When it comes to body image, women can be their own worst critics! Even women with the most well-proportioned bodies can find something to point out as not good enough. I witness this in my practice every day. From the well-toned athletes to those with hour-glass shaped silhouettes, nearly every woman has some gripe about her appearance and can outline exactly how she prefers the “problem area” to look.
So I was not at all surprised when I saw a commercial for a “vanishing back” bra. I can only imagine the demand for this is pretty high. Nearly every day I see a consult for concern about bra bulge or excess fat or skin rolls in the back area. Often, it is indeed excess fat that is the problem. Other times it is lax or loose back skin that is causing the problem of overspill in the bra area of the back. Lax or loose back skin, which is caused by a loss of skin elasticity, can be caused by weight gain followed by weight loss, excessive tanning, or simply the aging process. Excess back fat can be treated with liposuction whereas excess skin is treated with a bra line back lift. Liposuction unfortunately does not tighten loose skin.
However, there are times when bra bulge is caused simply by a poorly fitting bra! Eighty-five percent of women wear an incorrect bra size. Sometimes it is a combination of excess back fat and a poorly fitting or too tight bra. Why does this occur? Many women are caught up on being a certain bra size. For some reason there seems to be a belief that all women should be a 36C. This is simply not possible or even reasonable. A woman who is 5’2” and 110 lbs. and a woman who is 5’2” and 200 lbs. cannot both be a 36C, except in the rare case where all the excess weight of the 200 lb. woman is localized to the lower body and her upper body is slim. Another circumstance in which these two completely different body sizes could wear the same bra size is when a vanity label is sewn onto a custom-made bra.
The problem arises when the band part of the bra is too small for the chest circumference. In order for the fasteners to connect, excess skin and fat is pushed out of the way. This excess fat is pushed both under and over the bra. This overspill of fat and/or skin results in bulges. When fitted clothing is worn, the outline of the bulges becomes apparent and can make a woman severely self-conscious. How can a woman get rid of this back bulge?
When I examine a woman in consultation who is concerned about her back fat bulging out from her bra, the first thing I do is release the fasteners on the back of the bra. If a poor fitting bra is the issue, then voila, problem solved. I simply advise these women to get a bra that is a better fit. Some women don’t like to hear that they need to add an inch or two or more onto their bra band size, but it’s a much cheaper and simpler solution than having surgery, especially unnecessary surgery. I’ve had a patient who wore her bra so tight that not only did it cause bra bulge, it caused permanent grooving and discoloration on her back from the excessive pressure on the skin.
If the issue is indeed excess fat, then there are two ways to get rid of the bra bulge. The first has nothing to do with surgery and has everything to do with weight loss. Sometimes all that is needed is a change in diet and exercise habits to facilitate a decrease in body fat and alleviate the issues of bra bulge. This is much easier said than done. Often when I offer this as an alternative to surgery, some women prefer more of a quick fix and will lean to the second option for getting rid of bra bulge – liposuction. Liposuction removes excess fat from an area by suctioning or vacuuming the fat through a special instrument called a cannula.
What if the issue is excess skin, with or without the problem of excess fat? Excess skin can also be pushed above and below the bra band causing unsightly bulges. As mentioned before, excess skin cannot be removed with liposuction. Instead, it must be excised or cut off. This procedure is known as a bra line back lift. This procedure smoothens the back by removing excess skin and obliterating back bulges. It is not done often because of the scar. The scar is a horizontal scar across the back in the region of the bra band. It is camouflaged by a bra when worn.
In short, getting rid of bra bulge can be as easy as adjusting one’s bra size, or it can involve weight loss alone or in combination with surgery.