• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • July 28, 2013 in Columnists

    Victoria’s Secret may be putting more into their bras than boobies

    So, I started to itch. Uncontrollably. I’ve heard of jock itch. But breast itch? Could there be 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 fidgeting 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 my 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.

    What else?

    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 news 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 53, but my breasts aren’t dead yet! They only look that way!

    I relayed all my research findings to my husband. His reaction? “Burn that bra!”

    Yeah — I could get double mileage out of a good old-fashioned bra burn, and reinvigorate classic 1970s Feminism! However, the bra in question was a 40DD and we were 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 I’m pleased to report that the girls are completely fine and healthy.

    What bugs me most about this whole breast rash ordeal — yes, even more than the rash itself — 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 even if I don’t look like a super model, I must say their products fit like nothing else, frame the boobage nicely, and are really comfortable. It keeps you coming back — with credit card in hand.

    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.



    • I would have written to them and sent the bra back for a refund. I have never been able to find a bra there I liked or fit so not a store I frequent but I am sharing your story.

    • I, too, was a loyal customer with 3 daughters who used to wear VS underwear and bras exclusively. We spent a lot of money on VS products, needless to say. A couple of years ago, somebody at VS got a brilliant idea to change fabrics in the underwear. Guess what? All the panties now ride like a thong, even the tried-and-true bikinis. WTF? We have worn our old versions until the holes circled the waist and bought larger sizes (for a little relief). We are now trying to find other brands that fit like the OLD VS panties but have yet to find any as comfortable. We have called, emailed, & complained at stores. So far nothing. Way to go VS! Cater to the hipsters who like those clinging, riding panties, and you will lose all of your older loyal customers.

      • Maya North

      • July 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm
      • Reply

      HORRIBLE! Bad enough mine look dejectedly at the ground these days without adding a virulent rash to it! Boo hiss for poor quality control and corporate greed 🙁

    • Emily – I noticed a change in the quality of VS products when they introduced their “Pink” line several years ago, and began catering to teenagers. They threw everyone else out the window. And, like you, I have noticed the erosion in the quality of the panties too. I have put my thumbs right through them many times, and I have a policy of discarding panties with holes or that look worn out. Such a pity that VS doesn’t value its loyal customers. I miss the OLD Victoria’s Secret. Ah well… this means there’s room for a new company to swoop in and grab up all the disgruntled VS customers.

    • I think this is the only benefit to being small breasted. I’m a C and can wear or not wear any kind of bra. I would definitely file a complaint with Victoria secret. At least fifty bucks for those bras should leave you without a night of “NOT tonight Honey”! Embalming breasts! I wont buy another bra from them.

    • Wouldn’t it be easier if women just went bare breasted all the time? If I were a woman I know I would!

    • It’s easier if you’re a B cup or less!

    • This makes me sad. I love VS products. I pretty much exclusively wear VS bras and underwear. I have big boobs and was very self-conscious about them as a teenager. It was a VS employee who finally measured me and helped me find bras that actually fit. The first time I felt comfortable with my breasts was wearing a VS bra. They also feature beautiful, realistic models who are moms, wives, entrepreneurs, and charity supporters. Thankfully I have never gotten one of these poisonous bras. I’m not sure what I would do if I did because I would be devastated to not be able to buy their products any more, but I can’t be out $30+ for something I can’t wear. They must know about this. They should dump that Chinese factory ASAP.

      • Amanda, I feel the same. I purchased only VS products for more than 20 years. Like you, I am hesitant to buy anything else from them. AND… apparently VS is well aware of the problem, and will not comment, nor will they correct it. When women complain, their silence is purchased. How crazy is that??? I am also betting that thousands of women are having this problem, but don’t realize it’s their bra. They’re blaming lotions, soaps, perfumes, laundry detergents or just some weird medical condition. AND AND… VS is raking in so much money, they could afford to move their manufacturing elsewhere for the sake of their brand. One more thing about the Chinese made product. I noticed that the quality of VS product fell sharply after they moved their manufacturing to China.

    • […] of you who’ve been following my sad saga of breast rashes triggered by Victoria’s Secret bras will be pleased to know that VS is apparently, finally, listening. One of their reps contacted me […]

      • Carrie green

      • August 30, 2015 at 9:17 pm
      • Reply

      I had this same problem! I wondered why, and upon googling just found this article and pages of others! No more VS for me or my daughters!!!! I just bought their bras, so they aren’t fixing the problem 🙁

      • No, they aren’t fixing the problem, but they are aware of it – their position is to deny that it exists. This makes it all the more maddening. Part of the issue is that 99 percent of their customers aren’t allergic to whatever is causing the rashes. Those who react are like those with a peanut allergy – the “oddballs.” But, but the numbers, there are still a lot of it based upon the numbers of women coming across my columns and my blog, and we deserve at the very least a warning label on the products that contain the allergens. You can read more on my blog: http://www.debradeangelo.com.

      • Tina

      • September 16, 2015 at 6:46 am
      • Reply

      It is very possible it is nickel sulphate used in underwire in my case. The rash is mostly experienced by women and there is no cure from my investigations so far. There are tests but one could have rash for the rest of her life.

      • Hmmm…. where the wire touches is the one place I DIDN’T have a rash. What investigations have you done?

          • Carrie

          • September 16, 2015 at 8:19 am

          I don’t think it’s the underwire either. My nipples itched and all around my girls. It’s definitely whatever is in the fabric. The underwire is covered in fabric, and doesn’t touch my skin.

        • I agree… it’s the fabric… the itchy, dry nipples are the first symptom… it lingers on like that. Once you start actively scratching, the rash ignites.

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