Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Fabric of Our Lives

10ish months ago,  I developed a slightly embarrassing rash that is located approximately where my Xiphoid process should be. It all started when I decided to stop being such a pansy and regularly go to Crossfit Excel. While it has crossed my mind that I could possibly be allergic to exercise, this is not the case. I am allergic to the elastic in bras. While talking about bras on the inter-webs is not usually my thing, my hunt for a non allergy producing bra is comical. So with a bit of hesitation, I will forge the river and blog on.

With such a rapid, increased exposure to elastic (I was also running 3 times a week), my body decided that the elastic was attacking my skin. Now any slight exposure to elastic in my brassieres create an unattractive, itchy, miserable, rash.

I was fortunate enough to have one all cotton bra from everyone's favorite store, Target.  Because it was from Target, and it was my only one, I knew I needed to find some fast.

My other dilemma was finding all cotton sports bras.  Sports bras are tricky. I need something that flattens me like a piece of ply wood....for aerodynamic purposes and such. Besides duct tape, elastic is the only real solution to the fitness portion of my bra situation. I happened upon some cotton sports bras at Target (the elastic portion at the bottom is covered in cotton), and promptly purchased 6 of them. Because I desire minimal bounce in my fitness endevours, I am forced to wear not one, but two cotton sports bras at once. Cotton is not known for its flatten-you-like-a-pancake quality.

When it comes to a regular brassiere, I had three options: Burn my bra and become a hippie (never in a million years), be destined to the same single bra for the rest of my life (gross), or compete in the near impossible cotton bra hunt (sign me up).

My first order of business in this hypoallergenic bra hunt, was to recruit a friend. I decided upon my friend, Melisa, whom I have enough dirt on to blackmail if she ever tells anyone about my disgusting rash. Secondly, Melisa could be a professional shopper in her spare time. With my good friend in tow, we headed to JCPenny. 

I don't know why I chose JCPenny, perhaps because JCPenny screams cotton lingerie. I went to the appropriate bra section...the no frills-I've-been-married-for-7-years section, and found many bras labeled as cotton. I thoroughly inspected these bras and found that the connecting piece between the two cups was made of some sort of Lycra/elastic allergy inducing material. I asked the nice lingerie lady for help. She pointed me to the same bras that I had just been looking at. I explained my situation. She gave me two suggestions. Her first suggestion was to go to the medical supply store on McHenry because, "They have all sorts of weird things there." Thank you ma'am I already feel distraught about the situation, now you are calling me weird. She then suggested I go to Motherhood, which is a maternity clothing store, to buy nursing bras. "Nursing bras are almost always all cotton." I contemplated this for a moment. I decided that at this point in my life I really can't bring myself to walk into a maternity store and buy a nursing bra for my non nursing, childless, self. 

Next it was off to the mecca of all things lingerie, Victoria's Secret. I asked the lady where the cotton section was and she looked at me as if I were a leper. Whatever Victoria, you and your store are full of overly priced padded undergarments and your models need to go eat a steak. I walked out of the store in tears and drowned my sorrows in a cookie. (Just kidding, no cookies).

Our last hope was Macy's. Macy's is the department store of all department stores. It has to have cotton brassieres. I walked straight to the non frilly bra section and was quickly met with the same problem I had at JCPenny. I headed to the massive sale section and spotted what appeared to be the perfect bra. The all cotton Ralph Lauren bra was nestled between some crazy demi cup lacy purple number and a pair of Spanx. I quickly grabbed it and checked the size: B. Drat. I shoved past the old women and young ladies who were all looking for things to impress their dates with that evening. I glanced at the Calvin Klein section, someone who is known for his simple designs surely must have a hypoallergenic bra for my poor soul. 

There it was shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!" The all white, all cotton, bra was covered in Calvin's signature. I didn't care if I did not know this man, I needed this bra. The size was perfect and the price didn't matter (although I will admit now I spent a ridiculous amount of money on it).  I did a happy dance and high fived Melisa. I finally found my hypoallergenic bra.

Since finding the elusive cotton bra, I have discovered that I am not alone in my contact dermatitis issues. There are many websites that sell hypoallerginc bras to women with my same elastic allergy issue. You can bet I will be frequenting these websites in the near future. I am also happy to report that my contact dermatitis is completely gone thanks to you, Cotton....the fabric of my life.


  1. That stinks! Glad you found one though!

  2. I could have written this blog! This exact same thing is happening to me, and in the same spot as you! Right in the middle. UGH! I was wondering if you have found any good websites to buy some? I don't seem to have much luck. Please lmk!!! You can email me at cetraylor@gmail.com

    THANK YOU!!!!

  3. I am also having this issue underneath and across my breats where the elastic touches my skin tomorrow I start my hunt for the elusive cotton bra wish me luck :s

  4. I could have written this - although it wouldn't have been nearly as witty. I've been dealing with the same issue for 5+ years. Thought it was detergents etc., finally on the hunt for cotton, as a chance encounter with cotton proved hopeful!

  5. looking for hypoallergenic bra Everywhere the bra touches I break out with a terrible rash.....where do I find one?

  6. The girls at Victoria Secret said even their cotton bras had some spandex in it. Very frustrating not being able to bra shop like everyone!

  7. Ohh.....yes.....I am a nurse too. And when my boobs swelled up and were really itchy that i wanted to cut them off my chest...i finally clued in that no it isn't cancer....you are allergic to that beautiful new bra. So i bought some cotton bras from Lasenza. They had a very small amount of elastane so my boobs forgave me. I figured maybe i have desensitized them. Recently i started a new job and i have been biking to work. Now my sports bras have destroyed my joy. Now i am wondering if this whole time I am allergic to the Nylon that was in bras and not the elastane :S since the sports bra is Nylon abundant. i too need heavy duty coverage bc i do not want my D cups to be at my belly button in a couple years. I happened upon your site this morning. I really liked your blog. After some cortisone cream and reactine and some secret areola and mammary scratching in my office, I will be going for the Hunt.

  8. Wow! I'm not alone! I too, have suddenly become allergic to my bras. I have begun wearing my bras over tank tops, & then wearing a shirt over that. That works as a temporary fix, but looks like I'll be going to Macys very soon!

  9. Links would have been very helpful :-)

  10. I'm continuing to suffer with a latex allergy and am miserable. Cottonique bras absolutely do have latex. I can't wear a bra at all right now--not cool for a professional woman. 3 courses of steroids and many tubes of cortisone cream still leave me with a horrible burning rash. The hunt continues indeed!

    1. Lizzie, you may be like me -- it's not specifically latex that is my allergy, it is ALL rubber, or rather the chemicals used in making all rubbers, something called Thiuram Mix.

      Something can really be "latex-free" and use another form of rubber instead (nitrile) for its elastic, and still drive me right up the walls.

  11. No you are not alone and I too have thought the same thing. It is comforting to know that I AM NOT the only one who has this problem. After receiving some Christmas money, I went to several places to search for that "All Cotton Bra." However, I have discovered that one can hardly run into a pure all cotton bra anymore. You can usually find the stretchy bra or other types that can onset serious itchy/burning rashes on ones body. The last store I left empty handed, I broke down and cried. My husband just does not understand. I cannot wear just any bra anymore like I use to could. Since I had a hysterectomy 2 years ago, everything has changed. :( I am rather large chested and the hypoallergenic websites only go to a certain size in there bras. I cannot tolerate underwire at all. I am greatful to work midnight shift and there aren't others around where I can take off my miserable bra and let the ladies run free for a while. By the time my 8 hour shift is up, I have to put the darn thing back on until I get in my vehicle. I have actually gotten to the point of just seeing if my doctor would consider giving me a total mastectomy so I won't have to worry about bras ever again. However, I know that my doctor would never do this because I don't have any serious life threatening problems in that department. I have even considered seriously about buying my own cotton fabric and making my own bra as best as I can. Being allergic really stinks.

  12. I completely understand your problem! I was looking for a non-itchy bra when I came across your blog. I have wasted so much money on bras that are wire-free and dont itch me.... and they all do except one. It is Triumph Soft Sensation but it only goes up to a size C cup and I now need a slightly larger one. So if anyone knows of a specific bra manufacturer, then please tell me. I am so relieved that I am not alone. I have also tried mastectomy bras!!! they did not work either. Perhaps I am reacting to the thread or the fabric that is in the clasp and where the straps are attached to the cups. It is so depressing. Thank you for the blog.

  13. I had breast cancer & a mastectomy 22 years ago, and had a saline implant reconstruction. Any how, I sprung a leak, had the ruptured implant replaced last week. I woke up from surgery feeling like I had knives under my armpits being held in place with poison oak toothpicks. The post surgery bra that they put on me was made of nylon & spandex, and reeked of fabric sizing which usually means formaldehyde, which I am very allergic to! I was stuck wearing that horrid thing for about 30 hours until I went home, at which time I put on an old cotton bra. It's been a week and I still have an angry red welt that's about 5" long under one armpit, and another long one under my "breasts". So it's not just spandex in bras that might irritate you, fabrics that have less body as in lingerie are usually pumped full of "sizing" to stiffen the fabric to make construction of the bra easier. And sometimes you can wash & wash them, and some "sizing" still remains. Just a warning.

  14. Hi there, I found your blog while searching for hypoallergenic bras. I've long had trouble with my bras, and my suspicions years ago lead me to discover a different blog by a Debra DeAngelo who also had a problem - our problems were with Victoria's Secret bras. I highly recommend Googling her. She's a journalist and has been on the case for a few years now.
    Being in Canada, I wish you Americans would treasure your JC Penneys more (I'm so jealous!) :)