I have extremely sensitive skin. I'm allergic to most metals, most fragrances, most manufactured fabrics, and all fake fur — which is upsetting because I think I could rock a faux fur vest and some leather leggings. When it comes to buying any clothing, I have to be particular. Especially my intimates. I don't want to figure out how to discreetly scratch my boobs or nether regions in public. If you find yourself wondering, "Why do my nipples itch in a bra?" you're not the only one. It's actually pretty common.
It turns out that a lot of women experience itching around their nipples and areola when wearing a specific bra. Not only are some women allergic to specific fabrics, detergents, or chemicals, but also the breathability of the bra comes into play. When a bra doesn't breathe, sweat that builds on the breast causes friction and slip, and that causes your breasts and nipples to itch, according to Pediatric Dermatology. Because your nipples are the most sensitive areas on your breasts, they're the most commonly affected areas.
According to DermNet, itching nipples are really common, and often, the cause is as simple as a fabric or detergent allergy. It's called textile dermatitis, and it's what happens to your skin when your body produces histamines in reaction to coming in contact with the source of allergy. Having experienced textile dermatitis myself, I can tell you that it itches like someone dropped fire ants down your bra. It's a misery. I still have scars between my breasts from a particularly bad reaction to a bra.
I spoke with Dr. Jeaniene Marshall, a family physician from Washington to find out if there are any other causes, because I can't be the only person to wonder why my nipples are constantly itching in a bra. She tells Romper that there are myriad reasons for you to be experiencing itchy breasts and nipples, and not all of them are so benign as an allergy.
"Yes, it is largely caused by a change in fabric softener or detergent or the bra itself," Marshall says. "Many women are allergic to polyester or rayon, and even spandex. The friction of the irritants across the sensitive tips of your breasts can cause them to break out in a rash, or inflame them. If you notice it's just one specific bra, it might be due to the fabric or the fit." She notes that the amount of friction varies from bra to bra, so while you might be fine with a tight spandex bra for some things, you might not react so kindly if it's looser or more restrictive depending on the friction.
"Less likely is something like Raynaud's Phenomenon, which is a circulatory issue related to breastfeeding that causes your nipples to become cold and itchy," Marshall notes. "Certain bras may exacerbate the symptoms and it needs to be treated medically. If you notice the tip of your nipple appears flush or white, call your doctor right away. It is treatable, and should be taken care of." I have experienced Raynaud's disease in my left hand after an injury, and I cannot imagine how uncomfortable it must be in the nipple.
Marshall adds that "if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, your nipples are even more sensitive, and it just might be a matter of finding the right bra and pad combination to make you comfortable. It can be tricky."
But there's another thing to keep in mind. "The least common reason your nipples may itch is also the scariest and least likely. Occasionally, Paget's Disease and inflammatory breast cancer are signaled with itching nipples. If you notice that the itching is persistent, or if there are puckers in your breast, if your nipples invert, or if any area feels warm to the touch, call your doctor immediately," she says.
As for me, I know that my bras cannot have rayon in them, and I cannot use most forms of fabric softener when laundering my delicates. It's a pretty simple fix. However, if you think something is amiss, call your doctor, even if out of an overabundance of caution.
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