Are Popular Fashion Trends a Health Hazard?


The age-old adage “fashion is pain” has often been the go-to justification for sporting uncomfortable attire, like those sky-high heels or constricting shapewear. However, your fashion choices might have more significant health implications than you’d expect.

Brands like Skims, the brainchild of Kim Kardashian, have not only mastered unforgettable marketing but also revolutionised shapewear, propelling its value to a staggering $4 billion. Nevertheless, shapewear is just one facet of the fashion world that could potentially pose health risks, as researchers have uncovered.

Beyond shapewear, activewear and jeans stand as popular wardrobe staples, but recent findings indicate they may come at a cost to your health. Dr. Kirsty Wallace-Hor, a Kin Fertility GP, spoke to Body+Soul and highlights various health issues that can stem from these fashion choices, ranging from nerve irritation to skin conditions and even gastrointestinal problems. Fortunately, in most cases, these issues are reversible and preventable.

Skin Irritation: Dr. Wallace-Hor emphasizes that the most common problems associated with activewear and tight clothing are skin-related. These issues include sweat rash (miliaria), inflammation and potential infection of hair follicles (folliculitis), and yeast or fungal skin infections. Many modern garments lack breathability, and individuals may not always change or shower after sweating, exercising, or swimming, leading to warm and damp conditions conducive to bacterial and fungal growth. These can result in infections and irritating rashes, particularly in skin folds such as the groin or under the breasts. To mitigate skin issues, Dr. Wallace-Hor recommends avoiding extended periods in tight clothing, showering promptly after sweating or swimming, using non-fragranced body wash, and thorough laundering of clothing. Avoiding laundry sanitisers and antibacterial detergents containing benzalkonium chloride, a skin-irritating chemical, is also advisable.

Other Culprits: Apart from activewear, shapewear, and jeans, ill-fitting bras, belts, and pantyhose can contribute to similar health issues. Proper bra fitting and limiting the use of such items are essential.

Warning Signs: Recognising when clothing is too tight is relatively straightforward, with discomfort and restricted movement being telltale signs. Other indicators include red marks on the skin, pressure marks, skin irritation, numbness or tingling, and breathing difficulties. However, it’s worth noting that if an outfit is not causing discomfort, it is generally safe to wear. In cases of persistent concerns, it’s advisable to consult a GP to explore potential treatments and rule out other underlying causes.

While fashion remains an essential means of self-expression, it’s crucial to be mindful of the potential health risks associated with certain clothing choices and adopt preventative measures to ensure both style and well-being coexist harmoniously.