How to keep breasts looking young and perky? Some think the answer is wearing a bra 24/7. Others claim the wrong bra keeps women's boobs down. But there's no proof that bras do much more than provide temporary lift when we wear them.
Scientists aren't even sure what keeps women's breasts "up." Greater skin elasticity, size, and density of breast tissue contribute to their fullness and a higher, more youthful appearance. But as women age, we lose those things. Add gravity to this equation and it's no wonder boobs start to look soft and saggy.
Some women are blessed with breasts that seem perpetually perky. Others, like me, aren't so lucky. But there are a few things that may have pushed my boobs further south, before their time. I've learned that while I can't control my DNA, some activities do slow down -- or speed up -- the inevitable breast aging process.
These 10 dos and don'ts will help keep breasts looking young:
1. Don't smoke. Smoking cigarettes reduces blood flow and oxygen to the skin. Tobacco damages skin collagen and elastin, which leads to premature wrinkling and sagging. It can add years to your body and your boobs. I smoked at least a pack a day for 10 to 15 years.
2. Don't yo-yo diet. Try to maintain a weight that works for you. Extreme weight gains and losses break down the elasticity of the skin, leaving it slack and less firm. Sometimes you can't help piling on the pounds, as I did during three pregnancies. But I also went up and down the scale for a couple of decades, for no good reason.
3. Don't sunbathe or go without sunscreen. Excess sun damages skin, especially the delicate area of the neck and décolletage. The skin gets thinner and you end up with more "creasage" than cleavage, over the years. There's no way to reverse the harm done, so remember to wear a hat, cover up and use sunscreen. (Still learning this lesson living in L.A.)
4. Do eat the right foods. What you put into your body makes a difference to your skin. Some foods cause break-outs, itchy dry patches, or leave skin looking dull. It's best to focus on fresh, whole, nutrient-rich foods rather than empty calories.
5. Don't drink to excess. Alcohol dries out skin and hair, and can make your breasts feel heavy and bloated. One too many intoxicating beverages makes it easier to overeat, which doesn't help with #2 above.
6. Do keep active and strong. Regular physical activities contribute to overall health. But you can also think outside the bra and add simple weight training exercises to build up the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and back. I count on simple exercises to firm up my problem areas, like upper arms.
7. Do watch your posture. Remind yourself to stand up straight. Rounded shoulders and hunching forward can make breasts look heavier and lower. This has become even more important as I've aged. (Hint: play with your posture in front of a mirror and you'll quickly see a difference in how your boobs look.)
8. Do make bras work for you. Bras won't stop boobs from sagging. But the right sports bra can help you run faster, and it reduces breast pain when exercising. Investing in well-fitting everyday bras will also improve posture. The right bra can change how your clothes fit. The key is to find styles and brands that meet your boob needs.
9. Do appreciate differences. Women come in all shapes and sizes. Your breasts are as unique as your eye color, or personality. Don't think it's true? Check out the photo galleries at 007b.com to value differences in size, shape, and color; not to mention variations on areolae and nipples.
10. Do live in the present. I'm not sure whether it was my genes, or the years of cigarettes, fad dieting, or my three pregnancies. But my boobs looked much older than the rest of body when I hit my 40s. The only way to lift my sagging skin was through cosmetic surgery. Now, nearly a decade later, my boobs are bigger and hang lower, again. I've learned that it's best for me to love them right now. Because tomorrow, they'll be another day older.
What about you? Which of these tips do you think will work best to keep breasts looking young?
This post originally appeared at The Breast Life.
Follow Elisabeth Dale on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thebreastlife