Guide to Binding Your Chest Safely Before Surgery

Chest “binding” refers to various methods used to flatten chest tissue to create a flatter looking chest. For some, binding is an effective alternative to surgery. For others, binding is a short-term alternative to chest reconstruction top surgery.

Popular Methods of Binding

There are many methods that can be used to minimize the appearance of chest tissue. The type of materials used and how flat the chest will look while  binding usually depend on the size of the chest and overall body type and build. Some of the most popular binding methods include:

  • Layering shirts
  • Sports bras
  • Compression shirts
  • Binders designed specifically for chest  binding (please see below for a list of retailers for new and used binders)

Trusted Binder Retailers Within The U.S

  • gc2b Transitional Apparel provides high quality chest binders at affordable prices. 
  • F2M Binders by Underworks produces high-quality binders at a reasonable price. F2M Binders donate a binder to someone in need for every binder purchased through their website. 

Trusted Binder Retailers Outside The U.S

  • Double Design, formerly Double T Collection, is a trans-owned and operated company dedicated to the  community. Based in Taiwan, they have several binders to choose from.
  • XBODY, based in the UK, is Europe’s top online seller of high quality compression T-shirts, vests and sportswear, originally designed for men with gynecomastia. 
  • T-Kingdom is also based in Taiwan. They have a wide variety of styles, including vest binders with Velcro. Note: T-Kingdom doesn’t accept returns
  • Love Boat Shop is another online store based in Taiwan. They feature a large selection of binder styles and colors made by Double T Collection, Esha, and Juya.
  • Danaë is a trans owned and operated company from the Netherlands, offering European people the chance to save on shipping.
  • Peecock, based in Singapore, offers selections of binders that come in different styles. 

Free and Used Binders

USA

Europe & Canada

Trans Clothing Exchanges are another place where you can often find inexpensive binders. You can also try asking around for a hand-me-down binder on one of the mailing lists or Facebook groups for trans folks

How to Choose a Chest Binder

To measure your chest for binder sizing: 

  1. Take a snug measurement of the fullest part of your chest using a tape measure (best if measured while clothed) and write that number down onto a sheet of paper.
  2. Measure underneath your chest where the crease is and write that number down as well.
  3. Add those numbers together and divide the sum by 2. This number will differentiate your size not only from brand to brand but from binder to binder as well.

Essentially, there are two types of binders: short ones and long ones. The short ones end right at your waist. The downside of these is that short binders tend to roll up and can act more like a tight sports bra. The long ones can be pulled down past your waist by several inches, however it’s likely that it will still roll up. To reduce the chances of this, wear a belt. Choosing between a short and long binder has more to do with your body type, specifically your abdomen, and not your chest size.

Lastly, consider the location of the company you’re buying from. Buying from a company that’s closer to you can save a significant amount of money on shipping costs.

How to Put On a Chest Binder

There are 2 methods, over the head (like putting on a tank top) or stepping into the binder and pulling it over your hips and through your arms. When a binder is new it can be very tight and hard to put on, for this reason some folks (especially those with limited upper body strength or mobility challenges) suggest stepping into the binder the first few times.

Others say to not step into it and use the overhead method instead as the stepping in method can stretch the binder out (since it goes over the hips) and the integrity of the elasticity can be lost hence making the binder less effective. Below are instructions on how to step into a binder and we also encourage you to explore YouTube videos from community members that also explain the over the head method. How one chooses to put on a binder is personal preference and sometimes physical ability. Always measure your chest and pick the binder size a company suggests based on your measurements. 

How to step into a binder

  1. Put your binder inside out and upside down.
  2. Step into your binder and pull the bottom of it up, ideally to your belt line. The binder should still be inside out and upside down.
  3. Use the sleeves as handles to pull the top of the binder (the end closer to your feet) up to your shoulders.
  4. Put your arms through the sleeve holes and adjust your chest to your needs. You may need to pull the bottom of the binder out from underneath itself if you don’t want it folded under. For others, leaving it folded under may help stop the binder from rolling up.

You’re basically pushing your nipple toward your armpit to achieve the flattest looking chest possible. Youtube is also a great resource if you’re more of a visual person. 

Risks Associated with Binding

Because most binding methods involve tight compression of chest tissue, binding can sometimes result in pain, discomfort, and physical restrictions. If the binding material you are using doesn’t breathe well, it can also create sores, rashes, or other skin irritation.

When binding, you should pay attention to how it feels and if you are in pain. . If binding hurts, causes difficulty breathing, or cuts into your skin, it’s too tight or you’re using the wrong material. It’s also important to keep in mind that strong pressure around the chest and back can cause changes to normal spine alignment, which may result in chronic pain. Constricting the chest tissue can also cause permanent damage, which will alter their final shape.

If you choose to bind, remember to give your chest a break here and there to breathe and relieve some of the aches and pains commonly associated with regular binding. It is recommended that you not bind for more than 8 hours at a time.

Binding and Breast Cancer

There is no evidence to suggest that chest binding increases the risk of breast cancer. Whether you choose to bind or not, you should always be concerned about the health of your chest tissue.. Even after chest reconstruction top surgery, you still have a small risk of developing breast cancer. Performing monthly self-chest exams and undergoing recommended mammograms with your physician are the two best ways to detect cancer early. If you have concerns regarding chest tissue health or chest binding, discuss them with your primary care physician.

Binding and Chest Reconstruction Top Surgery

Generally speaking, binding will not cause problems with your surgical plan. Binding over a long period of time can alter your skin’s natural elasticity, which may have some minor effects on your final cosmetic results. Your surgeon  will be able to help you formulate realistic surgical expectations following a consultation. If your current method of chest binding has caused skin breakdown (sores), you will need to wait until these sores have healed properly before undergoing  chest reconstruction top surgery.

Get full instructions to set up your virtual consultation!

The virtual consultation will be billed to your insurance company. We will accept the insurance reimbursement as payment in full.