Boob Blog: Victoria’s Secret responds to breast rash issue

Those of you who’ve been following the sad saga of rashes that appear to be triggered by Victoria’s Secret bras may be pleased to know that VS is apparently, finally, listening. I was contacted by one of their “external communications” reps, and I was all set to let them know they had a tiger by the tail. Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. It was not only a pleasant, civil discussion, where all sides were heard, but also ended on a note of “how can we make this work for everybody.”

People. How often in life does that happen? Like… never? Maybe the VS reps and I should take a seat at the United Nations and start working on world peace.

For those of you who came late to this party, I’ve been blogging for a couple years about a severe breast rash that I finally figured out was triggered by a particular VS bra, which makes the investigation into the cause very tricky because it’s not all the bras. Only certain ones. One random day, I googled “Victoria’s Secret breast rash,” and bingo: a CBS report on formaldehyde in the fabric. Since my first blog on the topic, testaments have come trickling in at a steady pace from women who had the exact same experience: nipples turning rough like sandpaper, and getting a tissue-like texture, and horrific, irresistible breast rashes that itch like poison oak. Many cannot resist the itch (like myself) and end up bruised and with broken skin.

And then… not knowing what the cause is… we put the bra back on, over broken skin.

The result is UGLY. And definitely not sexy.

A few women have reported this issue with other brands, but 98 percent of the women responding here were VS customers. And here’s the thing: Virtually all of them say they can’t find an acceptable substitute for VS products — they want to go back to VS but are afraid. You can find comfortable things that are ugly and matronly, or cute sexy things that are uncomfortable, flimsy and cheap, but nothing that compares to VS. That is product loyalty, people.

Some women got fired up and suggested a class action suit against VS, and I entertained that thought for awhile myself, but have decided that this approach won’t make anyone happy, except for the lawyers. Lawyers are the bottom-feeders of humanity, and they are perpetually ravenous. They’re essentially prostitutes with law degrees — they’ll blow anybody for a buck. And, in the end, even if a class action suit against VS was successful (the last one wasn’t — the VS lawyers made mincemeat out of the plaintiff), what would it gain in the end for you and me, sister VS loyalists? Forty bucks? Fifty bucks? That’s being overly optimistic. More likely, it would be about $11.75 apiece — don’t spend it all in one place. Meanwhile, the bottom-feeders are fat and happy, gulping down the barracuda’s share of the settlement. At the end of the day, we’d go through all the stress and hassle, just for a little pocket change that won’t even buy a pizza. And more important — still no bras we’re happy with.

Here’s the other thing: Upon further consideration, I’m also realizing that those of us who react so violently to whatever is in some of those bras are a very small minority. We are like those with severe peanut allergies, who could die from eating a drop of peanut butter. So, part of our responsibility is to be aware that we’re allergic, but it would also be nice if garment manufacturers could label products that may contain trace amounts of chemicals that are known allergens for some people — just like they do with products that contain nuts or eggs.

Will that happen? Until someone dies from a breast rash, don’t count on it. That said, while maintaining innocence about textile additives, the VS rep suggested something quite reasonable: Get a skin patch test and find out what I react to, and then they can guide me toward a product that will still work for me. OK, sure. That’s reasonable. I’m willing to play along, because if there is a way to get back into their all-cotton bra (heather gray!), I’ll do it. That is the world’s most perfect bra, and all-cotton ones are hard to find, let alone sexy ones (where I live, it’s 106 degrees today, hence my love of cotton over polyester, which makes sweaty boobs smell like ballsacks — also not sexy).

So, I’m going to line up this skin patch test. I’ll report back after it’s been done, and how things went with VS.

cottonique-cot01-w12227-gsz

Seriously! Who would put their boobs in this ghastly thing! AND! It sells for $55.75 at herroom.com. This vile garment is an insult to boobage everywhere. For $55.75, I think VS could do infinitely better.

My other pitch to VS was a new line of products. I told them they’ve pretty much played out the “very sexy” thing. They’ve torn right through that envelope. They’ve done it all. What’s left? Rhinestone encrusted buttplugs and matching cotton candy nipple caps? There’s nowhere left to go with sexy. You know where there is somewhere to go? Comfy. Comfort is the new sexy. As long as it still looks sexy, of course. I suggested they develop a brand new line of bras that are hypoallergenic. It’s an open market. Google hypoallergenic bras and you’ll see bras so heinous, you usually have to be Mormon to wear something that unattractive under your clothes.

So, come on VS, make some all-cotton or all-hemp, 100% natural bras and panties, and if you make them in the good old USofA, that would be even better. There’s even a built-in test group — all the women commenting on this blog. If we don’t react to the product, you are golden. You will make a freakin’ fortune off this line: “Barely Me.” Not only did I hand VS a name for this product on a golden platter, I rattled off about 15 potential product slogans off the top of my head: “This is how sexy feels”… “Sexy is as sexy feels”… Seriously, I can spray this stuff out like a sprinkler set on “genius.” (Somebody hire me to do marketing. Newspapers are a dead end.)

As I was floating all this by the rep and also her assistant who was on speaker phone, she said, chuckling, “Stop! Don’t tell me anything more! If we use them, you’ll say we stole your idea and sue us!”

And I replied, “Oh, I totally will!”

And I would, if Barely Me© comes to a VS shop near you, and I’m not getting compensated. Because, let’s face it — it’s fucking brilliant. BUT: I wouldn’t sue over the formaldehyde, or whatever it is, because given a choice between $11.75 or having my favorite heather gray cotton bras back, I’d rather have the bras.

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9 thoughts on “Boob Blog: Victoria’s Secret responds to breast rash issue

  1. I also had a reaction to a VC bra a couple of years ago – they did replace it with a different style that didn’t cause a rash – but I had to fight for it.

    Now I recently purchased a Warners bra and have the same issue – I just clued in that the rash was caused by the bra (a little slow on my part) and have yet to try to return it to the store. It is style 01593 in case you are interested.

    Thanks for sharing your issue – I thought I was just really weird with my boob rash.

  2. Hello Annie – no, you are not weird. You have a skin allergy of some sort, and it’s something in the fabric. Where was the bra made? I think VS customers appeared with this issue first simply because there are more of them. The only path you have, once you discover you are allergic to something in fabric is to stop wearing the item and return it and get your money back. I am hoping that clothing manufacturers will one day be required to label what chemicals are in their fabric, but until then – it’s trial and error for those of us with skin allergies. But, rest assured – you are not alone!

  3. I personally don’t wear VS bras and never have because they’ve never carried my size (I’m a 28-30G) And I know your lament about not being able to find cute bras that do a great job of supporting the girls. For years I struggled with this. So when I finished nursing my son, needed new bras (got properly sized for the first time ever) and started looking out there for affordable bras I found some great websites that sell great and pretty bras. I hope you’ll find these bra sites useful, I purchase from Freya and Parfait by Affinities. I’ve had the best support system of my life buying from these companies and I get cute bras at about the cost of VS, and sometimes cheeper if I can get a good sale or buy off of eBay.

  4. I can’t afford Victoria Secret bras but both a Warner from Kohls over the holiday. Wore it for about 2 hours Sunday morning, itching like crazy at night. Monday wore it for a couple of hours and then put on a sports bra as it was itching even more. My skin was inflamed and had welts. I know I wasn’t suppose to itch but it was so hard not to. But the real scary thing..woke up 3 and and had a fat lip and when I got up at 7 my tongue was quite swollen and throat felt funny. Had trouble swallowing so drank lots of water and coffee. Went to the walk in clinic and by 10 and had 3 predisone pills in me and much better. Mouth back to normal and still somewhat itching but ice and cortisone will help. And all I wanted was a new fun bra to wear for my 54 birthday. Back to sports bras made of cotton. This my mission for the new year….to let women know about this and see how we can change things. And the scariest thing is what these chemicals may be doing that we don’t know about.

    • Hello Dawn — well, I’m not surprised. It was only a matter of time before the problem started to become noticeable with other brands. The fabric is all coming from the same place. Your reaction was quite extreme – the skin reaction sounds familiar but the fat lip and throat swelling are something new. Good that you went to the clinic, got a diagnosis and had this condition entered into your medical records, and also got some pills to help ease the symptoms.

      All that said – prednisone is a powerful drug, and it’s a shame that you had to take it just to recover from wearing your bra!

      Like you – sports bras are my fall back… my “healing” bras.

      As for the chemicals – you are correct in wondering what the cumulative load of all these trace chemicals, absorbed through the skin, are doing to our bodies and our health in the long run. So far, it seems like this issue has gotten no traction, but with people like you helping to get the word out, maybe someone will finally care. As for now, if we all stop purchasing the products that cause the reaction, maybe the clothing manufacturers will start to care. At the moment, that’s our only hope.

  5. I know I’m late to the game, but I just Googled allergies to VS bras because my poor breasts are suffering. Thank God it’s not just me!!! I just bought 2 on semi-annual clearance sale and can’t wear either.

    • Dear Julie,
      It’s not just you. Women continue to find this blog and discover they aren’t crazy and don’t have some exotic disease – they are having a contact allergic reaction to chemicals in fabric. With Chinese-made fabric so widely used, I imagine that many more people are itching and scratching and not realizing what is going on, and seeing doctors and buying creams and lotions, not realizing that all they need to do is stop wearing the clothes that cause the problem.
      In the case of VS, the vast majority of their customers do not react to the chemicals in the fabric, and those who do are only a tiny sliver of their overall customer base, so they simply don’t care. It is cost-effective to continue to use cheap Chinese fabric and just ignore those of us who suffer.
      The “adding insult to injury” part is what is so frustrating because those of us with the allergy are longtime, loyal customers.
      Anyway – the good news is… just stop wearing the bras, and you’ll likely see the rash subside in about three weeks. If you are brave – put the bras back on when you are healed and see if it comes right back. There is your proof. Also, take photos and see your doctor so your condition is documented.
      Thanks for writing, and hope you are healing up soon.

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