Show me your boobs

breast-pe2Show me your boobs.

I don’t mean in a “flash your titties and I’ll toss you some Mardi Gras beads” way. Or “just for fun” or “let’s be naughty.” This is serious. Post some photos of your breasts, right here on this thread. Not pretty tittie photos. Photos of the miserable rashes, welts and bruising caused by your bra.

When I first started writing about the horrific rash caused by my Victoria’s Secret bras, information was very scarce online or anywhere else about this condition. It took me a long while to recognize the pattern of unbearable itching connected to two specific VS bras I’d just purchased. I started searching for information, and discovered the story of a women who believed it was formaldehyde in the bras that caused her allergic reaction — which looked just like mine: ugly, angry red welts, with an itch worse than poison oak, so bad that scratching until I bruised and broke the skin was less painful than trying to tolerate the itch.

I started writing about bra rashes, and rashes caused by Victoria’s Secret bras, and women began pouring from the woodwork, reporting similar conditions. The vast majority were associated with wearing VS bras. Since that time, other brands have popped up, creating similar reactions, but VS is still the largest offender — likely because they’re the largest manufacturer.

People have asked about suing VS, but I think that’s a dead end. It’s been tried, and it failed. For one thing, their position is that they don’t add chemicals to their bras. True enough — the chemicals are already in the fabric and they purchase that fabric after the fact.  So, they can legally claim innocence. For another, no one seems to have died from “contact allergic dermatitis” caused by whatever is in the bra fabric. That said, who knows who might have died from absorbing those chemicals over long periods of time? Those of us who react to the chemicals are the lucky ones — we stop wearing the bras. Those who don’t continue to expose themselves to toxins. Who knows how much they have absorbed through the skin, and what those chemicals do once they reach a toxic load? Could there be a connection to breast cancer?

VS will not acknowledge this problem, let alone take responsibility. I’ve talked to their reps on the phone, and they carefully choose their words so as not to even hint of culpability. But they KNOW there’s a problem. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have reached out to me. Yes, you read that right: VS contacted ME, not vice versa. They KNOW. Many, many women have returned their bras to the stores, and get their money back, no questions asked. Of course they do. If VS has the bras, they can destroy the evidence.

The most egregious facet of this story is that VS is aware of the problem, and they just don’t care. Despite customer loyalty, despite the fact that all of us with the allergy would flock to buy the products we want (and sadly, no one has found an acceptable substitute product), they just don’t care about us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve easily spent thousands at Victoria’s Secret over my life. Add us all up, all the money we’ve collectively spent… it’s substantial. Amazingly, VS doesn’t care. Which reveals just how much money they’re making. Easily enough money to deal with this issue. They don’t even have to acknowledge it. They could just quietly make it go away.

I suppose, legally speaking, it really isn’t VS’s problem that some of their customers react so violently to whatever is in that fabric. It ultimately isn’t their fault that some of their customers have allergies. We are like people with any other allergy — peanuts, eggs, fish. It is up to us to recognize our symptoms and carefully avoid products that contain that allergen. That said, food products are labeled with their contents. Clothing is not, other than basic fabric, like cotton, linen, etc. It’s time that allergens and chemical content are listed on labels so those of us with the allergy can safely buy products, rather than suffer the “trial and error” method of excruciating itching, bruising and welts.

It would also be wonderful if VS and other garment manufacturers could produce hypoallergenic lines of clothing. Make them just as cute and sexy as the others — but without the poison. They’re capable of doing this… they just don’t want to.

However, maybe if there was a collection of visible evidence of what this chemical allergy does, it would not only be taken more seriously, but maybe some intrepid clothing/lingerie manufacturer would strike out and make hypoallergenic bras and panties that don’t cause pain and misery. So… show me your boobs.

If you have that bra rash, take a selfie or ask your partner, a friend, or family member to take one for you. If possible, to protect from being labeled as porn and banned from social media sites, cover your nipples with your hands. Just get a picture of the rash caused by your bra. When I’ve collected enough, I’ll launch a Facebook page for this. VS, and all the other clothing manufacturers may be ignoring this issue and hoping it will disappear, but actual photographic evidence is much harder to ignore than words.

Let’s get the evidence IN THEIR FACE.

One more reason to post photos: It will help the many, many women out there who are frantic because they believe they have some sort of exotic breast disease or cancer discover that they aren’t sick after all. It’s their bras that are making them sick.

We are only a few weeks away from Breast Cancer Awareness Month — October. I’m hoping we will have enough photos and testimonies to have a Facebook page by October 1. If all the women who have responded over the years to my Boob Blog posts participate, it will be MORE than enough.

So, show me your boobs. Because pictures speak a thousand words. Let’s start yelling.

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Five years later and our breasts are still angry as hell

One year ago, I wrote about the fact that I wrote about this topic four years prior to that, and was surprised that not only was the issue unresolved, it’s ongoing: horrific breast rashes triggered by Victoria’s Secret bras.

Rinse and repeat.

Women continue to contact me each week on this blog, reporting that they’re suffering with itching and rashes on their breasts, which means that manufacturers continue to churn out products made from fabrics infused with irritating chemicals. And the garment manufacturers know it. They just don’t care. Why? Because the percentage of customers that react to these chemicals with allergic contact dermatitis is relatively miniscule. It’s cheaper to ignore them than to do anything about it.

Note that I said “manufacturers” because the problem has spread beyond Victoria’s Secret. While most women commenting on my blog report issues with Victoria’s Secret bras, more and more are reporting the same thing from bras made by other manufacturers.

This makes sense because Victoria’s Secret is the largest and most popular bra manufacturer, therefore, by the numbers, their customer base is larger, and within that base, the number of women with an allergic reaction is larger. It makes further sense other bras are triggering the reaction because the issue isn’t Victoria’s Secret bras per se. The issue is the fabric itself, available to any garment manufacturer. In fact, this is how Victoria’s Secret handily crushed a lawsuit filed in 2008 by a women claiming her rash was so severe that she was disfigured from the formaldehyde that Victoria’s Secret was putting in their bras.

Victoria’s Secret responded that never added any chemicals to their bras. Technically, this was true. They didn’t add chemicals to their products — the chemicals were already in the fabric, from which their products are made. The plaintiff lost her case. And yet… the rashes continue.

Despite claims of innocence, I know for a fact that Victoria’s Secret is aware of the issue because I was contacted by two of their representatives, who gave me very carefully worded responses to my concerns, and also because Victoria’s Secret follows me on Twitter and I doubt it’s because they’re my corporate fangirls.

I think Victoria’s Secret’s motive in contacting me was to see if my plan was to lawyer up. This sentiment is very common amongst women visiting my blog. They’re furious about being mistreated and betrayed by a company to which they’ve been loyal, and their reaction is “take ’em to court.” Over the years, however, and also because Victoria’s Secret’s pockets are deeper than all us disgruntled customers combined, I’ve come to realize that the courtroom isn’t the place to address the problem. The place to address the problem is our wallets.

Even though I’m unable to find a product I like as much as Victoria’s Secret’s, I’ll never buy anything from them again: bras, panties, sleepwear, lotion or perfume. And, their “Heavenly” perfume was my favorite. But I’ll never buy it again. I don’t reward people or companies for disloyalty.

When women come to me seeking advice, this is what I tell them: See your doctor and have your condition documented, and if your doctor doesn’t know about bra-related contact allergic dermatitis, direct her/him to my blog; rather than get your money back for the bras (which Victoria’s Secret will happily do without quarrel because they’d love to destroy your “evidence”), store them in a zip-lock — you never know when (under a more caring administration) the federal government may step in and take a look at harmful chemicals in fabric, and they may want sample evidence; to determine if the bra is really causing the problem, don’t wear it until the rash is healed — about three weeks — and if you’re brave, put it back on and see if the rash comes roaring back. If it does, that will confirm your suspicions.

What does the rash look like? In my experience, it began as rough, dry, tissue-paper like skin on the areola, that didn’t get any better with moisturizer or lotion. Over time, it began to itch. Over more time, it began to itch more and welts appeared all over the breast. Over even more time, the itching became excruciating and irresistible, like poison oak, and I scratched myself raw and bruised. Even then, I couldn’t stop scratching. And then I got some new bras and started to notice the itching subsiding with the new ones and exploding if I wore the old ones. Little by little… I narrowed it down to two specific bras, and — bingo — I figured it out: it’s the bras.

As consumers who have this allergic sensitivity, we must take responsibility for recognizing the symptoms and avoiding the triggers. We have the ability to protect our own health. And here’s something to consider: Those of us with the allergy are the lucky ones. Our bodies alert us when we’re coming in contact with a toxin. Those who don’t react to the chemicals are continuing to saturate their skin with toxins, which build up in your bloodstream and tissues.

Our skin isn’t merely a covering. It’s an organ, and it absorbs chemicals. That’s why nicotine or hormone patches work: the skin slowly, constantly, absorbs the chemicals, just as it will in a lesser but more pernicious way from chemically laden fabric.

The real concern is “toxic load.” How much cumulative chemical exposure can our bodies handle before our own genetic triggers go off and react with cancer or immune disorders? That’s still a medical a mystery. Until the mystery is solved, here’s the takeaway about toxic load: the less, the better. There are chemicals in our air, our water, our food (yes, even organic food, unless it’s not exposed to natural air or water), and most of this is unavoidable. But we can avoid the products that our bodies tell us are harmful. Once you’ve experienced the allergic reaction, you’ll recognize it immediately. Your body is telling you “stop!” Your body is right.

(For more information about breast rashes caused by bras and fabrics, search “boob blog” right here on this blog.)

 

 

Boob Blog: Are our bras killing us?

Four years ago, I wrote about the horrific breast rash I’d finally pinned to two of my Victoria’s Secret bras. They were the same style and color I’d worn for years, except these two were made in China, whereas the older ones were made in India.

Since then, I’ve written several blog posts on this topic, so many that I’ve nicknamed my blog site the “Boob Blog.” Over the years, women kept coming to me about the same excruciating symptoms I’d had while wearing VS bras. More recently, a couple other brands caused the rash too, which isn’t surprising because the issue isn’t Victoria’s Secret bras, per se, it’s the fabric/materials used in the bra, which aren’t manufactured by Victoria’s Secret — only purchased.

The fabric, as is the case with anything made in China, could contain anything and everything. Harmful? Poisonous? The Chinese don’t care if they’re harmful, and neither do the corporations that sell these cheap products at huge markups. The ka-ching ka-ching ka-ching of corporate profit drowns out the objections of a few itchy, unhappy customers.

The tidal wave of toxic products coming out of China is too huge for our government to track. Only a small percentage of Chinese imports are inspected, unless of course, someone dies. Then the U.S. government is interested. Until someone dies from a breast rash, neither the government nor the company that makes Victoria’s Secret bras — Limited Brands — gives a shit.

While our government may not be aware of the breast rash issue, VS/Limited Brands certainly has been aware since at least 2008, when they were sued for allegedly having formaldehyde in their bras. However, Limited Brands squashed that lawsuit by blaming the plaintiff for her condition. She was defective, not the bras.

I had a chat with VS reps a couple years ago, and they essentially told me the same thing, by offering to guide me “toward a product that will work for you.” That implies that VS knows which bras have chemicals in them if they’re able to guide me away from them.

The reps also suggested that I get an allergy test for formaldehyde, which I did, and lo and behold, I’m not allergic to formaldehyde. But I could still be sensitive to it. Example: Although I’m technically not allergic to perfumes, I’m hypersensitive to them. Too much perfume makse me wheeze and cough, and if you’re one of those gals whose perfume cloud announces your entry 20 feet before you walk through the door… I kind of hate you. Here’s the deal: If I can smell your perfume farther away than I could kiss you, it’s too much. You’re a walking biohazard to someone like me.

So. Maybe it’s not formaldehyde in the bras. But if not… what? It’s something, because women are still getting breast rashes. VS knows it’s something too (for sure since that 2008 lawsuit) — they’re aware of my “Boob Blog” because they contacted me, not vice-versa. They also follow me on Twitter, and it’s not because they think I’m super cool and funny.

They also know about the 2012 Greenpeace International report, “Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-up,” which includes Victoria’s Secret amongst the garment manufacturers discovered to have toxic chemicals in their products. NaturalHealth365.com reported in 2015 that “Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, agreed to give in to mounting pressure by Greenpeace over two years ago and halt the use of the deadly chemicals, but since then, little is known about the mammoth lingerie retailer’s progress to ensure that dangerous toxins are no longer a part of their fashions,” and adds, “At that time, Limited Brands made a commitment to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from its supply chain and products by 2020. But unlike the media sought by Greenpeace in releasing its investigative report in late 2012, there has been little public acknowledgement from Victoria’s Secret or Limited Brands regarding its decision to do away with the deadly chemicals.”

Word, that. Victoria’s Secret isn’t about to announce a solution to a problem that they deny exists. And, women have contacted me as recently as last week about breast rashes from new VS bras, so there’s apparently no quiet solution in place either. But the problem’s definitely still there.

One gal, who posts on my blog as “MyBoobsArePissedOff,” theorized that formaldehyde isn’t the problem — it’s spray polyurethane, used to glue layers of fabric together in the bras. Is it that? Formaldehyde? Something else? I don’t know what causes the rash, I only know that it’s still happening, based upon reports from women currently suffering. They often ask me what they can do. I tell them all: Stop wearing the bra. If the rash goes away after a couple weeks and comes roaring back when you put the bra back on… mystery solved. The really sad part is that so many of them have been living in terror of having some horrific disease and have been tested for everything under the sun, and all along, it was their bra.

Some ask about suing, but Limited Brands has very deep pockets (thanks to all those bras we’ve purchased over the years) and the cost of fighting them is prohibitive. And, ultimately, I don’t think lawyers are the answer. I think medical research is the answer. I predict that scientific scrutiny will discover more to this fabric chemical issue than mere itchy breasts, and that may finally get the government’s attention.

True, the government isn’t interested in hazardous products until someone dies. But what if women have already died from chemicals in their bras? The bras contain chemicals. Some of us react to those chemicals and take the bras off. Vastly more, however, don’t react to the chemicals, and continue wearing the bras, thereby having daily direct skin contact with known carcinogens over many years. Chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and, obviously, our breasts are covered with skin.

One in eight American women gets breast cancer. Could chemicals in our bras be a factor? Shouldn’t we find out?