Ahh, boobs. You fickle funbags. While some of us might spend our teen years feeling like we’re perpetually at the back of the boob queue, others wish they hadn’t been given double helpings. Some people like Liz.

“It seems most girls are thrilled when puberty arrives and the bee stings on their chest blossom into lovely lady lumps,” says Liz. “I was the same. Age 14-15, I went from being basically inverted to a full B cup over the summer. I had been in high school for a year and was jealous of the older girls walking around in all their booby glory so now, life was good.

“But then my full B cups were spilling over my bra by autumn, and my new C cups soon turned into D cups and finally settled at G cups. Suddenly, I had humungo boobs; huge, big, giant, obnoxious breasts at the ripe age of 16.”

elderly women

“One weekend, I went into the brand new Victoria’s Secret that had just opened up. Heading inside with all intentions of finding a beautiful bra to make myself feel better about the boulders on my chest, I asked to be measured to find my perfect fit. The sales girl looked at my chest then looked at me and smirked, “we don’t carry your size here”. I ended up going to a specialist bra shop and getting two beige bras with thick straps. I felt 50 years old.”

Breast friends forever?

When even wearing three bras at once didn’t kill the jiggle, Liz found herself slowly quitting the sports she’d loved when she was younger. “I struggled shopping at all the cool stores with my friends as none of the tops fit. Soon enough I was dreading nights out. I could no longer count on my fingers and toes how many times I had been asked if my boobs were real (as if that’s a question that you can ask a stranger on the street!). Every conversation I had was being directed at my boobs, as if they had the ability to answer back – my face didn’t matter, the only thing that existed was my boobs.”

After enduring pack pain, bad posture and dents in both her shoulders and her self-esteem, at 19 Liz decided to take action – and it was bye-bye boobs. After several doctor’s appointments, some awkward paper nightgown action and a year of waiting, she had a breast reduction operation and went from an (OM)G cup down to a more manageable DD.

Joey boobs

“All and all, my breast reduction was a huge decision, I did not take it lightly,” says Liz. “I researched, I asked questions, I weighed pros and cons and came to the conclusion it was the right call for me. The process was scary, it wasn’t easy and it does hurt, but for me it was the best decision I could have made and I don’t regret it. Not for one second.”

The bare facts on boob reductions
  • It’s usually day surgery – you can be in and out in under 8 hours.
  • If the size of your boobs is affecting your health, you might be able to have a free breast reduction on the NHS.
  • The way your boobs look fresh out of surgery is not always how they'll stay – they might still grow, shrink and change shape.
  • As with any surgery, there are risks – so do your research, talk to your doctor and know every detail. Even the gross ones.

The biggest perks… according to Liz

1. Shopping

I can shop in regular shops and get shirts and dresses that fit!” says Liz. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many styles that just were not meant for bigger boobs but it’s a million times better than it was pre-op.”

2. Getting active

I can go to the gym, play sport and run around with my nephew so much more easily. I still double-bra but that’s for my own comfort and even some of my friends sporting the B and C cups double bra so it’s not that bad.”

3. Body confidence

“I’m happy with how I look topless. Not thrilled – I haven’t made it there yet – but I don’t feel like an 80-year-old lady when my top is off anymore.”

4. Less pain

“Yeah, back pain is a part of getting older… but if I hadn’t done something about it when I did, I might be a hunchback by now. Or at least in more pain than a young woman should have to deal with.”

5. Bras

“I can buy cute ones that don’t cost £200 and only come in boring old-lady white and old-lady beige. There is no massive indent on my shoulder and my bras last a year before giving up on life, as opposed to before my reduction, when I had a three-month window before the weight of the boobies took over…”

6. Social life

“People still stare, make obnoxious comments and oggle at my boobs; but because I’m more confident in myself and know that they’re not as giant as they were, it means I can stand proud, be less self-conscious and not feel like I’m a giant walking boob.”

7. Sleeping

“Sleeping with big boobs is ridiculous. When you lie on your back you feel like they’re suffocating you as they either roll up to you chin, or flop onto your sides like the parting of the sea. Side-sleeping isn’t much better as your cleavage goes up to your neck and gets hot and sweaty… and let’s not even talk about lying on your tum. Smoosh central. So with a smaller chest, sleep isn’t as difficult.”

8. Comfort

“I’m not saying I’m a prancing ball of comfort or anything, but straight up, I don’t struggle with my bra and clothes, I don’t lose crisps and crumbs into the deep abyss that was my cleavage, people stare less, hit them accidentally while hand-talking less, and seat belts fit comfortably between them now. Which is nice.”

9. My parents

“I think the worst thing for a parent is to see your child in pain. Both of my parents felt helpless, but did whatever they could to make me feel better about what I looked like and how I felt (thanks guys). Your fam and friends go through rough times with you and we are so lucky to have these people in our lives. Mine saw me gain confidence and be a happier person because of this ordeal.”

10. Helping others

“The best thing I did for myself was following my gut and getting my boob reduction. Other girls struggling with the decision shouldn’t go through it alone. This is a major decision that should not be taken lightly as this surgery is not for everyone. If I can give just one girl some comfort by sharing my own personal experience then that is definitely one of the best things about getting one.”

If you want to find out more about boob reductions, take a look at the NHS website.

Illustration: Katie Edmunds

I am about to break a silence that has lasted some eighteen years. I am about to tell you something I have never told my best friends. I have never told my mother. I have never told a doctor.

Are we all ready?

When I was a teenager, for a while I had a bad thing happening in my nipular area. I don’t know how long it lasted, all I remember is that it felt like years.

Here are the basic details:

I have had eczema all my life. When I was a kid, it only ever showed up in my elbows and behind my knees and the doctor told me I’d probably grow out of it. Oh, doctor. You sweet, naive fool, if only you had been right. I think of that alternate-universe Janina, from time to time. The Janina who can buy moisturiser freely and without fear, experimenting with joy instead of sticking with that one brand that seems to work consistently most of the time (Aveeno, by the way). She must be so happy.

While the rashy patches on my legs and arms did fade, they were replaced by weirder, more painful, less predictable rashes literally everywhere else. When the weather is hot, for example, I get pompholyx on my hands and the soles of my feet. This particular brand of eczema consists of tiny, itchy blisters that recently saw me tear my shoes off mid-exercise and clutch my feet in agony. My shoulders, neck and back are popular sites also, which can make wearing a bra downright painful.

But nothing has ever been so bad as the Year of the Nip.

It started slowly. A weeping crack here, a weeping crack there. First the left nipple, then the right. Eventually, the peaks atop my boobs were more weeping crack than nipple. Literally a pair of open sores on my chest.

It was unpleasant.

They would dry onto the fabric of my clothes and I’d rip them open every time I got changed. So I put plasters on them, obviously. But friends, my nipples were too much for your common-or-garden plaster. I had to find an upgrade.

It is at this point that a doctor might have been able to help me. Doctors are good at helping with this kind of thing. But I was young and embarrassed and I couldn’t figure out how I would tell anyone what was happening in the secret confines of my underwire.

So I MacGyvered a solution. I chopped a sanitary pad in half, and put a half in each cup. I slathered them in emollient cream and prayed for salvation. It wasn’t perfect. They would slide around sometimes. I would find one making an escape towards my cleavage, and be flooded with fear that someone had seen it poking out from my t-shirt.

The thing here is, that it was happening elsewhere as well. Specifically, to my lips. I’d had to take a full two weeks off school, because my face had basically exploded – I had conjunctivitis, a cold sore that made my jaw swell to three times its size, and lip-eczema that had left my lips so raw they had – brace yourselves – scabbed themselves shut.

You would think that, given all the highly visible grossness that was happening one floor up, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to say, ‘oh, hey, also my boobs are revolting right now!’ But sometimes it’s difficult to talk about boobs, in that kind of way.

We can talk about cleavage and cup size, of course, we can talk about plunge and balcony and lace and underwire, and how few people wear the right size bra. We can talk about how to feel for lumps – in theory, at least. But talking about things being really wrong in that area is scary. Or if it’s not scary it’s shameful.

There is one thing every teenage girl knows to be true: boobs are important. Apparently. They mean you’re growing up, they are the most obvious thing that might make you desirable – if something goes wrong with them, does that mean you no longer are?

Added to that is the fact that we only hear about things going wrong with boobs if it’s really serious, so when you think about boob health, the first, terrifying, thing you think of is cancer. But little things can go wrong too. No one talks about the infected ingrown hair they once had on their left breast, or all the other small problems that might seem huge at the time.

The happy ending here is that, eventually, my disgusting nipples healed. I am still scared they’ll come back, of course, but if they do I think I might just be brave enough to go to the doctor about it.

And for a silver lining, after all that, periodically plucking out long black nipple hairs doesn’t seem like that big a deal at all.

@j9andlf

A lot of teens worry about the fact that they don’t have boobs yet.

I spent many a PE class reassuring one of my friends that just because she had a chest like an ironing board, it didn’t mean that it’d stay that way forever – and that even if it did, it didn’t matter, because Sian Hughes from the year above didn’t have big boobs either and she was the living embodiment of the heart-eyes emoji. AA-cup anxiety affected a fair chunk of the girls in my year, and I was always sympathetic. It’s no fun having a body that won’t behave the way you want it to.

But that being said, I found it hard to really empathise with the flat-chested girls… because boobs exploded out of my chest at 11 like a puberty bomb had gone off inside me, and nothing has been the same since.

I’m not exaggerating. It happened overnight. My auntie went away for a week during boobageddon and her first words when she came through the door were “Where did those come from?!”. The training bra I’d been wearing for a month or so was a little loose on the Tuesday but wouldn’t do up on the Wednesday. I had to wear one of my mum’s blouses to school because my school shirt didn’t do up over my newly boobalicious body.

Not having a bra to control my brand new bosoms, I spent the rest of the week walking around with my arms crossed so that they didn’t bounce away from me and take out a passing cyclist. First thing on Saturday, my mum and I went to Debenhams to get me fitted for a proper bra; I’d gone from an AA to a B cup in five days.

Initially, I was delighted. I bought the prettiest bras I could find and spent ages dancing around in front of the mirror in them. I had a sleepover with my friends and let them try them on, stuffing the empty cups with loo roll. I doled out sage advice to schoolmates because, as I now had breasts, I was clearly a more mature and worldly person. It was wonderful.

Until it wasn’t. Not only did my boobs arrive in a spectacular and sudden fashion, they also decided that they quite liked it out in the great wide world – and so they kept growing. And growing. And growing.

By the time I was 15, I was an F Cup. I had been taken aside by a PE teacher and quietly told I might want to buy a sports bra. My friends who had smaller boobs were able to wear strappy or bandeau tops because they didn’t need to worry about a bra, whereas if I went braless I felt like my boobs had a mind of their own, energetically swing-dancing away with each other as I walked down the street.

amy-boobs

My boobs also made me a target for bullies. I once overheard a girl in a geography lesson telling a boy I fancied that the only reason I had big boobs was because I was so chubby – that they weren’t real boobs, they were “just extra fat”. I wish I could go back to that lesson and ask her two things – firstly, what did it matter if I was chubby? Secondly, what the hell did she think boobs were? Newsflash: they’re made of fat! Not special glamorous rainbow fat – the same stuff we have on our thighs and our tummies and all over our bodies. Ridiculous.

But there were good points about having big boobs, too. My mum took me to the grown-up shops to find clothes that fit my new body, so I ended up in adult fashion that my friends wouldn’t get their hands on for years. And some of those clothes looked great on me – true, I avoided boob tubes, but no-one in my year could fill out a vintage 50s dress like I did.

These days I’m a size GG, although I’ve been as big as a J cup. My bra size goes up and down depending on my weight, where in my menstrual cycle I am, and sometimes just because they feel like it. I spent years worrying about my boobs when I was a teenager, but as an adult we’ve become friends. I treat them to expensive, well-fitting bras and in return get to look amazing in a V-neck shirt.

Also, there’s no denying that boobs are kind of nice. They’re squishy and soft and warm, and the weight of them on my chest has been oddly comforting when doing scary new things, like starting a new school or going on my first date. They’re an excellent place to store your keys/lipbalm/phone, and occasionally I drop my lunch down there and it becomes a delicious surprise afternoon snack.

My breast size doesn’t make me more or less attractive than anyone else and I’d have a whole host of different challenges and perks (lol) if I was flat chested. Whether your boobs are big or small doesn’t make you better or worse, it just makes you different.

Now, I love my boobs. I love the way they jiggle when I’m dancing with my friends, and I give the cuddliest hugs because I have what is essentially two enormous pillows strapped to my front. They keep me warm in winter and act as handy flotation devices when I’m swimming in summer.

And I still think no-one looks better in a 50s-style dress than me.

@jimsyjampots

Image: Katie Edmunds

Have you ever been really excited for Christmas or a birthday because you think you’re getting a particular present… but then you get something totally different, or (even worse) nothing at all?

Well, that’s how it can feel when all your friends and the girls in your class have big boobs and you don’t. Emotionally, as well as literally, flat.

It’s completely natural to feel a bit disappointed and left out when you hit your mid-teens and have small boobs when everyone else seems to be buying new bras, talking in cup-size code and wearing low cut tops. It can feel like they’re all part of a secret club, and you didn’t get invited.

Gretchen Weiners

But it’s easy to forget that we all come in different shapes and sizes. And every one of those shapes and sizes is perfectly natural and fine.

Sure, there are things about having big boobs that small-boobed sisters like you and me don’t get to talk about. Like how much we can store in our cleavage. Which celebrity has the same cup size as them. Um. The fact that big boobs can cause back pain. Wait – maybe it’s not all hunky-dory for those with big boobs either?

Glee relieved face

Truth is, there are just as many awesome things about being smaller up top too. (Shh, just don’t tell your big-boobed friends.)

Here are some of the reasons that having small boobs really isn’t a big deal. Like, at all.

1. You can go trampolining and running with ease

Jennifer Lawrence running on chat show

Bouncing up and down, running, dancing… in fact, most kinds of exercise can be easier when you have small boobs. That doesn’t mean you should skip buying a good sports bra, but you don’t need to find one with loads of rock-solid support or wear two at once like – yep – some other girls do.

2. You’ll never experience under-boob sweat.

Too hot gif

Because armpit sweat is annoying enough.

3. You have lots of small-boobed role models.

Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani, Kate Moss, Natalie Portman, Zoe Saldana, Kate Hudson – all proof you don’t need big boobs to be famous and awesome.

4. Shopping is (mostly) easier.

I'll take everything

Ok, so tops might not always fit perfectly and strapless dresses might not always look exactly like you thought they would in your head (although nine times out of ten, they’ll look great). But there are so many styles that look good, and you don’t have to worry about buttoning them up, falling out of them or buying an impossible secret invisible bra. Spree time!

5. You won’t get boob-related pain

HoneyBooBoo awesome gif

That’s right, you don’t have to worry about back pain. Not from boobs, anyway. In fact you might even have better posture over time, as nothing is weighing you down.

6. Things fit better (without any awkwardness)

Bette Davis seatbelts comment

Seatbelts, cross body bags, guitars and being strapped into, well, anything really.

7. You can sleep on your stomach

sleeping

You don’t have to position yourself so your boobs don’t get in the way, which means way more nighttime poses to choose from – and maybe fewer sleepless nights too.

8. They might change over time.

Joey sand boobs

Loads of women find that their boobs change as they get older. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn to love them just as they are, though – you totally should. But they might get bigger. They might change shape.

And they might not, but that’s where learning to love them comes in.

9. Bra shopping is (mostly) easier…

Lauren Conrad too easy

Yes it can be daunting to buy bras when you feel like your boobs are too small. But hear me out. Having small boobs means you can choose lovely dainty bralets, rather than bras built for support with lots of underwiring.

Think lacy and pretty. Simple and sporty. You can fake boobs with padding now and again if you want to try something new – or just embrace your A-cup realness. So much choice!

10. … And you can go braless whenever you want

New Girl boob unemployed

Sure you can wear a whole universe of different bras when you have small boobs… but you can go totally braless whenever you like too. In fact, we all can if we want to. Freedom!

@BeccaCaddy

Image: Hailey Hamilton

The annoying answer? “Sooner or later”.

The real answer is that breasts (or boobs, baps, chesticles, ta-tas, mammaries, gazongas) come in endless varieties – even more than there are ridiculous names for them*.

Some arrive early, others prefer to take their sweet time. Your boobs will usually grow between the ages of 10-13, but it’s totally ok for them to come as early as eight or as late as 16.

What if they never grow?

Chill. They will. It can be stressful when you feel like you’re at the back of the boob queue, but remember that there’s no right or wrong time for them to develop – or a wrong size for them to be when they do. Little and perky or large and luscious, every breast is #blessed.

TL;DR? The important stuff:
  • Boobs usually grow between the ages of 10-13, but it’s totally ok for them to come any time between eight and 16.
  • Nature and genetics are in control, so there’s nothing you can do to make them grow quicker – soz.
  • Some will be small, some bigger, some will grow slowly and some might feel like they’ve appeared overnight. Every body and every boob is different.

Growing later doesn’t necessarily mean they will be smaller than other people’s, though. They could grow slowly and gradually, or feel as though they’ve suddenly sprouted overnight. BOOM! Happy boobday.

Try talking to female relatives about when their breasts grew, as there is often a family pattern. Or if you’re feeling really worried about it, a visit to your GP might help to reassure you.  

Can I help them grow faster?

Nope, sorry! You can bench-press all you like, but we’re here to tell you today that the old “I must increase my bust” routine won’t achieve anything – because your boobs are made from glands and soft tissue, not muscle.

Just stay patient, and let nature do its thing. Try to focus on the other great stuff you have RIGHT NOW. Like Netflix.  

When will they STOP growing?

You might think they’re ENORMOUS, but chances are they won’t always feel so big. It’s amazing what a difference a great bra can make.  

Breasts have usually grown to their adult size by the time you’re 18, though they could stop earlier or continue growing into your early 20s – and as you’ll find out, there are plenty of reasons they might change their size, shape or appearance throughout your adult life too.

The top line? Your body is an artwork that’s always in progress, so you may as well stop waiting for it to be finished and start appreciating it now.

*Norks! We forgot norks.