Many women, as well as men, take the position of Billy Crystal’s alter ego, Fernando, that “it is better to look good than to feel good”. Unfortunately, following the latest fashion trends can also have adverse health consequences. In the name of fashion, women can risk injury and illness, as well as having to endure discomfort. Let’s look at some of these health-related fashion faux pas and simple remedies for women to “feel good as well as look good”.
Tight clothing: This fashion trend, aimed at creating a slender appearance, seems to come and go through the decades. Wearing clothes that are too tight, however, can set the stage for several health problems. It is one of the most common causes for a nerve injury known as meralgia paresthetica, which produces tingling, numbness and burning pain on the outside of the thigh. Additionally, constrictive clothing has been implicated in causing urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, and even blood clots in the legs.
- Recommendations: New clothing should be purchased to fit the “now” you, not the you that you hope to become after losing weight. If you do succeed in losing that extra five pounds, reward yourself with a new outfit. If you do wear tight jeans, make sure that they are made from a fabric with elasticity and breathability. For persistent problems, such as meralgia paresthetica or urinary tract infections, it is best to avoid tight clothing altogether.
Heavy handbags: For some time now, there has been a fashion trend toward carrying larger handbags. Like having additional storage space in your home, a larger bag can lead to – guess what – carrying more stuff. The extra weight from bulky purses, particularly when worn over the same shoulder has the potential to cause a stiff neck, headache, and shoulder pain. They can also contribute to accidents and falls as they can throw you off balance and cause you to bump into things.
- Recommendations: Remove all non-essential items from the purse to minimize its weight. Use a wider shoulder strap and periodically switch the bag from side to side to avoid strain to just one side. A “backpack-type” bag or handbag worn diagonally across the chest may help to distribute the load better.
High heels: High heels may be uncomfortable, but more importantly, may change the alignment of the spine leading to low back pain as well as foot-related problems like bunions, corns, and blisters. So why do women keep wearing them? From a fashion standpoint, they make women appear taller and generally accentuate the female form. Prolonged wearing of high heels, combined with a pointed toe, can lead to a deformity called “hammer toes” in which the toes are permanently forced into a “clawed” position. The relatively unstable heel can also result in “turning an ankle” leading to sprains or fractures.
- Recommendations: Limit the amount of time spent in high heels and stick with a two-or three-inch heel and a rounded or open toe. Instead of a stiletto heel, opt for high heels that use wedges or platforms instead. Whenever possible, wear shoes with a wider toe box and firm arch support. They may not be as fashionable, but they can help to avoid injuries and deformities.
Cosmetics and hair dyes: For the most part, cosmetics and hair dyes are tested and found to be safe. Inappropriate use, as well as certain ingredients, however, can cause health problems. Cosmetic products that come in aerosol containers represent a fire hazard and can cause lung damage if they are inhaled deeply into the lungs. The use of mascara is a common cause of corneal abrasion, which is a scratch on the surface of the eye. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a common ingredient in many creams and lotions used to reduce wrinkles, spots, and sun-damaged skin. They have been implicated in causing a number of problems including facial swelling, blistering of the skin, itching and skin discoloration. Certain preservatives (paraben, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, others) used in cosmetics can also cause the skin to become irritated. Problems that are even more serious have been connected with the use of now banned or regulated ingredients in cosmetics, such as mercury compounds, vinyl chloride, and hexachlorophene.
- Recommendations: The Office of Women’s Health of the Department of Health and Human Services has provided a number of recommendations for safer cosmetic use:
- Never drive and put on make-up. Not only does this make driving a danger, hitting a bump in the road and scratching your eyeball can cause serious eye injury.
- Never share make-up. Always use a new sponge when trying products at a store. Insist that salespersons clean container openings with alcohol before applying to your skin.
- Keep make-up containers closed tight when not in use.
- Keep make-up out of the sun and heat. Light and heat can kill the preservatives that help to fight bacteria. Don’t keep cosmetics in a hot car for a long time.
- Don’t use cosmetics if you have an eye infection, such as pinkeye. Throw away any make-up you were using when you first found the problem.
- Never add liquid to a product unless the label tells you to do so.
- Throw away any make-up if the color changes, or it starts to smell.
- Never use aerosol sprays near heat or while smoking, because they can catch on fire.
- Don’t deeply inhale hairsprays or powders. This can cause lung damage.
- Avoid color additives that are not approved for use in the eye area, such as “permanent” eyelash tints and kohl (color additive that contains lead salts and is still used in eye cosmetics in other countries). Be sure to keep kohl away from children. It may cause lead poisoning.