We all know the saying “beauty is pain,” but can it be downright dangerous? Shapewear smooths out all those unwanted lumps and bumps, and six-inch stilettos make legs look oh-so-sexy. But what happens if said shapewear is cutting off your circulation and said stilettos squish your feet to the point of deformity? Hidden inside some of our favourite fashion choices are scary things like fungal infections, and even misformed spines! Here are six fashion moves that can be bad for your health.
1. High heels
You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure out that high heels are bad for your feet. But who knew those six-inch stilettos could also cause posture problems, skin irritations, and even toe deformities?“High heels put all your body’s weight on our forefoot, causing you to adjust the rest of your body to maintain balance,” says Dr. Ava Shamban, board certified dermatologist and author of Heal Your Skin. “The bottom half of your body leans forward so the top half must lean back—this disrupts the normal ‘S’ curve of your back, flattening your lower spine and displacing your mid-back and neck. It is very difficult to maintain good posture in this position—not only is it detrimental to the health of your spine, ‘stooped over’ is not a sexy look!” (Read: Avoid these habits to stay younger longer).
Doctors say high heels can also cause structure and skin problems for your feet. “With the foot in a downward position, there is a significant increase in the pressure on the bottom plantar of the forefoot, which can lead to pain or deformities such as hammer toes, bunions, and more. The downward foot position also causes your foot to supinate, or to turn to the outside. Not only does this put you at risk for a sprained ankle, it changes the line of pull of the Achilles tendon and may cause a deformity known as ‘pump bump,’” Dr. Shamban says. The best way to avoid any high-heel mishaps? Switch between heels and sneakers as much as possible and save the sky-high ones for the shortest stints possible (like wearing out to dinner when you’ll likely be sitting most of the evening).
2. Tight, low-rise jeans
Numbness in the outer thigh region? It might be because your jeans are too tight. According to board certified emergency physician Dr. Jennifer Hanes, this phenomenon, known as ‘tight pants syndrome’ (very scientific) has sent many women to the neurologist’s office. “This condition is caused by a compression of the Lateral Femoral Cutaneous nerve. It was previously only seen in large bellied men that wore their belts too tight,” Hanes says. “Now, we see it in ladies wearing too tight jeans.” The doc says you can still wear low-rise jeans if you like, just get them in a larger size. (Read: Here’s how you can run long and strong).
3. Wet bathing suits
Remember when Mom used to tell you not to sit around in a wet bathing suit? She was right! Most women don’t realize that wet bathing suits and sweaty workout clothes can actually give them a nasty (and itchy) infection, says Dr. Allison Hill, board-certified OB/GYN, and co-author of The Mommy Docs: The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth. “To avoid yeast infections, change out of tight or wet clothing as soon as possible, and keep the genital area cool and dry by wearing cotton underwear instead of synthetic fabrics,” Hill says. “If you feel itching or burning, or notice a difference in your discharge, talk to your doctor. You can easily treat a yeast infection with an over-the-counter like Monistat.”
4. Too-tight bra
Although rare, there are definitely health hazards when it comes to wearing a bra that’s too tight, including skin irritations, fungal infections, breathing problems, and even claims that it can hinder the lymphatic system (a heavily-debated subject). According to Ohio-based doctor Jennifer Shine Dyer, “tight bras can reduce the lymphatic flow to the breasts thus creating an environment with more ‘cellular waste and toxins’ that should have been cleared by the lymphatic system.” However, the biggest concern is for pregnant women who can get mastitis, which is an inflammation and sometimes infection of the mammary glands. Getting properly fitted and being careful to wear a bra that’s not too constrictive is the best way to avoid this fashion hazard.
5. Thong underwear
Once again, yeast infections are the culprit here. “Due to the constant rubbing of the material inside the labia, some women experience more frequent yeast infections from wearing thong underwear,” Dr. Hanes says. “I also believe that thongs can increase the risk of urinary tract infections because they help push bacteria from the rectum up into the urethra.” The doctor says, unless you practice “immaculate hygiene” in your nether regions, skip the thong. (Related: Sex during UTI: yes or no?).
6. Spanx and other shapewear
It’s hard to argue with the benefits of shapewear. Since its inception, this cousin of the girdle (and control top pantyhose) has us cinched, smoothed, and sucked in to perfection. However, when it’s simply too tight, “it can lead to a host of health issues, from bladder and yeast infections to nerve damage and even blood clots,” says Dr. Shine Dyer. The constrictive clothing “can also compress nerves, leading to leg pain, numbness, and tingling,” she adds. And if the garment is also putting pressure on your lungs, you may not be able to breathe properly in it either.