Helpful tips from Hudson’s Guide on Binding
Pain and discomfort
Certain methods of binding can be sweaty, uncomfortable, or even painful, as well as restrictive to your movement and even your breathing if done too tightly. Please use caution and common sense when binding– if it hurts, cuts your skin, or prevents you from breathing, it is too tight.
In the past, trans guys used to rely on do-it-yourself binding solutions because there weren’t any ready-made products available to suit the purpose. Some of these DIY binding methods (like wrapping yourself in ace bandages or duct tape) are still easily accessible, but they aren’t very good for your body, and can even cause serious injury. Now that there are safer binding methods available (and even binder donation programs for those who cannot afford a binder), it is best to avoid methods like Ace bandages and tape.
You may also be tempted to try buying a binder that is one size too small in the hopes that it will flatten your chest even more. Avoid this type of thinking and buy the size that correlates to your physical measurements. Binders are already designed to be very tight when they fit properly– buying a size too small will be so tight that it may cause severe discomfort or injury.
Give yourself a break from binding! The compression on your skin and body from a binder is a lot to take, so don’t bind all day and all night. And when you begin binding, start with just a few hours at a time to let your body get used to it.
Sweating and skin irritation
If a binder’s material doesn’t breathe or wick away sweat, you can end up with sores or rashes on your skin. One way to minimize this risk is to apply a non-irritating body powder to your skin before binding. Another is to wear a thin undershirt beneath your binder that is made of fabric that wicks away sweat. This can help absorb moisture and prevent irritation that may arise from scratchy binding materials. Remember to allow your skin some time off from binding, and keep your binders clean.
Do not use tape to bind, especially directly on your skin, as it may cut you, cause painful rashes, and pull off layers of skin and hair when removed. It also tends to be too rigid, making it difficult to breathe and move.
You might find that the binder you choose will tend to roll up in certain areas, particularly around the waist. If this is a problem for you, try sewing an extra length of fabric all the way around the bottom of the binder, and tuck that extra material snugly into your pants.
If you find that you have areas of chafing or bulging around the armpit area, you might want to try trimming and/or otherwise altering that area with a needle and thread. You can often find inexpensive solutions, such as spandex, Lycra, Velcro, and other materials at your local fabric store, using trial and error to make alterations that suit your specific frame.
It is worth checking with FTM organizations, FTM internet groups, and FTM web pages for advice on common binding challenges and problems; many guys have come up with brilliant adaptations to various types of binders that involve minimal cost and a few sewing skills.
If you are not handy with a needle and thread, check your local community for a friendly tailor or costume maker who might be able to help you custom fit your binder, or even make a binder from scratch to fit you perfectly.
If economically feasible, try to experiment with binding methods to find something as comfortable and breathable as possible while still maintaining a look for your chest that you can live with. If a binder doesn’t work well for you, consider donating it or selling it to another trans man who might have better luck with it.