You've heard the saying "Pain is beauty." Most of us have lived it at some point or another. We've all had that one pair of jeans that squeezed just a little too tight, or a pair of heels that was more fashion than function. But could these stylish sacrifices be affecting our health? The answer is a resounding, and surprising, YES.
Many popular clothes and accessories have come under fire recently because of their frightening health repercussions. Toxic dyes, fabrics that breed fungus, and postural-damaging shoes are just a few culprits. The clothes may make the man, but they can destroy him as well. Wondering if your favorite sweater made the list? Read on to find out if what's lurking in your closet may be causing you harm.
1. Your Clothes Are Too Tight
Remember life before skinny jeans? When the shape of your legs was a mystery? Skin-tight clothing has been linked to many health risks, including heartburn, testicular damage, and compartment syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition in which pressure builds up in constricted muscles. But it's not just jeans that are to blame. Shapewear and compression clothing are also linked to nerve damage. Wondering how you can still incorporate your favorite style without sacrificing your health? Opt for fabrics with some stretch, and if something feels too tight, choose a different fabric or go up a size. Remember that clothes are made to conform to your shape, and not the other way around. If it doesn't fit you, don't wear it.
2. Your Fabrics Don't Breathe
Ever spent a day in a humid wool coat? Found yourself sweating through a silk shirt? Not only are these fabrics uncomfortable, they may also be bad for your health. Recent studies have shown that skin irritation (known as dermatitis) is often caused by wool and synthetic fabrics. Fungal overgrowth, such as athlete's foot, has been linked to unbreathable clothing and shoes. This occurs because moisture becomes trapped against your skin. As you heat up, this becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. Instead, opt for cotton or natural fabrics that allow air to circulate through them. If you needed another reason to ditch that polyester suit in the back of your wardrobe, here it is!
3. Your Shoes Are Unsupportive
Oh, how we love our shoes. When done properly, they provide support in all the right places, giving you a solid foundation. Unfortunately, few of us have taken the time to find the perfect fit, or a style that matches an outfit without adding grief to our bodies. Though high heels are often the first to come to mind, flat shoes, sandals, and shoes made out of synthetic fabrics (review #2!) are equally as bad, and for different reasons. High heels cause a misalignment of posture that can lead to long-term damage to your knees, spine, and hips. Flip-flops have been linked to foot, ankle, and knee pain. Flat shoes often lack proper support, and lead to gait abnormalities. Wondering how to justify your next shoe purchase without damaging your body? Aim for shoes with good arch support, a great fit, and ditch any that don't support your natural gait.
4. You're Dying for Dyes
You pride yourself on taking care of your health. You purchase organic food, get plenty of exercise, and drink pure water. You wouldn't dream of using products that contain harmful elements. But could you still be putting toxic chemicals in your body simply by throwing on your favorite t-shirt? Chemicals such as formaldehyde (used to prevent mildew growth and inhibit wrinkling) and p-Phenylenediamide (found in black clothing and leather dye) are found in the products of 14 big-brand clothing manufactures. These substances, as well as others commonly found in clothing have been linked to mild skin irritation, anaphylactic shock, and even cancer. If you notice any kind of reaction to your clothing, seek medical attention and discontinue wear. The good news is that more companies are embracing organic fabrics and dyes. The safest strategy is to know your brands, and consider what you're buying before you confirm your purchase.
5. Your Bag is Dragging You Down
Heavy bags are a national epidemic, affecting everyone from school children to elderly women. Is that 20 pound purse really so bad? It is, if you're concerned about neck, shoulder, and back pain. One of the real dangers is that heavy shoulder bags, purses, and handbags are often carried over one shoulder, which throws the body out of balance. Your muscles on the other side shift to try to compensate, causing discomfort all over. And as for your child's backpack: that heavy book bag may not seem like much of a problem, but it can cause neck, shoulder, and pack strain, as well as long-term postural damage. The solution: simplify what you carry, and distribute weight more evenly. Consider dumping that 5lb makeup bag, or the oversized wallet and instead stash your lipstick and credit card in a small clutch. Purchase a backpack with a waist strap, and encourage your children to carry only what they need.
Trends are temporary. We are only given one body. Don't trade in your health for the sake of a killer outfit. Now more than ever, companies are jumping at the chance to serve consumers. If you have a favorite product that isn't serving you, let the manufacturer know, and move onto something else that values your wellbeing. Have you had to ditch your favorite accessory for health reasons? Sell the shirt off your back for safety? Found any safer alternatives? Share with us in the comments below!