How to Perk Up Your Breasts

I’m in my 20s and really love my boobs and would like to keep them perky for as long as possible. (They’re kind of big, so I’m fighting gravity.) I heard that soaking them with cold water firms the tissue. Is that legitimate? Are there other nonsurgical things to do (aside from wearing a supportive bra)?

— N/A

Short Take

Neither soaking breasts in cold water nor wearing a bra are effective strategies to combat loss of breast perkiness, although wearing a well-fitted bra will help your breasts be more supported.

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Tell Me More

Breasts sag over time (most tissue does). When it happens to the breast doctors call it ptosis. Breast ptosis is primarily due to two factors: changes in the supporting ligaments and a reduction in volume of breast tissue, or both.

The major structural proteins in our bodies are collagen and elastin, and they are in a never ending battle with time and the environment. Changes in collagen and elastin affect the tautness of the ligaments that support the breasts, causing laxity in the tissue. Genetics play a big part in how these proteins age, but smoking accelerates the process.

Changes in volume of breast tissue also contributes to ptosis. That’s because female breast tissue itself is mostly fat (adipose tissue), milk glands and ducts. For example, weight loss of more than 50 pounds will increase ptosis.

Larger cup size and pregnancy are both risk factors for ptosis. And the more pregnancies you experience, the greater the likelihood of it happening. The good news? The change in breast shape does not appear to be related to breast-feeding itself. It seems to be a result of the increase in breast size during pregnancy, which stretches the ligaments, as well as the subsequent loss of breast volume after pregnancy or breastfeeding. Hormonal changes could also play a role.

Menopause also contributes to breast ptosis. The reduction in estrogen may affect collagen and also causes the milk glands to reduce in volume.

How to Prevent Sagging

Remember the chant: “We must, we must, we must increase our bust,”? . Bad news: breasts do not have muscle, so there are no chest exercises that will prevent breast ptosis, so those chants are only a dose of early snake oil.

There are no supplements, creams, soaks, pumps or bras that will prevent breast ptosis. None of these things can prevent collagen or elastin from aging or being affected by pregnancies, and they cannot prevent changes in breast volume.

If you smoke, quitting will be good for your breasts — smoking is not only associated with cosmetic changes to breast tissue, but it also increases the risk of breast cancer.

A temporary change in breast appearance can be achieved while wearing an appropriately fitted bra. Women interested in more permanent changes in breast appearance could find a board-certified plastic surgeon for advice.

A Personal Note

The “perky breast is best” construct is what the patriarchy would have us believe is “normal” for women. It suggests that a not quite out of puberty appearance is the norm. Breasts come in all shapes and sizes, just like the women who have them. Some are big, some are small, and some are more tear drop shape than others. I hope you always love your breasts no matter how they look.

Dr. Jen Gunter, Twitter’s resident gynecologist, is teaming up with our editors to answer your questions about all things women’s health. From what’s normal for your anatomy, to healthy sex, to clearing up the truth behind strange wellness claims, Dr. Gunter, who also writes a column called, The Cycle, promises to handle your questions with respect, forthrightness and honesty.

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