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Skin is the human body’s largest organ, and with all that real estate — some 22 square feet of it on the average adult — exposed to sun, countless irritants, and allergens, it’s bound to get a little itchy sometimes (via National Geographic). If that urge to scratch is on your leg or your arm, no big deal. You scratch it and move on. But have you ever been stuck in a public place, say your office desk, and your breasts start tingling with that telltale sign that an itch party is about to happen right in your B cups? Not only is it embarrassing to try and discreetly shuffle around to relieve the annoyance, but it’s also disconcerting.
No need to be stressed, however. While itchy breasts can be a symptom of a rare form of inflammatory breast cancer, more often than not, the super common condition is nothing to worry about, and once you pinpoint the cause, it can be easily alleviated (via Medical News Today).
Here’s everything you need to know about what might be causing your boobs to itch so much.
Your breasts are itchy because of your bra
No judgment here — we’re all guilty of not washing our bras often enough — but that bra you picked up off the floor of your bedroom and wore without a second thought, is making your girls angry. In an interview with Self, Dr. Gary Goldenberg, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine explained, “Dirty clothes, including underclothes, often have bacteria that can…irritate the skin.” Yeah, that’s kind of gross, but at least it’s an easy fix.
The same warning goes for a new bra. Dr. Goldberg says that synthetic materials like polyester and latex which are frequently used in bras are also common skin irritants. Simply having these materials pressed up against your delicate skin can cause it to feel irritated and itchy. Always be mindful of what your bra is made of, and don’t wear a new bra without an at-home trial run, especially if your skin is sensitive.
Your breasts are itchy because you had a sweaty workout and didn’t change
Sports bras are meant to provide support, but that also means they can be tight and unforgiving. The compression combined with sweat is a recipe for chafing, and an itchy rash. If you don’t remove the sweaty material and properly clean and dry the skin, or you wear a dirty sports bra more than once, you can cause even more uncomfortable irritation (via Livestrong).
You can even get a yeast infection on your breasts, and it’s just as uncomfortable as you’d imagine. According to San Francisco-based dermatologist Marie Jhin, who spoke with Health, any sweat left on the skin under your breasts can not only attract yeast, but also cause it to thrive and develop into an infection. She advises that any time you accumulate sweat in your boob region, promptly wash and dry the area to prevent the yeast from developing and always wear a clean sports bra.
Your breasts are itchy because of harsh soaps, detergents, or fragrances
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, everyone experiences contact dermatitis at some point. It’s basically an itchy rash that develops when something irritating touches our skin. Some people are incredibly sensitive to fragrances in soaps and moisturizers and other people have no problems, but irritant contact dermatitis can develop over time even if you’ve been using the same detergent for a while (via Healthline).
Your breasts are almost always covered by fabric that has been washed in detergent and fabric softener so the exposure is higher than other areas of the body. Dr. Shari Lipner, a New York-based dermatologist explained to Health, “Tons of people will get a rash or red, flaky, itchy skin if they’re exposed to an irritant soap or detergent in large enough quantities.” So, if your clothes are starting to feel uncomfortable against your skin, especially delicate skin areas, it might be time to switch detergents or toss that scented body lotion you picked up recently.
Your breasts are itchy because it’s that time of the month
Add this to the column of symptoms that occur pre, post, and during your period. There’s such a huge change in hormone activity during this time of the month that you can experience everything from pain, to soreness, and itching. The same can happen during menopause, as well. Can we catch a break? Christine Greves, an Ob/gyn at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida told Health, “When hormones fluctuate, the breasts tend to get more sensitive. That means they may be more prone to irritation and itching.” There’s not much you can do about the itchiness that comes from Aunt Flo’s visit, but at least you know why it’s happening.
It’s important to remember if you can’t pinpoint the cause of your breast itching or irritation, it’s always best to consult with your doctor, and get in the habit of doing a self breast exam once a month (via Breast Cancer.org)