7 Things You Can and Can't Do About Saggy Breasts

Droopiness can be caused by age, dieting, hormonal changes, and gravity. But some strategies can fight it.

It's natural for breasts to change in different stages of life: They grow larger during pregnancy and breastfeeding, for example, and the skin and muscles around them stretch and loosen as weight fluctuates.

Plus, they're constantly fighting gravity—and the larger they are, the more likely they are to be pulled downward over time. They also may get softer and less dense after menopause, as estrogen production in the ovaries is reduced.

You can't stop your body from aging, and you certainly can't fight gravity. But some healthy habits can help keep your breasts—and the supporting tissues around them—as perky as possible. Here's what's really worth a try (and what's probably not) when it comes to sag-reducing strategies.

Working Out

Your breasts sit on top of the pectoral muscle, which is important for arm strength and function, said Brian O'Hea, MD, chief of breast and oncologic surgery at Stony Brook Medicine in New York. "But even when women work out a lot and have very strong pectoral muscles, that doesn't change the structure of the breasts themselves—which are made of glandular or fatty tissue, not muscle," O'Hea said.

That being said, strengthening the pectoral muscles—along with muscles of the back, shoulders, and core—may help reduce the appearance of sag by improving overall tone and posture. Regular exercise can also help women maintain a consistent weight, which can prevent changes in breast shape associated with extreme weight gain and loss.

The verdict: Strengthening your pecs could make your boobs look perkier—but don't expect miracles.

Eating Well

There's no hard evidence linking diet to breast sag, said Dr. O'Hea. But some health experts believe that eating lots of antioxidant-rich foods (like fruits and vegetables) can keep skin supple and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and sag from head to toe. Staying hydrated may help preserve skin's natural elasticity as well, suggests a 2015 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigative Dermatology.

Avoid extreme or crash diets, too, which—on top of slowing down metabolism—can lead to disproportionate levels of weight loss. "If you lose a lot of weight, the skin often doesn't retract even though the fat underneath goes away," said Alyssa Golas, MD, clinical assistant professor of plastic surgery at NYU Langone Health. "When we're talking about a woman's breasts, that can lead to deflation."

The verdict: Choose your diet for your health, not for your boobs.

Wearing a Well-Fitted Bra

You'd think that wearing a bra would protect ligaments in the breasts, which in turn would help retain perkiness. But a research group at the University of Portsmouth in England that studies breast biomechanics estimated that more than 70% of women wear the wrong bra size and this may damage their breasts, potentially contributing to strain and sagging.

The University of Portsmouth's team recommended paying more attention to fit than size: The bra's lower band should fit snug and stay level all the way around the ribs and cups should fully enclose breasts with no bulging or gaping at the tops or sides. Plus, any underwire should follow the natural crease of the breasts, and shoulder straps should fit comfortably without digging into the skin of the shoulders, per the University of Portsmouth.

Sure, wearing a supportive and well-fitting bra will keep your girls propped up while you're wearing it, said Dr. Golas. And there's a lot to be said for the comfort and improved appearance it can provide. But there's no evidence it will protect you from eventual age- and gravity-related droop.

The verdict: A bra can provide a temporary push-up, but it's not a permanent fix.

Your Sleep Position

Sleeping on your side may cause breasts to sag more over time, said Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, Health's contributing medical editor, since one will dangle downward and its ligaments can become stretched.

Snoozing on your back, on the other hand, can help reduce signs of aging, Dee Anna Glaser, MD, a professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University, told Health. And because the weight of your breasts are fully supported on your chest, it may help them retain their perkiness.

The verdict: If you're comfortable on your back (and it doesn't cause you to snore), it may be worth a try.

Spending Time in the Sun

Just as antioxidants can keep skin supple and stretchy, harmful chemicals called free radicals can damage it and increase the appearance of wrinkles and sag. One big source of those free radicals? Ultraviolet rays, can affect the skin's stretchy layers of elastin fibers, according to a 2017 review article in International Journal of Cosmetic Science. The more sun exposure you rack up, the more free radical damage you might have, sending your breasts south.

The verdict: If you're going to be in the sun, wear sunscreen to protect your skin from sag-causing UV exposure.

Avoiding Smoking

On top of all the other harmful effects of cigarette smoke, it's also a breast sag offender. A 2010 study in Annals of Plastic Surgery found that smoking was a significant risk factor for sagging breasts. (Other risk factors in the study included a history of weight loss, larger bra cup size, and the number of pregnancies.) Smoking can also cause the collagen in the skin to break down, promoting droop.

The verdict: Cut out the cigarettes—your breasts will thank you!

Having Breast Lift Surgery

If you're really unhappy with your breast sag, there is one remedy that doctors say can turn back time: breast lift surgery—called mastopexy. During a breast lift, plastic surgeons remove excess skin and tighten the surrounding tissue. The surgery has grown in popularity by 70% since 2000, outpacing breast implants 2-to-1, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

"The procedure is similar to a breast reduction, but instead of taking out the fatty breast tissue, we're just taking out the extra skin and keeping the same amount of volume," said Dr. Golas. "We make the envelope that's holding it all together smaller, so there's less sagging." For women whose breasts are especially deflated, Dr. Golas said, implants can also be put in along with the mastopexy to give breasts the fullest look and feel.

The verdict: Surgery can definitely change the appearance of your breasts—but be sure to consider the cost, risks, and recovery time before making a decision.

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