What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
About two years ago, I started experiencing an intense, nagging itch on my left breast. It was winter when I first felt the itchiness, so I thought it was just regular old dry skin. I slopped some moisturizer on the girls and called it a day.
As summer approached, I wondered why the boob itchiness progressed while the rest of my skin was moisturized. Since regular creams weren’t working, I tried using some anti-itch cortisone cream. It soothed the itch for about an hour, and then I would start to feel it again. Perhaps this was a (gross!) fungal issue? I purchased some antifungal cream and applied generously every day, but "itchy boob," as myself and my husband now lovingly called it, was here to stay.
My breast itchiness went on all summer, fall, and into the winter again. The itchiness even started affecting the other breast. It wasn’t a normal itchy feeling like a bug bite or poison ivy. It was a burning hot sensation that forced me to scratch my delicate skin raw at times. The itchiness become worse whenever I scratched, but the urge to scratch was intolerable, so I had to give in. It was hard not to scratch in public, and to concentrate on things when they itched. I read about a form of cancer that makes your nipples itchy, but my nipples weren’t affected, just the skin around them.
I tried eczema creams, coconut oil, almond oil, apple cider vinegar and other homemade anti-itch ointments, but nothing helped.
I eventually brought it up to my primary care physician. She took a look at my breasts and examined where I told her the itchiness was, but since there was no rash, she said she couldn't give me a diagnosis. She prescribed me a tube of triamcinolone acetonide cream, and advised me not to get it in or around my nipples because it was a steroid.
While this cream worked to rid me of the itchiness temporarily, I started getting worried about the fact that I was now smearing steroids all over my breasts. And the steroid cream wasn't even making the issue go away. The effects lasted maybe two days, and then the itching came back. I decided to stop using it.
Out of embarrassment, I stupidly went two years without bringing it up to my doctor again.
At my last physical examination, I finally had some nice breast rashes to show my doctor. She took a look and after seeing the rashes and the small dots on my sternum (that I thought were acne scars that didn't tan anymore), she diagnosed me with ringworm (it’s not a worm, but it still sounds horrific when it’s on your boobs!) and gave me a prescription for ketoconazole cream. "The big tube," she said, "because ringworm has a tendency to come back.” She also prescribed some pills that she recommended I take once a day for a week.
The ringworm cream smelled like rotten meat. I used the cream on its own for a week, and felt no change in the itchiness. The rashes remained. The next week I started the pills and continued the cream. By day five of the pills, I realized that neither of these prescriptions were working out for me. It was not ringworm.
Perhaps my issue was coming from my bra? I searched online for "bra allergy" and I was surprised to read that many women who had purchased bras that were manufactured in China were complaining of similar rashes developing on their breasts. I looked at the two bras I wore on the regular, and sure enough they were manufactured in China. I read on to learn that when bras are being imported to the USA from China, they get sprayed with pesticides containing formaldehyde. Many women believe formaldehyde is the issue behind their rashes. Some women even filed a class action lawsuit against Victoria’s Secret due to rashes they developed after wearing bras they purchased from the company.
Were my breasts screaming at me because I have been surrounding them in poison?
It’s been less than a week since I took my “Made in China” bras out of rotation, and even though a rash still exists on my breasts it's not nearly as red and irritated-loonking, and I haven’t had the urge to scratch the crap out of my boobs. They’re not itchy! I have been wearing old bras that were made in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. Coincidence? I am reaching the conclusion that my “Made in China” bras are what have caused my two year-long bout of “itchy boob.”
When I first started this article, I was upset about the information I found regarding the usage of formaldehyde on imported bras, but have since become infuriated upon learning how much of our other clothing contains this harmful carcinogen, as well as many other chemicals that cause skin irritation. If this makes you mad too, check out our country’s import regulations (and lack thereof) to read about how things arrive here from China. I was unaware that while most other countries set limits on formaldehyde levels in clothing, the USA does not. I had no idea that manufacturers sometimes even add formaldehyde directly to fabric because of its ability to keep clothing wrinkle-free. This stuff is being added to all sorts of bedding materials, towels, and even clothing and blankets for children and infants. There’s formaldehyde-soaked fabric touching the faces of everyone I love! Most people are not sensitive to formaldehyde in their clothing and therefore won’t ever notice it’s there.
If you wear bras that are manufactured in China and you don’t end up with a raging case of “itchy boob,” does that mean you are safe from any negative effects that formaldehyde and other chemicals may be doing to your breasts? For myself, I am horrified that I trusted my beautiful ladies to cups of poison for two years. Can anyone recommend a good ole wysiwyg “Made in the USA” bra?
I would tell everyone to burn their “Made in China” bras, but I’m sure burning formaldehyde is probably not so great for the air.