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3 Good Reasons to Throw Out Your Old Bra — and 3 Great Bras to Buy Instead

Bras should really come with expiration dates.

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If you’re anything like us, once you find the perfect bra to lift, support, and flatter your girls, it becomes your daily go-to. But too much wearing and washing can damage fabric, causing that once-flattering bra to stop pulling its weight.

Below are three common problems caused by old bras — and three great bras to replace them. Keep reading to find out if your bra is standing the test of time, or if you’re due for an upgrade.

The Problem: Saggy breasts

The Culprit: Lax bra straps

“Straps provide 10 percent of a bra’s support, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s responsible for ensuring breasts rest halfway between shoulders and elbows for a youthful lift,” says Jené Luciani, bra expert and author of The Bra Book. But as elastic gradually breaks down, straps lose their grip and leave your girls hanging.

Time to toss? Stand upright, with your shoulders back and tighten straps as far as they can go. Sturdy ones will rest flush against skin, but if a gap remains between the straps and your shoulders (or if they’re sliding off), they’re too loose. You can extend the bra’s life with a bra connector, like Hollywood Fashion Secrets Bra Converting Clip ($4.97, Walmart). It pulls straps together in back (like a racerback), holding them taut for added grip that lifts in the front.

The upgrade: A racerback bra, like Wacoal’s Soft Embrace Front Close Racerback Bra, keeps straps snug for complete support.

Where to buy: $39 (Originally $52), Macy’s)

black wacoal bra

The Problem: Underboob

The Culprit: Stretched-out band

The band of a new bra should fit comfortably on the loosest hook, leaving room to tighten it as it stretches over time, says bra expert Kimmay Caldwell. “So if the band begins to feel loose even on the tightest hook, then it’s no longer able to anchor itself against the body. This can cause breast tissue to spill out below the cups.”

Time to toss? With your bra on at its tightest setting, raise your arms above your head, says Caldwell. “If the cups slide up and over your breasts, your band is too big to be saved.”

The upgrade: A balconette bra, like Soma’s Stunning Support Balconette Bra features an extra panel of fabric beneath cups to help hold the bra in place, even if the band has stretched. Tip: To ensure a new bra lasts even longer, hand-wash in cold water using baby shampoo; hang dry. Cold water reinforces the fabric’s fibers to thwart stretching, while baby shampoo gently cleanses sans harsh chemicals that damage fabric.

Where to buy: $60, Soma

soma bra

The Problem: Uneven breasts

The Culprit: Misshapen cups and underwire

Properly fitting cups that conform to the bust offer volume, shape and lift. The downside: After just six to nine months of consistent wear and wash, cups can lose their shape, and the underwire can get bent, fray the fabric and even poke through. The result? Lopsided-looking boobs that hurt!

Time to toss? For a bra with molded cups, lay it on a flat surface. If the cups appear lumpy instead of forming symmetrical domes, it’s best to part ways. For one with traditional cups, put the bra on and gently tug outward at the bridge between cups. If the fabric snaps back against the body, there’s still some life left, but if the fabric puckers up and doesn’t bounce back, it’s time to replace. Bonus: If the fabric is frayed but the wire hasn’t yet poked through, you can cut a small piece of a panty liner and stick it over the spot, says Luciani. The thin liner creates a barrier that nixes jabbing for pain-free wear.

The upgrade: A nylon-coated underwire bra with removable padding, like ThirdLove’s 24/7 Lace Contour Plunge Bra, has an “insulated” wire, which is less likely to break through fabric, and inserts that can be taken out before washing to help preserve their shape. Luciani’s tip: When storing bras, place balls of rolled-up socks inside the cups. This keeps them propped up so they maintain their structure longer.

Where to buy: $72 (Originally $76), ThirdLove

ThirdLove bra

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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