What older woman wouldn’t want to keep her breasts as perky as they were in her 20s? After all, a woman’s breasts are an important sign of her femininity.
Unfortunately, the depressing reality is that from about age 30 every woman starts facing the battle to keep the girls from going south. Of all the areas of the body, the breasts are most affected by gravity. What’s more, the rate at which breasts age is two to three years ahead of the rest of the body.
So far, medical science hasn’t yet discovered a magical non-surgical solution for this inevitable part of ageing. But, ladies, all is not lost . . .
Factors that affect sagging
To give your breasts the best chance of surviving the ravages of time, it’s worth understanding how they’re affected by your lifestyle.
According to plastic surgeon Dr Armando Soto, breasts consist of mammary glands and fat, with connective tissue and ligaments that link the main parts of the breasts to the skin. “They sag over time because the support structure (composed of the skin, ligaments and connective tissue within the breast) loses integrity.”
Several factors determine the severity and rate at which sagging of the breasts (also called “ptosis”) develops, says Dr Frederic Corbin, Clinical Instructor in Plastic Surgery at Western University of Health Sciences in California. These factors include:
- Genetic traits (e.g. breast size, density, skin elasticity, composition of glandular and fatty tissue)
- Loss of skin elasticity (a result of the natural ageing process)
- Cigarette smoking
- Number of pregnancies
- Breast cup size prior to pregnancy
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Weight gain or loss
And, yes, size does count. If you have large, heavy breasts, there will be more pull on the supporting ligaments and skin, which tend to stretch permanently under constant strain.
Natural breast-improvement options
Unfortunately there’s no magic solution. Surgery remains the best option to help droopy boobs regain their former upright status. If you’re still young, however, it’s worth giving these natural breast improvement options a go:
1. Avoid weight fluctuations
During your lifetime, your breast size may change as your body undergoes weight fluctuations and the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause.
While it’s not always easy to avoid weight changes, doctors like breast surgeon Ian Laidlaw of Frimley Park Hospital in England stress that maintaining a constant weight is one of the best ways to prevent boobs from sagging.
The breast fat found in a layer of padding just underneath the skin tends to fluctuate in thickness when women gain and lose weight. Yo-yo dieting and crash diets that focus on rapid weight loss are especially harmful as the fat layer thins out dramatically, permanently damaging the supporting skin.
2. Perk up with good posture
Good posture can make a big difference in the appearance of your breasts, according to plastic surgeon Dr Ronald Downs. Poor posture, on the other hand, can cause breasts to sag and droop.
Sitting up straighter can also make the breasts appear higher and bigger. Dr Downs recommends standing sideways in front of a mirror, then pulling the shoulders back and lifting your chin to see what a difference posture can make.
3. Use moisturiser and sunblock
Like facial skin, the delicate skin on your breasts and décolleté contain collagen and elastin, which make the skin pliable and firm. As we age, the body produces less collagen, so it makes sense to nurture breast skin.
Ultraviolet light breaks down collagen and elastin. So, always wear a broad-spectrum sunblock (SPF 30+) and try to avoid sun exposure.
Also keep your breasts well moisturised. This may help to minimise damage from stretching that skin undergoes when you gain or lose weight, for instance. Good natural moisturisers include cocoa butter, shea butter, organic coconut oil, hazelnut oil, evening primrose oil and rosehip oil.
4. Sweat it out
Don’t believe claims that certain exercises and gimmicks will magically elevate your breasts. Remember that your breasts don’t contain any muscle tissue.
That said, resistance exercises like chest presses, chest flies, bench presses and assisted dips can improve tone and build the underlying pectoral muscles to give a natural lifting effect. Exercises that strengthen the core, e.g. Pilates, can also help reduce back and neck pain if you have large breasts.
5. Consider hydrotherapy
Many French women rely on hydrotherapy to firm their boobs. This practice of immersing breasts in alternating warm and cold water is purported to release skin proteins responsible for skin tone and tightening. It may also help to enhance the blood flow to the skin, increasing elasticity and the production of collagen.
Keen to give it a try? While you’re in the shower, immerse your breasts under warm (not hot) water for about 30 seconds before switching for 10 to 13 seconds to the coldest water you can tolerate. Keep on alternating between warm and cold water for around 10 minutes. Make sure you use hot water for longer periods than cold water. End the process with cold water.
Wear a good bra
Anyone who’s ever owned a push-up bra will know that it can have a wondrous effect. But while a beautiful bra might be pleasing to the eye, it’s better to buy a properly supporting bra in the right size. This will simply be more comfortable, especially if you have large breasts.
Common wisdom dictates that a lack of bra support can lead to back/neck pain and bad posture. But, interestingly, there’s very little evidence to support this. In fact, new research shows that wearing a bra may do more harm than good.
Sports scientist Jean-Denis Rouillon from the University of Besançon in France, who conducted a 15-year study among a small sample of women, found that wearing a bra weakened the muscles that support the breasts, resulting in greater sagging.
While we wait for more research to confirm whether this really is the case, we don’t recommend burning your bras quite yet. Instead, opt to have a proper bra fitting – a good-quality bra that fits to size will go a long way toward making your breasts appear more perky.
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2. Channel 4 UK TV documentary: "Bras, the Bare Facts." http://breathing.com/articles/brassieres-2.htm