What is binding?

Binding involves wearing tight clothing, bandages, or compression garments to flatten out your chest.

Why do some people bind?

Binding is a do-it-yourself option for changing your appearance so that it matches your gender expression. Having a flat chest may help you feel more comfortable in your body. It may also help others read your gender.

What binding methods are commonly used?

There are many different ways to bind, and the best method for you will depend on your chest size and build. Whichever method you choose should allow you to breathe normally and feel comfortable when resting and moving. Here are some common methods:

  • Layering of shirts. This involves wearing a tight-fitting undershirt, with a slightly looser shirt on top, and perhaps a third, looser shirt on top of that.

  • Sports bras. Tight-fitting sports bras made with lots of Lycra work well for some people. The material is made to be breathable.

  • Athletic compression shirts. Many sports goods stores sell tight-fitting compression shirts made of spandex, lycra, or other stretchy materials. These are breathable and can work well for people with minimal chest tissue.

  • Neoprene waist/abdominal trimmers or back support devices. Neoprene is a thick, rubbery material that is relatively inexpensive and widely available in drug stores and large chain discount stores. It doesn’t breathe very well, but offers effective compression.

  • Chest binders/medical compression shirts. These binders look like tank-tops or t-shirts. They are quite effective at flattening a range of chest sizes. This is probably the most popular binding method, though it can be expensive and you’ll likely need to order these garments online.

This list is a summary of the binding methods described in Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide. Check this website for more detailed information, including the names of popular brands and where to buy them.

For reviews about which binding methods work best with which chest sizes, check The Chest Binder Review Blog.

How do I bind safely?

Wrapping yourself with elastic bandages, duct tape or saran wrap is not a safe way to bind. These methods can restrict blood flow, make it hard to breathe, cause rashes and bruising, and even break ribs. For safer alternatives, try any of the methods listed in the section above (What binding methods are commonly used?).

It’s also important to find a binder that’s the right size for you. Your binder is too tight if you are having difficulty breathing, are experiencing pain, or your skin is wearing away in any spots. If this is the case, you can alter the binder to fit your body, get a bigger size, or try another method.

Ideally, you’ll find a binder made of material that breathes. If your binder isn’t very breathable, you may get sores or rashes on your skin. This can be minimized by applying body powder to your skin before binding. Another strategy is to wear a thin undershirt made of fabric that wicks away sweat underneath your binder.

Lastly, if you are getting out of the shower and putting a binder on, make sure your skin is completely dry first.

How might binding affect my body?

We couldn’t find any research on the risks of binding. Anecdotally, we know that some discomfort is common with binding, especially after many hours of compression. The muscles in your back and shoulder might feel sore and your skin might feel irritated.

You may find that binding contributes to feeling quite warm in the summer months. Some conditions, such as asthma, may be made worse by binding.

Binding over a long period of time can reduce the elasticity of the skin on your chest. If you are planning on getting chest surgery, reduced skin elasticity may affect your surgical outcomes. Skin elasticity is one of the factors considered when choosing a technique for chest surgery.

How do I clean a binder?

Follow the instructions that came with the garment. Generally speaking, hand washing is best. Avoid using bleach or putting it in the dryer, as these actions can cause the material to break down.