Everything you need to know about binders!
Flattening the chest by using a binder can make people of any gender feel more comfortable in their own body. Lots of people who experience gender dysphoria swear by wearing a binder as it helps them look and feel like their true self. However, if you’re new to figuring out how binding works and how to do it safely, it’s likely you’ll have a ton of questions like ‘what is a chest binder?’, ‘how do I bind safely?’ and ‘how can I find the right binder size?’. Don't worry - we've got you covered. Keep reading to find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about wearing binders!
Before we start, always remember that the safety of your body is of utmost importance. Listen to your body and read up on chest binding before you start to experiment.
What is a chest binder?
A binder, also known as a chest binder, FtM binder, bra binder or breast binder, is an underwear garment that allows you to painlessly and effectively flatten your chest. This helps to create a more masculine and streamlined look. Most binders are tank tops, bands or tops of elastic material that fit tightly around the torso. Many people wear their binder under their daily clothes, but it is also completely okay to wear your binder as a regular top. A binder works by pressing the breasts flat against the chest, spreading the mass of the breasts. This makes the breasts appear flatter and less present, which can help reduce gender dysphoria or any other uncomfortable feelings that you might have about your chest.
Who can wear a chest binder?
Most people wear a binder because it helps reduce any gender dysphoria that they experience about their breasts. Since a binder helps to flatten the breasts, a more masculine look can be created. But please remember that you do not need to conform to any gender norm to be able to wear a binder! Binders can be worn by a variety of people inside and outside the binary, such as trans men or boys, non-binary people, people who have just had breast surgery, people who suffer from gender dysphoria and anyone else who feels the need to flatten their chest regardless of their gender expression. In short, a binder can be for everyone. You do not need to ‘earn’ the right to wear a binder.
How do I bind safely?
Wearing a binder can be effective but not without possible health risks. Rightfully so, many people worry if wearing a binder is dangerous for their body. Always consult a doctor if you are unsure whether binding is right for you. Below is some general advice for wearing a binder in a safe and responsible way.
Build it up
When you start wearing binders, we recommend that you build up the time you wear them. Wear the binder for an hour first, then let your body rest again. The next day, wear it for two hours, then take it off again. Continue building this up over a couple of days; this way your body can get used to wearing a binder. Never wear a binder for more than 8 consecutive hours! If you experience any pain or discomfort while wearing the binder, or if you experience difficulty breathing, we recommend that you take off the binder as soon as possible.
Resting the body
One of the most important binder-safety tips is to never wear your binder when you're sleeping. At night, the lungs need space to move properly which is why you shouldn’t bind at night. If you find it too confronting to sleep without a binder, perhaps wear a big T-shirt or a sports top. Always remember: the safety of your body is of utmost importance. Be kind to your body! Give yourself one day a week on which you do not wear a binder or compress the chest in any way. This helps the body recover.
Binding for 8+ hours
If you have a long day ahead of you and you’re tempted to wear your binder for more than 8 hours (which we strongly advise against), it might be a good idea to take short binder breaks during your day. For example, when you’re in the bathroom, lift the binder up until it sits above the breast. Take a couple of deep breaths while stretching your torso. This gives the body a short break during the day. If you’re going to spend a long day away from home, bring a sports top or another mild compression top that you can put on once you’ve worn your binder for 8 hours. Only wear it for longer if a medical expert tells you to do so (for example after top surgery).
Breast positioning for safe blood flow
A binder works by compressing the tissue of the breasts. If the breasts are positioned incorrectly, blood flow to the nipples can be obstructed. This can lead to issues with skin elasticity which can make it harder for the body to recover after a mastectomy. The most important factor is to make sure the nipples never point downwards when binding - this can be harmful to the blood flow. Always make sure the nipples point forward, as they would without a binder.
What are the health risks of wearing a binder?
Below is a list of some of the most common health risks that can occur with binding:
- Impediment of breath and movement.
- Skin fungi and infections.
- Other skin problems: scratching, itching, hypersensitivity, redness.
- Pain in different places: ribs, back, shoulders, abdomen.
- Muskoskeletal injuries.
- Loss of skin elasticity.
Remove your binder and consult a medical professional if you experience any of these symptoms.
Tips for secure binding
- Give your body time to recover after wearing your binder. Do not wear the binder for more than 8 hours and do not wear a binder seven days a week; schedule at least one rest-day each week.
- Do not wear two binders at the same time.
- Choose the right size.
- Do not use products that are not specifically designed for binding.
- Point the nipples forwards, never downwards.
How do I find the right binder size?
Choosing the size of your binder is essential. A binder that is too large will not flatten the chest enough. A binder that is too small can pinch and become uncomfortable or even dangerous. The best way to find the right size is to take your measurements and compare these with the size chart. You will need a tape measure, and possibly someone who can help you. To choose the right size you will need the following measurements:
- Bust size: measure around the chest, at the level of the nipples.
- Underbust: Measure around the chest, just below the bust.
- Waist: Measure around the waist, at the narrowest part of your torso.
- Hip: Measure around the hips, at the widest part.
- Shoulder Width: Measure from back of shoulder to head of shoulder. With this size it is useful if someone helps you.
- Height: your total height
Below you can watch a video tutorial explaining sizing and how to take your measurements:
Once you have taken all your measurements, you can check the size chart to see which size would be best for you. Here are some points of interest:
- Check out the type of breast you have. While every breast is different, they generally fall into two categories: soft or firm. Soft breasts are easier to hide and require a less strong material. Firm breasts need stronger material. This is not about size: a small chest can still be firm and vice versa.
- It is best to go by the size of the breasts if you're in between two sizes. For example, if your waist is a size L, but your underbust is a size M, we recommend that you stick to the size of your underbust. The waist is soft and can be slightly pushed in, unlike the ribcage, which is why the underbust measurement is more important.
- If you are very tall or very short, our binders may fit differently. Please contact us if you are unsure about the right size.
Often people want to buy their first binder as tight as possible, because they want to reduce their bust as much as they can. This can be harmful to your health, so please try to ignore this thought! Always take your measurements and compare them with the size chart, which can be found on this page. If you are not sure about your size, you can always contact us. Below are two important points that could mean that your binder is too small:
- You feel the binder chafing, pinching or cutting.
- You have trouble breathing.
- You're experiencing pain.
If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately take off your binder and choose a larger size.
You can check if your binder fits well by putting two fingers in between the garment and the ribs. If the fingers fit with ease and are not restricted you know there’s enough space for you to breathe comfortably. If you can’t fit two fingers in there you should probably size up. This same trick can be used underneath the armpit and the rule of thumb is again: if two fingers fit comfortably the binder is not too tight.
Lastly, keep in mind that a binder can loosen over time! This can explain why your binder won't bind as much after about a year of wearing it.
Will a binder work for my bigger chest?
Some people think that having a larger cup size means it’s impossible to get a flat bind, but this isn’t the case! Larger breasts actually tend to be softer due to a higher fat mass, which means they are easier to position. Whichever way the breasts are positioned, always make sure the nipples point forwards to promote healthy blood flow. For a bigger chest, the best results can be achieved with a long binder that goes down to the hips. This way there is more fabric that can keep the breast tissue in place and distribute the pressure of the binder. If your binder rolls up the hips you can try to pin the binder to your underwear or bottoms.
For many people it can be tempting to choose a binder in the smallest size for flatter results, but always keep your safety in mind. The same thing goes for larger chested individuals; binders are supposed to compress, but not crush. You deserve the best possible fit to ensure your safety and comfort, so be sure to carefully take your measurements and to contact the customer service if you’re unsure about your size.
Is binding harmful for a developing body?
Some people want to start wearing binders from the moment their breasts begin to develop. This can leave them or their loved ones worried about the safety of their developing body. The general rule is that there is no damage to a growing body or to the development of the breasts if the binder is worn in the right size. The general safety rules apply: never wear the binder for longer than 8 hours, don’t sleep in a binder, and make sure you have the correct size by checking the size chart. Especially if it's your or your childs' first binder, check the size chart or consult the customer service about the correct size.
A side note for parents, guardians, friends or other loved ones: some kids will want to figure it all out themselves and get the tightest binder that they can possibly find. Understand that your child might want the flattest result, but always remind them of the importance of safe binding! This might be a sensitive topic for them, so react with love and patience.
Can I exercise in a binder?
The general consensus about exercising in a binder is that it is possible, but that you should keep a close eye on how you’re feeling. Some binders are made with fabric that doesn’t stretch; these types of binders are absolutely unsafe to exercise. These types of binders can prevent the ribs and lungs from expanding which could cause damage. This is why all UNTAG binders are made from a 4-way stretch material. This way you can be sure of the safety of your body, regardless of the activities you’ll be undertaking in your binder.
Only exercise in a binder if it’s specifically designed for exercising - for example our Gym Binder was developed to provide safe binding during a workout. The fabric of this binder stretches with the body so that the lungs and ribs can still expand. On top of that the back is cut lower to leave more breathing room. A general tip for exercising in a binder is to not wear one that’s extremely tight - in fact sizing up one size can also help reduce dysphoria in the gym while still being safe!
How do I put my binder on?
Binders without zipper
Look at the binder: the side where the shoulders are cut deeper is the back. Roll up your binder outwards, this prevents the binder from curling up when you put it on. Pull the binder over your head and pull it down, like you would with a regular t-shirt. It’s also possible to put your binder on by stepping into it - this will take some more adjusting but is helpful if you’re unable to pull it over your head. Getting a binder on can be a little bit of a struggle - especially if you’re new to it - so be patient with yourself and take as much time as you need. Watch the video below for a visual explanation on how to pull your binder on over your head, or how to pull it on by stepping into it:
Binders with zip, hook-eye closure or Velcro.
Wrap the binder around your waist. Close the closure on the inside of the top at the narrowest part of your waist on the outer eyelet. Put your arms through the armholes, closing the top as tight as you feel comfortable. Position your breasts to get the desired result - always make sure the nipples are not pointing downwards. Bekijk de onderstaande video voor een visuele uitleg:
Wrap the binder around your waist. Close the hooks and eyes or the Velcro at the narrowest part of your waist. Turn the top with the closure to the correct position (front or back) and move the top up to the correct height around your chest. Model your breasts to get the flattest effect. We recommend pushing your chest diagonally to the side towards your armpit. Watch the video below if you need some visual explanation.
How can I position my breasts in a binder?
Once you’ve put your binder on you can start positioning the breasts. Different people will swear by different techniques. The most important thing to remember is that the nipples should never point downwards, as this can obstruct the blood flow and can make it difficult when you want to get a mastectomy.
A well-liked technique is pushing the breasts out to the side and up, almost into the armpit. This can make the breasts look like pecs. Pushing them out and up will create separation and give the most realistic looking chest, as well as the most flattening effect. Below is an image demonstrating a safe way to position the breasts.
You might need to readjust the breasts during the day to maintain the flattest effect!
How do I choose the right binder fit?
Choosing the right binder fit can sometimes be difficult and overwhelming, but once you find the right model the effect is amazing. It can help to change your silhouette and thereby remove or reduce negative feelings such as gender dysphoria. There are three common types of binders that many people like:
Short binders reach approximately to the midriff, providing compression to the bust. A short binder is a good choice for people who mainly experience gender dysphoria about their chests. A short binder can also be nice in the summer or when exercising as they are less warm. The short binders that UNTAG offers are:
- Short Binder
- Gym Binder
- Tank Binder
- Basic Swim Binder
- Basic Binder Advanced
- Basic Binder Zipper
A disadvantage of a short binder is that, if the binder is very tight around the waist, it can create an hourglass figure. In this case, a long binder may be a better choice.
Long binders provide compression to the bust, stomach, and hips and extend below the hips. A long binder is a good choice for people who not only want to flatten their bust, but who also experience gender dysphoria due to their stomach or hips. The long binders that UNTAG offers are:
- Shirt Binder
- Tank Shirt Binder
- Singlet Binder with Zipper
- Binder Singlet Advanced
A disadvantage of a long binder is that it can roll up for people with wider hips. In that case, we recommend choosing a shorter model or having a binder tailor made.
The third type of binder is the band binder. This is a binder without shoulder straps, which only offers compression around the bust. UNTAG offers the following band binders:
- Binder Band Advanced
- Budget Binder Band
A disadvantage of a band binder is that it can drop pretty quickly, which means you have to pull it up more often. All band binders come with optional detachable shoulder straps to prevent this issue.
Which binder closure is best for me?
For everyday use, wearing a binder without closure is most comfortable. We therefore recommend choosing a binder without closure as an everyday binder. Binders with closures are mainly recommended for people with medical conditions that affect their breathing so that they can quickly remove the binder, or for people who have just had their top surgery. If you fall into one of these categories you might want to opt for a binder with a closure.
There are three commonly used closure types: a zipper, Velcro or a hook-eye closure. Binders with Velcro and hook-eye closures are specially designed for people who have just had a mastectomy or breast surgery. Our binders with Velcro or hook and eye closures are adjustable to size so that you can tighten or loosen the binder after surgery.
A binder with a zipper makes it easier to put on and take off the binder. This may be suitable for those with medical conditions that affect breathing so that the binder can be taken off as soon as possible in the event of shortness of breath.
How do I care for my binder?
Keeping your binder clean can help prevent skin problems when binding. Luckily, maintaining a binder is quite simple. You can wash the binder by hand in lukewarm water or in the washing machine on a cold program. Hot water can affect the elasticity of the fabric - wash it in water no hotter than 30 degrees celsius. Make sure you wash the binder with other garments of the same colors (dark on dark, white on white, etc.) Use the correct detergent for the binder. For example, do not use white detergent for colored binders. This can affect the color of the binder. Using too much laundry detergent can also cause damage to the fibres of the fabric, so use it sparingly. Never put the binder in the dryer! This can be tempting to shrink a stretched binder, but a dryer will affect the elasticity of the binder. Let the binder air dry.
Hopefully this list of questions and answers has left you more secure and informed about binding, binder safety and the importance of finding the right binder fit. A binder can greatly help to reduce body dysphoria and promote gender euphoria, but always keep in mind: your body is a temple and should be treated as such, so bind safely!