Pretty Ugly: Why We Bash Our Bodies For Fashion

New sky-high stilettos shed some light on a sad old cycle

Talk about a tall tale: British shoe retailer Parmars just announced its plans to sell a vertigo-inducing 9-inch high heel, aka the Sky Heel. Available in the colors red or gold for less than a 100 dollars, the average woman will now have the opportunity to wobble just like Lady Gaga. A Parmars spokesman says the crippling shoes are inspired "by the catwalk for the sidewalk."

Frankly, this new invention isn't that surprising. Let's face it: We women have been throwing our bodies under the bus for fashion for years. We are constantly targeted by marketers bearing uncomfortable and downright debilitating products -- and we often buy right into the promises and images these items present, all in a quest to make our bodies look "better." From 15th century dames who used to faint from too-tight girdles to Victoria Beckham, who needs surgery to remove her stiletto-induced bunions, women have long suffered for fashion. Other disturbing examples:

We pull a Snooki. Despite the fact that the government has named tanning beds as actual carcinogens -- like cigarettes and asbestos -- more than 30 million tanorexics (10 percent of all Americans) continue to pay money to lie in them every year.

We hot-glue hair to our scalps. Photos of Naomi Campbell recently surfaced revealing a significant bald patch above her left ear, thought to be traction alopecia, a condition stemming from years of wearing tight braids and extensions. iVillage reader sky7474 said she could barely touch her head to her pillow for three days after getting extensions “because it felt like someone had beaten my head with a bit of two-by-four” and Jennifer Aniston said her fake hair caused the real stuff -- adored by millions worldwide -- to break off.  

We risk nerve damage to look “skinny”. Parmeeta Ghoman, 29, of San Francisco, suffered from a nerve condition called meralgia paresthetica, aka “tingling thigh syndrome,” when her super-tight skinny jeans cut off her lateral femoral cutaneous nerve.  Doctors say Ghoman’s penchant for high heels worsened her numbness by tilting her pelvis forward, increasing pressure on the nerve.

We rock over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders. They’re a necessity at work and the gym (unless you don’t mind being called “Boobs McGee” by your coworkers or having an audience of slackjawed weightlifters staring as you run on the treadmill), but bras aren’t always the angelic beautifiers Victoria’s Secret would have you believe. They can dig into your shoulders, leaving unsightly welts (best case scenario) and causing frequent headaches, neck pain or numbness (worst case). In fact, in 2008, at least three lawsuits were filed against Victoria’s Secret on behalf of women who suffered rashes, scarring and other skin reactions after wearing defective bras allegedly contaminated with formaldehyde.

We're obsessed with shapewear.  Sure, a good body shaper can smooth out cellulite and make sweater dresses look sexy, but some versions seem to be the full-body version of Chinese foot binding. This one covers not just your hips and butts, but your abs, chest and upper arms. Besides heating you up like a Hot Pocket, Lenise Banse, MD, a dermatologist in Clinton Township, MI, says they can cause nasty-looking, bulging veins. How? “The pressure makes veins inflate like balloons," he says.

Bottom line: If highlighting your hair or brushing on bronzer makes you feel sexier and more confident, I say go for it. But when the beautification process threatens to derail your health, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities.

What's the worst thing you've ever put your body through for fashion? Chime in below!


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