Is Fashion Bad For Your Health?

fashion-health-risksFrom foot-binding to neck rings, women have undergone a lot in the name of fashion for centuries. The modern woman, too, has her fair share of sacrifices. Cash and comfort have been given up for the latest trend. But should we trade in our health, too?

We’re all for passion for fashion, but we believe that the stylish Filipina deserves to look and feel beautiful. We’ve compiled a list of [painful fashion finds, and what you can do for a healthy compromise between comfort and style.

Shady shades

The eyes are the windows to the soul–and for harmful ultraviolet rays. Thankfully, the need for eye protection has produced one of fashion’s favorite accessories: sunglasses.

As we experiment with different tints and frames, we have to remember that utility comes first. We ask, does higher price equal better quality? Do cheap sunglasses harm instead of protect?

When it comes to eyewear, branded is not always better. Dr. Dennis Robertson, emeritus ophthalmologist at the Mayo Clinic, says that it’s the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation protection that matters. elaborates on UV rays. UVC rays have the highest energy and potential to harm, but most of it is blocked by the ozone layer. UVB rays have less energy, but escape the ozone and cause skin cancer in high doses. They also cause unsightly eye lesions called pingueculae and pterygia–painless, benign yellow or white growths on the sclera (the opaque, white part of the eye), which can later obstruct vision. UVA rays have the lowest energy and pass unfiltered through the lens straight to the retina. They are associated with cataracts (clouding of the lens) and macular degeneration (damaged central vision).

High-energy visible (HEV) radiation also causes significant damage. They penetrate deeply into the eye, damaging the retina directly.

For shades that shield, choose those that block 90-100 percent of UV rays. If UV-protection details are not available, bring your sunnies to your optician for proper assessment. HEV protection is easier to assess–amber, bronze, or copper tints provide good coverage. Opt for large lenses or wraparound styles to protect the delicate skin around the eyes. Wide-brimmed hats supplement eye protection by up to 50 percent.

Love your lobes

Heavy ear baubles are a mainstay in fashion, from long, dangling chains to large, sexy loops.

Excessive use, though, can make your earlobe tissue expand and your piercing enlarge to freaky disproportions. Worse, the weight of earrings can actually tear the lobe. Before your ears sag to your shoulders, it’s best to save those savvy earrings for special occasions. Choose lightweight jewelry for daily use instead. Also remember to remove earrings before bed to give your lobes a rest.

Not all that glitters

Jewelry is a girl’s best friend–that is, until it starts causing irritation and unsightly rashes.

Nickel allergy is a trinket-lover’s nightmare. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), it is fairly common, and occurs upon contact with nickel, a naturally occurring silver-white metal. Its ubiquity makes it hard to avoid; clasps, buttons, watchbands, clips, pins, and most jewelry contain some.

The exposed area develops eczema, an itchy or burning inflammatory reaction. Small blisters called vesicles appear, followed by swelling and redness, then crusting. Chronic cases evolve into an ugly leather-like thickening of the skin called lichenification.

The bad news is, it can strike anyone at anytime and stay with the victim for life. The only cure is complete avoidance of nickel. Does this mean–gasp!–life without jewelry?

Not at all. One just has to be choosier–the AOCD recommends hypoallergenic, stainless steel, polycarbonate plastic, pure sterling silver, or gold of at least 12 carats. Protective plastic for earring studs can be used in unavoidable circumstances; otherwise, a coat of clear polish or platinum plating will do.

Itching for fashion

Another unwanted fashion glitch is the itch. Some fabrics send unlucky individuals on embarrassing scratching sprees when sweat and sebum (natural body oils) release free formaldehyde, producing irritation.

Formaldehyde? Isn’t that for laboratory specimens? According to the New Zealand Dermatological Society, the chemical is more ubiquitous than we think. Many fabrics contain it in some quantity. Anti-cling, anti-static, wrinkle-free, and pre-shrunk clothes are treated with it, and so are chlorine-resistant and waterproof finishes as well as suede and chamois.

Cotton, polyester, nylon, and acrylic are best bets for the sensitive individual, as they contain almost no formaldehyde. As a precaution, soak all new clothing in hot, soapy water before use to get rid of excess formalin.

Too tight for comfort

Very tight clothes do not only cause lumps and bumps in all the wrong places, they also affect key body systems, as Dr. Kristie Leong of explains. It’s like subjecting your body to a vise-like grip; blockage is bound to ensue.

Nerve impingement from way too skinny jeans causes uncomfortable tingling, numbness, or even pain across the thighs, lower legs, and back.  Constricting blood vessels disrupts the delivery of oxygen, causing lightheadedness, blurred vision, fainting, and constipation. Corsets and tight bras limit lung expansion, causing shortness of breath and decreased blood oxygen.

As for the skin, aside from chafing, moist areas with minimal breathing room are yeast’s favorite playgrounds. Particularly common in the pubic area, yeast infections cause vaginal irritation and pain.

Heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), has also been reported. Pants a size or two too small tend to squeeze the stomach, forcing acid back up the throat in a painful reflux.

The cure? Be real. Know your body. Wear the right size of clothing and prioritize comfort. Change undergarments regularly and try them on for size every time you buy; fluctuations are normal. Choose high riding jeans. Better yet, take advantage of the Philippines’ eternal summers and sizzle in flowing skirts and airy dresses.

Resale retail

Style need not be expensive. Many one-of-a-kind outfits are from lowly secondhand ukay-ukay stores. But does it cost us more in the long run?

Secondhand goods do carry a few health risks, according to South Australian Health. Infestations from mites, lice, and fungi are some problems inherited with ukay finds. These critters can survive away from a human host for two to four days; tinea or ringworms remain contagious longer.

Experts say the risk is minimal, and it’s okay to ukay as long as you take precautions. Examine items carefully for general cleanliness. Wash each item thoroughly in hot water (at least 60ºC) and detergent before use.

Heel hell

There’s nothing sexier than a pair of sky-high stilettos. The benefits are many–that bum lift, added height, leg lengthening, and calf muscle shaping–but so are the health risks.

High-heeled shoes force body weight onto the toes, severely altering normal pressure distribution on the feet. It’s easy to see how foot deformities and pain top the list of hellish heel problems. Tight, new shoes present the same problems, owing to constrictive forces over unyielding bones and joints.

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) identifies several deformities from poor footwear. A hammertoe is a contracture or abnormal bending, usually of the lesser toe (second to fifth) joints. Unaddressed, it can become a permanent deformity. A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe, which forces it to bend over the other toes and painfully bear more weight than usual. It is often inherited, but always aggravated by wrong footwear. Blisters, corns, and calluses are caused by chronic friction.

Additionally, being constantly on your toes can shorten the Achilles tendon, which runs from the heel to the posterior leg. This causes irritation and pain when stretched, so that it becomes difficult to walk barefoot.

Pain over the calf and arch of the foot are also obvious signals that it’s time to step down from those platforms. But while we cannot completely give up on shoes, we can take some advice from APMA to minimize the damage.

When shopping for footwear, have feet measured while standing and buy for the larger foot. Tip: do your shopping in the afternoon to accommodate the natural swelling that comes with walking. Check dimensions. Make sure that the width of the shoe matches the widest part of your foot. The toe box should be roomy enough for all toes to spread evenly, but snug enough so the foot doesn’t slide forward too much. Lower or thicker heels are gentler on the foot; so are gradual slopes.

Use silicone cushions, blister pads, and other mechanical buffers as needed. Open-toed and sling back designs minimize blister and callus formation. Avoid “breaking in” shoes–if they aren’t comfortable in the store, don’t buy them.

Remember, the worst fashion faux pas is a fake smile. Clothes are second skin, and being comfortable in them is more fashion forward than the most stylish discomfort.

Courtesy of: Adrienne Dy Inquirer Lifestyle.

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