Buds turn into full-blown breasts
You may not remember when you went from having childish beestings on your chest to bonafide breasts, but did you know your ladies probably kept growing even after that initial growth spurt, even if you couldn’t tell? “Breasts usually continue to grow for at least five years after you first get your period and enter puberty, though it varies,” says Alexes Hazen, MD, associate professor in the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
Your breasts enter their prime
Once your boobs are fully developed, they look and feel the best they ever will throughout your 20s and into your early 30s, so embrace them! The round mounds are covered in tight, smooth skin and unless they’re extremely large, they feel firm and look perky because of the dense tissue that makes them up. (Find out 13 things breasts aren’t telling you.)
They may temporarily swell
Even though your breasts are as big as they’re naturally going to get by the time you exit your teens, they can still fluctuate in mass during hormonal changes such as your period, pregnancy, or general weight changes. “One big influencer on breast size is hormonal changes. Weight gain and weight loss throughout life can also make a big difference; some people gain weight directly in their breasts, so they grow larger and then shrink once you lose the weight,” says Dr. Hazen. If your boobs balloon while breastfeeding, they usually deflate to their original size once you’re finished. (Read up on the reassuring reasons behind breast tenderness.)
Your nipples can change
Besides growing larger because of hormones and all that milk, pregnancy can also alter the color of your areola (it darkens) and enlarge your nipples. “A lot women first know they’re pregnant by the fact that their breasts are little bigger and look different,” says Dr. Hazen. Post-pregnancy, your areola should lighten back to its natural shade; and while the nipples typically revert to a more normal look they can sometimes remain larger permanently. These nipple or breast changes could be a sign of breast cancer.
They get softer
By the time you pass 30, you’ll probably notice your breasts feeling softer and softer. While it could be a sign you’ve piled on a few extra pounds, it’s probably just innocent aging. “They go from feeling really firm to much softer because that dense connective tissue is replaced with breast fat,” says Dr. Hazen.
They can droop
If you’re approaching or past menopause, don’t be surprised if you find yourself saying goodbye to perky and hello to saggy breasts. “As we age, skin stretches out and sags, so that’s why there’s that droop and they hang down lower, even if they’re not necessarily that big,” says Dr. Hazen. “People think of large breasts dropping but smaller ones will sag over time, too.” Good old gravity also plays a role. If you’re worried about keeping them pert, try wearing a soft, comfortable bra at night; this provides support as you sleep instead of them flopping to the side as you lay.
They lose volume and skin grows looser
“Skin loses elasticity and the thickness of the dermis, which allows for a lot of tightness, thins out and becomes looser,” says Dr. Hazen. “And, after menopause women’s estrogen levels decrease, which can cause them to lose breast volume.”
They’re sensitive to the sun
If you want your breasts to remain as youthful as possible for as long as possible, don’t forget your chest when you’re slathering on sunscreen. “If some breast skin is exposed it will age just like any other skin on your body that is exposed to sun. It can get wrinkly and look old,” says Dr. Hazen.
They can become prone to skin irritation
The longer they hang, the more you’re likely to sweat or develop skin issues from friction. “If there’s any overhang, you’ll have more sweating, which can cause rashes or skin discoloration,” says Dr. Hazen. Women with lighter skin may notice the underboob area turning a darkish pink color, while darker skin will just darken.
They lose sensitivity
“Sensations you feel around the nipple and areola comes from nerves inside the chest,” says Dr. Hazen. “If you have small breasts, the distance to the nerves is really short, so you may have more sensitivity. As they grow or droop over time, though, that nerve gets stretched out and the sensation may lessen.”