N E W Y O R K, May 9, 2001 -- Women who want a bigger bust have had help over the years from padded bras, push-up bras, and the "Cross Your Heart" bra. Now there's something that actually promises to increase breast size — without implants.
The Brava Breast Enhancement and Shaping System, developed by reconstructive surgeon Dr. Roger Khouri, is said to be the first non-surgical technique for increasing the bust size.
"As soon as you put it on, you see your breasts growing," says Daisy, who asked that her last name not be used. "You have it on for an hour and your breasts are bigger."
Decade in Development
It may sound like one of those ads in the back of women's magazines that boast "bigger bust in just days!" But women who have tried it and the doctors who developed it say in most cases, breasts grow up to one full cup size after 10 weeks of wearing the bra for 10 hours a day.
A board of leading plastic surgeons and tissue engineer who have worked to develop the so-called "suction bra" for more than a decade are conducting clinical trials to demonstrate its legitimacy. Some 200 women have tried the bra in trials in Miami, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
The bras are now beginning to make their way onto the market via the Brava doctors.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reviewed the bra as a 510(k) Class II Medical Device, and is allowing the sale. Although it met all FDA requirements, however, the agency has decided not to regulate the Brava system at this point.
Domes and Pump
Daisy, a petite data processor, participated in the clinical trials for the device because she wanted her clothes to fit better and did not want breast-enhancement surgery.
For 10 weeks, 10 hours a day, she wears a sports bra containing two plastic domes edged in a sticky silicone gel. Also held in place under the bra is a small rechargeable power pack.
"You'll notice there's a little port on the bottom where tubing fits into, there's a device that we call the 'Smart Box,'" says Dr. Thomas Baker, lead clinical investigator for Brava System. "The Smart Box has a little pump in it, which is battery-activated which creates a negative pressure within the dome between the breast and the wall of the dome."
When the Smart Box is turned on, air is pumped out and the breasts are sucked forward into the dome. Baker says that suction causes the nerves and breast tissue to grow, creating permanent growth of on average one bra cup size when used as directed.
Or at least it seems permanent — researchers have only been following the subjects for 18 months.
"We know that stretching causes new cells to form," says Baker. "So we reason that if we could maintain a pressure over a long period of time we could cause the breast tissue to increase; and indeed that's true."
New Kind of Beauty Sleep
Daisy admits the idea of strapping on the device was a bit daunting.
"At the beginning, when they first told me 10 hours, I thought, 'Wow! Ten hours is a lot of time," she says. "Where am I going to fit the time to wear that?"
Like many of the women in the study, she decided to wear it in her sleep.
"Get in the right position; make sure it's on right, and just pretty much stay there," Daisy recommends. "If you're moving all night, the seal is going to come open and you're going to wait for it to suck out the air again."
Good Morning America decided to send its regular "beauty adventurer" Holly Millea to test out the new bra for herself.
"I feel almost like I have plungers on," she said after trying the bra on for the first time. "Like strong men are pulling my breasts away from my chest,"
After a few tingly, tugging minutes, the Smart Box reached maximum pressure, where it will remain for 10 hours a day. Millea will report her own findings on GMA after wearing it for 10 weeks.
The suggested price for the complete system and medical consultation is $2500, though individual doctors may vary that rate. The "Brava" is only available through doctors who have been trained by the developers.
The only negative side effect that researchers report so far is contact dermatitis, an itchy skin condition that results from direct contact with a product that irritates some people's skin.
Pregnant or lactating women, those with a history of breast cancer, or those who have had a mastectomy cannot use the bra.