Women’s Health And Fashion: At Odds?

Posted: July 20, 2012

Does women’s health and fashion go together? Indian women can fall prey to fashion fads; here are 5 factors that affect health!

By Aishwarya Rajamani

In an age marked by media saturation with celebrities and fashion advertising, few of us are unaffected by fashion. In an age where everything is measured in terms of “hotness”, what to wear and what not to wear becomes a critical question, and to steer clear of being a “fashion disaster” essential.

But everything comes at a cost. Unfortunately, being fashionable comes with a host of serious women’s health risks.

Skinny and tight is the way to go? No.

Many studies have detailed the  health risks posed by the ubiquitous skinny pants. From causing yeast infections to nerve impairments to the clenching of pelvic muscles, tight jeans spell disaster.

It’s not just tight jeans that affect women’s health. Wearing extremely tight undergarments can increase the growth of bacteria near the opening of the urinary tract and raise the likelihood of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women.

High heels and health risks

Just a glimpse of this  diagram showing the effects of high heels on the body is sure to have several Indian women abandoning their prized stilettos. Besides acute lower back pain, this fashion must-have also brings with it an array of health risks such as Morton’s Neuroma, toe deformities and sprains. Wearing high heels in the growing years leads to shortening of the Achilles tendon and calf muscles too. A research by Dr. D. Casey Kerrigan at The University of Virginia School of Medicine also confirms the association of high heels with knee osteoarthritis and further answers the next question that women have: what is a safe limit to the height of heels?

Colour blindness literally!

Many Indian women today dye and colour their hair a multitude of colours and dab on luscious lipsticks that come in elegant metallic cylinders, but what health risks lurk behind the shades?

While the evidence of a link between hair dyes and various types of cancer is conflicting, it makes sense to be careful and use them in a limited manner if you need to. Trying out the least reactive product for you and steering clear of products that use banned chemicals by using only well-known brands is the least harmful way to go about it.

It is very important to be wary of lipsticks especially, when it comes to cosmetics for it is closest in contact with the mouth. Lipsticks contain chemicals such as methyl paraben, propyl paraben, retinyl Palmitate and tocopheryl acetate, swallowing which is certainly a health risk. Methyl paraben in fact is banned in many European countries as it is known to cause cancer.

Indian women’s health is also impacted by our obsession with fair skin and use of fairness creams. The health risks from fairness creams containing mercury have recently been in the news.

Damage from accessories

Plugging mini-pancake sized earrings and stuffing that new spacious bag with your wardrobe can harm you in ways you never imagined. Wearing over sized earrings can actually tear through the ear lobe! The tearing of the ear lobe is irreversible except for cosmetic surgery being a possible way out.

Studies suggest that lugging huge handbags, to make statements or to be “prepared for situations” is a wrong practice for heavy bags cause bad posture, leading to stiffening of the neck, muscular tension and severe headaches.

Indian Wear can go awry during rides

It isn’t an uncommon sight to see Indian women zooming on two wheelers clad in flowing saris or wearing a dupatta around the neck like a tie. This often overlooked little detail can be nothing less than fatal, with flowing garments getting caught in bike wheels or escalators.

Several incidents have occurred where the whole circumference of the neck has been damaged. Perhaps taking such accidents into consideration the Kerala High Court in 2008 tried to rule that saree clad women should not be allowed to ride vehicles. But since then there have been several controversies on this issue which eventually morphed into the question of women’s freedom of clothing.

Ultimately, the factors that affect women’s health cannot really be resolved by legislation, although the cosmetics industry could certainly do its bit to give us safer products. In the battle between women’s health and fashion, we will need to do our own research and choose a style that works for us while taking care of our safety!

Image courtesy Naomi King (Used under a Creative Commons license)

Aishwarya Rajamani is an undergraduate student by day and a writer otherwise. She reads passionately

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