Free The Nipple — Just Be Sure To Protect It First

Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Boobs are having a major moment. Okay, they've always been a delightful body part that has gotten plenty of attention (possibly more from some people than others), but the mood has shifted. With things like the Free The Nipple Instagram campaign, Elle's June issue featuring “Breasts! Fascinating stories from owners, admirers, experts,” and New York magazine having women draw their own boobs, just to name a few, we have been looking at the female breast in a less one-dimensional and more liberating light.

We’re thinking this might inspire some people to take their girls out for a spin this summer, whether at a topless beach, in the privacy of their own backyard, or if they’re lucky, on a trip to Cote d’Azur, where going topless is the norm — or at least used to be. This trend is definitely happening in some places in the States already, so it seemed like a good time to put together together a guide to doing it in the safest way possible.

Your breasts are one of the most sensitive areas on your bod (ugh, can you imagine a burned nipple?) and if you want to flaunt them, you should do it right. So we gathered a few skin experts along with some French women in the beauty industry who have spent plenty of summers at the beach, sans bikini tops, to give us some tips on going au naturel from the preparation, the right products, and most importantly, protection. Read on for the big reveal.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Work It Out
If you want your breasts to look extra perky at the beach (bathing suit or not), working on your pecs is key. "French women often do push-ups [to prepare for the beach],” says Souhila Boudhar, an international training manager for the French skin-care brand Talika. Another simple exercise is to stand up straight and straighten the shoulders, then roll them back towards the ears 10 times every day. Sounds pretty simple, non?
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Eat Fruits & Veggies
Diet can play a factor in sun protection. “The breast is a very delicate zone, with the skin very exposed to aging — gravity, changes linked to pregnancy, etc.,” explains Raffaella Giraudi, owner of French beauty brand Orlane. “It is important to prepare the skin from the outside and the inside. Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, in particular fruits and vegetables that will help increase the natural protection of the skin against the UV rays, through antioxidant vitamins A and E, carotenoids, and oligo elements.”

Manhattan-based dermatologist, Julie Russak, MD, agrees. "Eating foods high in antioxidant concentrations such as fruits, nuts, and green tea can help build up an internal antioxidant reservoir to help neutralize free radical damage internally."
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Daily Maintenance
We all know the importance of using products on our face, but you should moisturize your breasts every day as well to hydrate, nourish, and increase the skin’s elasticity. You can also find serums made especially for this gentle area — and like the rest of your face and bod, exfoliation is key here, too. "The perfect routine would be to exfoliate your breasts once a week and use an everyday a firming/tensing serum, such as Talika Bust Phytoserum,“ says Boudhar.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Beach Day Prep
On the actual day you are planning to go topless, you need more than just sunscreen before you hit the sand. “When you are preparing for more sun exposure than usual, apply antioxidants such as Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Acid or Phloretin CF in the morning or before you head out to the beach,” says Dr. Russak. “On a clean chest, apply several drops of antioxidants followed by zinc-containing sunscreen.”
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Pick The Right Sunscreen
It may seem easiest to just keep rubbing the sunscreen you are using on the rest of your bod on your breasts when you're out in the sun, but since it is such a sensitive area, the product you use on your face (SPF of 35 or higher to block UVA and UVB rays) is probably a better bet. Also, heavier sunscreens can cause breakouts not only on your face, but your chest, too.

Be sure to reapply every two to three hours and after you go in the water. But dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD, warns that putting sunscreen on your chest shouldn't just be reserved for beach days. "The skin of your décolletage and breasts is extremely delicate and recent studies have found that breast tissue ages faster than anywhere else in the body," she says. "SPF should be applied in this area daily, not just during the summer months. Even a V-neck tee shirt leaves your breasts exposed and vulnerable to the sun."
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Apply More On Your Nipples
Souhila suggest using a cream, not a spray (although either will work), as to really make sure you get full coverage. “Creams are better. You need to make sure that all the skin on the breast is protected since it is not typically exposed to the sun," she says. "With creams, you are really able to work it into the skin, versus when using a spray. People usually just spray, rub in a bit, and leave it alone.”

You want to make sure you are paying particular attention to the nipples. Use an SPF 50 on this even more delicate and sensitive area and reapply every hour.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Don't Go Topless Midday
Try to keep your swimsuit-free time to the mornings and the late afternoon. Since the sun is strongest from around 12 to 4, it is best to keep yourself covered during those hours (even with more than a bathing suit). "I would recommend short exposure early in the morning or late in the afternoon to push the skin to produce its defenses little by little,” says Giraudi.

Also, try to stay in the shade as much as possible when going topless. "When not in the ocean, seek shade under an umbrella," says Dr. Russak. "Opt for a wide brim hat if you plan on spending hours in the water. The brim will protect your face, neck, and chest."
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Après Beach Care
What you apply post-beach also plays a part. Make sure to hydrate and exfoliate. "Sun exposure is very harsh and drying on our skin," says Dr. Shamban. "Gentle salt scrubs and heavy moisturizers are recommended."

Antioxidants help after sun exposure, too. “Wash the sunscreen and sweat off with a gentle cleanser. Reapply antioxidants such as aloe gel or an antioxidant to help combat damage or sun irritation. Be sure to layer on a rich moist moisturizer with niacinamide in it, such as Skinceuticals Metacell Renewal B3 or CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM,” says Dr. Russak.

If you do get burned, be sure to get out of the sun immediately, take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or aspirin, and apply generous amounts of aloe or after-sun lotion. “Some natural remedies work well too — like slices of tomatoes, very rich in vitamin A — or honey, which has healing power,” says Giraudi.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Confidence Is Key
It's not easy to expose yourself to the world when it's not something you're used to. But (after making sure you are protected, of course) owning what you've got and being proud is paramount — all boobs are beautiful, after all.

If you feel like you need a little "confidence booster" before your big reveal, Boudhar suggests icing those babies up to make them firm and perky. “Try some ice cubes on your breasts in the morning, under the shower, a few hours before going topless."

If you really want to do it up, Julia Shintaku, the lead aesthetician at The Spa & Salon at Aria in Las Vegas, suggests trying a shimmery bronzing cream, spray, or powder to contour your breasts and add a little glimmer.

Go forth and bare those breasts with pride. Ain't freedom grand?
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
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