By Anna Chan, health editor
What it is: Victoria's Secret Beauty Secret Bust-Firming Bra ($48-$68 plus shipping from VictoriasSecret.com)
What it claims to do: Give your bust a more uplifted effect by diminishing signs of aging and improving the skin's ability to retain moisture with DermalRX HydroSeal and Dermaxyl. All you have to do is wear the bra for at least four weeks, eight hours a day, to see an 18 percent boost in skin firmness with results at a peak after eight weeks.
My experience: As a woman who is not so blessed in the chest area and not interested at all in surgical enhancements, I nearly jumped for joy when two readers wrote to us in January and asked us to test this new bust-firming bra. The "more uplifted effect" promised in the product's description means I look bigger, right? Without surgery? For less than $100? And all I have to do is wear the same bra for four to eight weeks? Well, that part's a little icky, but still – sign me up!
I ordered the demi bra in whisper pink, then waited not so patiently for it to arrive. When it did, I ripped open the package and gazed happily at the pretty pink garment. A tag that came with the bra indicated that the garment feels just like any other and doesn't require inserts, creams or lotions, though the strap of the bra noted that the fabric was 83 percent nylon and 17 percent spandex. (So where are DermalRX and Dermaxyl?) The bra felt incredibly cool and smooth to the touch – almost slick. I could tell right away it was going to be a comfy undergarment.
And it is, though I was a smidge disappointed when I first put it on. There isn't any extra padding on the demi bra, which was fine with me, but most bras I have that don't come with the extra "enhancements" still give me a little extra oomph, but this one didn't. I looked extra small, which was disappointing for a bra that was supposed to help me look "more uplifted." (Should've gone for the push-up, which I missed when submitting my order.) But that's OK, I thought. It has four weeks to firm up the area to make it look more impressive!
Wearing the same bra for that long gets kind of gross after a while, especially when you can see the dirt start to build up in the light-colored fabric. (And yes, I did hand wash it several times. I also showered daily, if you must know.) Also, after about three weeks, the underwire on one side started to move around a bit and poked me relentlessly until I learned how to wrestle it back into place each morning. I gave it almost seven weeks before I gave up.
So did I notice any increased firmness or diminished signs of aging? Nope. Victoria's Secret says that women who tested the product experienced on average an 18 percent boost in firmness, but honestly, I had no idea how I could even measure that in myself. A few totally unscientific tests on my own seemed to indicate that I was just as buoyant after testing the bra as before I got it. (To be fair, I'm reasonably young and am not experiencing any droopage or visible signs of aged skin, so I wasn't expecting miracles.)
I tried to contact Victoria's Secret to get some specifics about the tests they did so I could more accurately compare my results to theirs, but no luck. So I tracked down the company that supplied VS with the DermalRX HydroSeal. I was unable to talk to anyone at Applied DNA Sciences in a timely matter, but a press release from October 2008 about its work with Victoria's Secret explained things a bit: DermalRX HydroSeal is a "complex of a novel yeast ferment, soy proteins and soy peptides." The ingredients allegedly repair damaged skin and restore the skin surface to refine texture and radiance, and the effect promotes a youthful skin appearance and contributes to skin health, according to the press release.
What the expert says: "It doesn't make a lot of sense to me," said Dr. Anthony Youn, a Michigan-based board certified plastic surgeon who has not tested the bust-firming bra. "It sounds like they're thinking combining [Dermaxyl] with nylons and spandex might help thicken the skin," he continued. "I can't explain how they put [Dermaxyl] in the fabric."
Youn noted that Dermaxyl is a peptide used in makeup and some anti-aging creams, and that some believe it could be an alternative to Retin-A, a prescription-strength anti-wrinkle cream scientifically proven to increase the collagen in the skin and tighten it, which is why in some people, it can firm up the skin and decrease wrinkles. He is not familiar with DermalRX HydroSeal.
So why wouldn't the Dermaxyl in the bra – however they get it in there – help increase breast firmness? He explained that breasts droop with age and become less firm because of changes in the tissue. "As they age, the tissue that makes up the breast turns from thick, Styrofoam-like density in an 18-year-old into fat. Fat has no strength, and that's why breasts will droop with time. … It's not because of the skin," said Youn, who is also the author of the Celebrity Cosmetic Surgery Blog. He hypothesized that if the bra is very occlusive, "it's possible that it may allow the skin to retain the moisture better, and it may feel firmer."
Bottom line: If you're in the market for a new bra that feels nice on your skin, go for it. Otherwise, I might skip this purchase if obvious bust-firming and uplifted effects are expected. (Keep in mind that you have to wear it for four weeks straight, so you may want to buy two or three to avoid feeling grossed out.)
Youn said that if you're really interested in making your breasts look firmer, you'll have to go the surgery route and get a breast lift. No anti-wrinkle, skin-firming cream on the market "is going to firm up the skin that you get a significant difference in how the breast looks and feels," he noted.
As for this particular bra, Youn wouldn't refute its claims, though he can't explain how it might work. "It's a nice idea if a company can significantly firm and lift the breast. Then I should close my practice and open a lingerie store."