So, I started to itch. Uncontrollably. I’ve heard of jock itch. But breast itch? Could there be so such a thing? All I know is that mine started itching wickedly. We’re talking chicken-pox-covered-in-poison-oak itchy. You can’t not scratch. Even to the point of bruising. Or bleeding.
No joke. I left a mark. Many, in fact.
I scratched my chest like a flea-infested alley cat, to the point of being raw, and still couldn’t stop. And it wasn’t the first time this had happened, but it was most definitely the worst. Both breasts were covered in welts, red everywhere and miserable. My skin was dry and tissue-papery, and the nipples were like sandpaper. My husband and I were watching TV and he finally asked to know what the heck was up with all the wiggling and scratching.
“Don’t be shocked,” I warned him before pulling up my blouse to show him.
He didn’t heed the warning.
“Ewwww!!!” he exclaimed and backed away a little, as if I might spray ebola virus like a chemical warfare Fembot, and told me to get to a doctor.
Needless to say, after he took one look at me, there was no romance in the midst of this mammary misery. Nothing says “Not tonight, honey” like diseased breasts.
Sadly, the doctor couldn’t see me for another week, so I got some Cortisone cream from the drug store and within a couple days, the rash had cleared up. By the time my appointment rolled around, there was nothing to look at, although my doc tried. All she noted was some really dry skin, and chalked it up to an allergic reaction.
Hmmm… now we have a mammary misery mystery. What could I suddenly be so allergic to?
I thought back to anything and everything I might have done to my tat-ta region to trigger this. One thing that stood out as suspect was my shower puff, which had been hanging unused for a couple weeks. I’d used it immediately before the rash started. Maybe the shower puff had invisible fungus? Yuck. Also, on that puff, I’d used Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap. But it couldn’t be the soap. That’s very mild, organic, and typically soothing to the skin. And besides… if it was either the puff or the soap, I’d have gotten the welts everywhere. I didn’t.
I remembered what bra I was wearing that day… Victoria’s Secret all-cotton heather gray. And, I vaguely remembered having the same itchiness in the past when wearing this bra — and hadn’t worn it since I had the rash. Time for some research. I washed the bra, to be sure there wasn’t some sort of lotion or perfume residue, and once the rash was completely cleared up, I wore it for a day. The welts began returning in less than 24 hours.
Aha. A clue.
So, I put my investigative journalism skills to use and Googled “Victoria’s Secret bra rash” and the search results lit up, going back as far as 2008. There were stories by credible news agencies, and even a CBS video of an interview with a woman about my age, who, like me, had been wearing Victoria’s Secret bras for decades without incident, and suddenly… a painful, itchy rash on her breasts. There were photos with the story, and her rash was identical to mine.
The report said the trouble began when Victoria’s Secret switched from a manufacturer in India to one in China. Suddenly women started reporting the rashes. The likely culprit? Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde. You know — the stuff they use to embalm bodies, to preserve them longer! Victoria – I have a secret for you: I don’t want you to preserve my breasts, I just want you to hold them up comfortably and attractively. I may be 54, but my breasts aren’t dead yet! They only look that way!
I relayed all my research findings to my husband, and he had one reaction: Burn that bra!
Hey, I could claim to be reinvigorating classic 1970s Feminism and get double mileage out of that burn! However, the bra in question was a 40DD and it was in the midst of one of our howling windstorms. I didn’t want to start a wildfire. So, I chucked it in the trash. I haven’t had the rash since, and the girls are completely fine and healthy.
What bugs me most about this whole breast rash ordeal is that the stories I found online date back to 2008. I purchased this bra about a year ago. And, as anyone who’s ever purchased anything from Victoria’s Secret can attest, those bras ain’t cheap. They cost at least twice what they’re worth, for no good reason really, other than customers buy into the marketing spin that they’ll make you as sexy as those sultry waifs who model their products. They won’t, of course, but I must say their products fit like nothing else, frame the boobage nicely, and are really comfortable. It keeps you coming back.
So, therein you have the reason for customer loyalty: We love the product, regardless of what it costs. How shocking to discover that customers are being repaid for this loyalty by products infused with toxins that cause allergic reactions and a whole heck of a lot of misery. I could understand that Victoria’s Secret didn’t realize what was going on in their Chinese manufacturing in 2008. But in the five years since — they apparently haven’t done anything to address it either. They know we’ll keep buying their products and assuming that we’re just allergic to our laundry soap or fabric softener. And that really pisses me off. Enough to start looking for a different company to support my girls.
So, Victoria, your secret’s out: It seems you’re putting a lot more into your bras than boobies.