 24, and well on my way to being 300lbs. I also had big, heavy 38H breasts. Now, while they were nice and firm, and maybe the stuff that dreams are made of (for some), they were also a massive burden. I wasn’t exercising then, so I had weak back and core muscles, which resulted in back pain, no matter what kind of bra I wore.
To make matters worse, at the time, I was living in Asia, and well, you can certainly imagine the level of attention a non-Asian woman pushing 300lbs with massive boobs would attract. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the kind of attention that made me feel positively about myself.
After a lot of hard work (which is an entire article in itself), I managed to drop a fair bit of the weight. The number on the scale went down, my energy and strength levels grew, and so did my confidence. I could shop at the same shops as my friends, in the SAME SECTION! I could go up 5 flights of stairs without feeling like I was going to pass out, and I stopped sweating as much. It was great. All of it was great until I looked at myself in the mirror naked. Extra skin everywhere, and boobs that now drooped down, deflated, pendulous, like balloons forgotten long after a birthday party has ended.
How did all this make me feel?
Well, as much as I had gained back a lot of confidence and reduced my health problems, I now had a new problem that was affecting my self-esteem. It’s a struggle. Once, I locked myself out of my apartment, and as I waited for someone to come and open the door for me, I texted my friend nervously, “I’m locked out without a bra!” Never mind the fact that dinner was cooking in the oven and I could do nothing but pray that I had set the timer correctly, or that the super would come quickly, lest I burn my unit down. My concern was that people would see me without a bra on, and a crisis would ensue.
This obviously is not the best mindset to have when thinking about your own body, it’s not sustainable, so I decided to see if there was anything I could do try and sort out my problem. The results of my mission are listed below.
What can you do about deflated breasts?
Well, to understand what your options are, it’s probably best to look individually at all the forces that cause your breasts to sag.
The bigger your boobs, the larger the strain on your ligaments
In most of the body, ligaments are a type of connective tissue that help to hold joints together. The breasts have their own set of ligaments, called Cooper’s ligaments that create a supportive structure from your clavicle to your breast. This helps to give your breast its shape, and helps it to maintain its position.
When your breasts increase in size, whether to due to overall weight gain, pregnancy-related weight gain or aging, this puts strain on these ligaments, and affects the ability for them to support your breasts effectively. These ligaments also naturally weaken over time, as do all ligaments in your body.
Loss of volume
This reason is pretty straightforward. There’s just less tissue in your breasts than there was before. Depending on the situation, this may be caused by the change in the size of your mammary glands if you are breastfeeding, to the loss of adipose tissue (fat) if you lose weight.
The end result of both of these factors is that the skin that was enveloping this tissue had to grow to accommodate your expanding breast. Even though the volume of your breasts may have decreased, the skin that encapsulates your breasts doesn’t go away.
So what can I do to fix these deflating boobs?
This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of all the possible options offered up online to fix sagging breasts, but a look at the options that I considered.
The logic follows that if your ligaments are stretched, it’s just a matter of un-stretching them. Surgeons can tighten ligaments in ankles and other joints, so why not boobs? At present, there is no way to repair the loss of elasticity and firmness in the Cooper’s ligaments.
The go-to surgical remedy for sagging, deflated breasts is a breast lift, or a mastopexy. It functions just how you might expect. Your extra skin is removed and your tissue is tightened to create a breast shape that properly supports your reduced amount of tissue.
I’m not getting surgery anytime soon for a number of reasons. It’s expensive. The surgery alone can cost around 5 grand in the United States if performed by a reputable surgeon, and that doesn’t even include pre-op costs like testing, hospital costs, and all the other post-op costs that you can expect after a surgery.
The other thing is scarring. Now, depending on which type of breast shape you have and your situation, different types of incisions can be suggested, so the results of the surgery might not necessarily yield a lot of scarring, but still this is an issue that I think about.
I feel like the results of exercise get embellished, and it’s easy to understand why. It gives people hope, and it’s something you can do absolutely for free, so why not? I’m an advocate of chest exercises, but it’s really important that you adjust your expectations.
Exercises that focus on building your pec muscles, such as bench pressing or push-ups will certainly help to reshape the muscle underneath your breast. You may notice some change in the shape of your chest, depending on your anatomy. But please don’t expect to wake up one day after a year of doing push-ups to much higher, perkier boobs than when you started, because that just ain’t going to happen.
All this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do chest exercises. As I mentioned before, one of my problems before I lost the weight was back pain. While I focus on exercising my back and my trunk muscles, it’s important to balance things out and also have strong pecs. After 6 years of Body Pump though, I can safely say that this is not going to be your path to boobs that don’t sag anymore, but it will improve your overall well-being, which is a pretty good side effect.
Google ‘diet for sagging breasts’ and there are half a million results. I have mixed feelings about the ideas touted on these pages. Again, like the pages that suggest exercises to prevent drooping breasts, they tend to exaggerate the results of all their suggested solutions.
The reason I said I had mixed feelings about this suggestion is that eating the foods that they suggest, healthy plant-based oils like coconut oil, or things high in anti-oxidants, are ways to increase your overall health and I’m all for that. Just don’t expect targeted results, because that’s not going to happen.
Personally, the only thing I take that could be remotely boob-enhancing is gelatine. Again, it’s like all the other foods suggested, it has great overall benefits for your body. I personally take it because it contains glycine which is good for sleep, and collagen production which is great for hair and nail growth, and maintaining skin elasticity.
I have read some stuff online about women using tretinoin creams or Retin-A on their breasts. It’s been used for years for the treatment of acne and to reduce wrinkling on the face.
Tretinoin works by speeding up the renewal of your skin and over time, it will thicken the layers of your skin. The logic is thickened skin = lower susceptibility to wrinkles.
I use tretinoin on my face, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to use it on my boobs just yet. Going back to those two factors, it’s definitely not going to help my ligaments, and it’s not going make that extra skin disappear. It might thicken it a bit, and give it a smoother appearance. For some, that may make tretinoin worth it, but I’m holding off for now.
I’m just going to call this section ‘other stuff’ because there’s a whole load of crap out there. Miraculous pills, boob masks, ice massages, breast massages, all promising to help cure deflated boobs. When assessing all of these so-called remedies, think of the two underlying reasons why your boobs are sagging: extra skin and stretched ligaments. If the remedy doesn’t directly address either of those things, call bullshit and move on.
I’ve even read marketing copy for bras that say that they will reverse sagging, especially push-up bras. There is no bra out there that will do that.
There is lots of anecdotal evidence about people recovering elasticity after wearing the correct bra for some time. This is usually reported by women who have breastfed and then recovered elasticity after pregnancy. In some cases, this can occur, but it likely has more to do with genetics than it does the fit of a bra.
Regarding regaining elasticity through the use of properly-fitting bras and the magic of tissue migration, no evidence of this has ever been recorded in any kind of study with good methodology and a large, varied sample size of women with big breasts. Take whatever studies you read on the topic with a grain of salt. In short, there’s no conclusive evidence that having a perfectly-fitting bra will allow you to regain your breast elasticity.
What a good bra will do is give you lift and some good shaping while it’s on. Wearing one 24 hours a day is not going to stop the sagging. Remember, if the solution isn’t actively remedying the two underlying factors, it’s probably not going to work.
That said, the topic of bras leads me to my next point, which is…
Again, with preventive measures, keep those same two questions in mind: Will this affect my breast volume? Will this affect the strain on my ligaments?
One of the things you can do is invest in a good sports bra. When you exercise, your breasts are moving up and down and side to side, and over time, this puts strain on those ligaments. While wearing a sports bra isn’t going to undo damage that has already been done, it can certainly help to reduce the stress on the ligaments, which is never a bad thing.
Wearing supportive bras during your day to day life is also good practice. The idea behind this is if you’re putting less strain on your ligaments, you can certainly slow the process of sag down. There is no firm evidence on the effectiveness of this, and the results will certainly vary when you consider all the factors that go into causing a breast to sag.
The other thing, and this is much harder to control, is to avoid weight fluctuation. This is not as cut and dry as it sounds, because all sorts of things affect our weight, apart from the conscious diet decisions we make. Our heredity and hormones also play a factor in how our body regulates our weight, which in turn may affect our boobs.
So are there any takeaways then?
Well, for me the biggest thing has just been a shift in my thinking. Sure, my boobs looked awesome in a sense back in 2010, but at what cost? I was not leading the kind of life a 24 year old should be leading, and I would never want to go back to the shape I was in back then.
Buying bras that actually complemented my shape and lifted me has helped a ton. Most of us spend the majority of our days wearing clothes, so that aspect of my confidence is covered.
But what happens when it’s just me and the mirror? Well, it’s still a struggle. There’s so many idealized images out there about how an ideal western woman should look, and for the most part, none of them look like me. I can’t go back in time and change this body, and at the moment, I’m not pinning my hopes on surgery.
What I can do now is develop other aspects of myself so that I don’t fixate on the fact that my body does not look a certain way. Now that I’ve got my body somewhat sorted out, I’m working on the rest. I try to avoid media that constantly promotes a particular and unvaried beauty ideal. I’ve worked hard to surround myself with body positive, supportive people and this has been a big help.
Developing skills and working on things that I’m good at has proven to be a positive step too. The idea behind this is that there are many ways to measure your worth, and how you look does not need to be one of them.
There’s no one-size-fits-all fix for everyone, but I hope talking about this stuff will lead to more people being comfortable with the idea of being open about it.