Hit the gym, eat right, get enough sleep—we already know these steps are essential to staying healthy, but the clothes on our back might be just as much to blame for making us feel less-than-stellar. From skin rashes to spinal misalignment and cancer to communicable diseases, clothing may have a major influence on well-being.
Clothing and Accessories
1. Thongs and other unmentionables
We get that VPLs (that’s visible panty lines) are the worst. But while studies on the topic aren’t plentiful, docs say thongs can carry bacteria from the back door to the front, causing infections and UTIs. Women who are prone to these infections may want to swap their skimpy panties for something a little less mobile. Fabrics like silk and nylon may also prevent moisture down under from wicking, causing irritation. Opt for cotton instead for healthy, happy lady-bits.
2. Synthetic fabrics
Not all synthetic fabrics go straight into the “no” column, but some are more skin-friendly than others. Man-made fabrics—like polyester, nylon, and spandex—and wool may cause skin irritation, known as dermatitis
3. Heavy bags
Carrying an uneven load can cause back pain, but purses aren’t the only bags that may be at fault. Studies have shown backpacks that weigh a mere 15-17 percent of body weight (that’s 18 pounds for a 120-pound person or 30 pounds for a 200-pound person) can cause back pain and spinal misalignment
Those pretty baubles (or manly chains and studs) can lead to the development of a nickel allergy if they’re made from metals that contain it. The best way to avoid allergic reactions—including rash, itching, and redness—is to choose hypoallergenic jewelry made from metals like surgical-grade stainless steel, titanium, 18-karat yellow gold, and sterling silver.
It’s not just jewelry that can create health problems. Piercings themselves can also cause a slew of other health issues—from keloids, caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue, to blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Whether the piercings are in earlobes or in other, more scandalous locales, go to a reputable, health-department certified piercer (lists are available on many state government websites) for any new piercing. Studies have also found the number of piercings may contribute to the severity of an allergic reaction, so it’s worth limiting new holes after experiencing a reaction
6. Flip flops
Don’t get us wrong, we love our flippy floppies, but research has linked them to painful plantar fasciitis. Some experts also say wearing flip flops without sunblock could even lead to increased risk of skin cancer. The good news? When people wear flip flops for short periods of time (with sunblock) and replace them every three to four months, researchers say these shoes can be A-okay.
7. High heels
It’s no newsflash that heels hurt. But studies have shown wearing heels two inches or higher for extended periods (think the daily nine to five for two-plus years) can cause muscle fatigue, muscle shortening, and tightness in the Achilles tendon
8. Shoes that don’t fit
Ill-fitting shoes could be to blame for almost any foot ailment. Loose ones can cause corns and calluses, while too-tight shoes could cause bunions and in-grown toenails, not to mention painful swelling known as metatarsalgia. Swapping shoes is enough to treat many of these issues, but if pain persists, it may be time to visit a doc.
Fab as they may be, the lack of arch support in ballet flats (or flat shoes of any sort, really) can wreak havoc on feet. To prevent plantar fasciitis, support and padding are equally necessary. Fortunately, arch supports can slip into most styles to make them more foot-friendly.
Wash and Wear
10. Dry cleaning
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists guidelines for dry-cleaning workers that give some idea as to how toxic dry-cleaning chemicals may be. Studies have found they can be toxic to the liver, kidneys, and nervous system, as well as carcinogenic
11. Laundry detergent
Most complaints against laundry detergents are on behalf of the environment, but standard detergents may also affect some folks’ skin. Contact dermatitis caused by harsh soaps and solvents can result in red, dry, itchy patches on skin. Though some argue detergents may be toxic, current studies only suggest some detergents can cause irritation—not that they’re toxic
Clothes That May Not Be So Bad
12. Secondhand clothes
There was concern back in 2009 that regulations affecting the resale of used clothing (i.e. at thrift and consignment stores) suggested they may contain harmful chemicals. The government has since clarified used clothes are perfectly safe. The CDC says people can reduce the risk of infection from diseases like HIV and MRSA with regular laundering. So, when in doubt, simply wash away the germs after buying used clothes.
13. Tight jeans or briefs
The jury’s still out on this one. Docs say, logically, it would seem the heat from the body could harm sperm if the testes are held too close, but studies have never actually proven this theory true. Until we see controlled studies, we say opt for whichever option is more comfortable, especially since the potential damage would be temporary. If struggling to conceive, though, consider clothes that give the boys some room to breathe. Natural fabrics, like cotton, may also help testes stay cooler.
14. Bras cause breast cancer
The only study that’s suggested a link between bra-wearing and increased risk of breast cancer was flawed and never published in a peer-reviewed journal. Docs and cancer organizations agree: Supporting the girls will not cause cancer.