Chest Binding and Your Health

Posted: December 13, 2017

Choosing to bind your chest and/or having top surgery are personal decisions many transgender individuals think about at some point. Many transgender and non-binary people are unhappy with the appearance of their chest and they ultimately seek top surgery. While waiting for this surgery, or if the person chooses not to undergo it, many people still choose to bind their chests. There are a lot of myths out there as to whether this practice is safe, and whether it will affect the results of your top surgery, if and when you choose to get it.

“Is binding your chest dangerous?”

There are a lot of horror stories online, some exaggerating the effects of binding your chest. Obviously binding too tightly, and binding during exercise are never good ideas, and are strongly discouraged. It is also good practice to give yourself a break from the binder and not wear it 24/7. It’s important to get a binder that fits correctly and doesn’t pinch or cut into the skin. A common problem, people who bind may come across during the hot months of the year, is the development of rashes underneath the chest tissue. This is usually due to something called “candidal intertrigo” which is a fungal infection of the skin.  Patients typically will get redness, irritation, and itching which is worsened during the hot months when the chest is bound.  If you develop symptoms like these your primary care doctor can prescribe either a cream or a powder to help relieve symptoms; however a break from tight binding would usually be recommended.  It is very important to note that during exercise your chest needs to be able to expand to breathe properly, and binding should be avoided at this time also.

“Will binding affect the outcomes of my top surgery?”

The vast majority of transgender folks know that binding does not negatively affect top surgery outcomes. However in patients who wear a tight garment for a long time, grooving or indentations can appear, typically at the shoulders or underneath the arm just above the chest. These can be permanent, however there are certain things we can do during surgery which can help correct the lower grooving, e.g. liposuction, unfortunately this isn’t always covered by insurance.

We can therefore conclude that binding in moderation is a safe practice provided the following care strategies are adhered to:

  1. The patient needs a break from the binder. Not sleeping in the binder would be a good example of a ‘break’.
  2. The binder needs to fit correctly and not be too tight or restrictive or cause issues with breathing.
  3. In hot months, be vigilant for rashes that may appear underneath the chest tissue.
  4. Do not wear a binder while exercising.
  5. Many patients don’t realize that top surgery can be provided through your insurance company. Ultimately for health and comfort, not to mention relief of gender dysphoria, surgery is certainly the best option for some.

Binding is usually required for just a short time after top surgery, between one week and one month depending on the technique used.

Contact us for details if you are interested in pursuing top surgery!

Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher
University Gender Affirmation Surgery

Go Back