10 Things You’re Wearing That Could Kill You

This article was last updated on May 19, 2022

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Okay. So that headline might involve just a bit of a hyperbole, but stay with us here…. Unless a glock, nunchucks, and throwing stars are part of your daily wardrobe, chances are you’re not too worried about being maimed by what you’re wearing.

However, some of your more benign-looking pieces have a dark side, leading to gross injuries, not-so-nice afflictions, and — in some rare cases — an untimely end. No, this isn’t a call to arms to burn every pair of jeggings you see (at least, for the reasons we’re about to present), but it sure doesn’t hurt to ask what you’re risking by swiping that 2-year-old tube lipstick. Ahead, ten things you’re wearing that could do you some serious harm. Trust — you’ll never look at a pair of flip-flops the same way again.

1. Silk Scarves

In one of the most infamous death-by-clothing-item stories, 50-year-old ex-dancer Isadora Duncan’s silk scarf became entangled in the open spokes of the car she was in, throwing her to the pavement and killing her instantly. The scarf in question was a hand-painted Roman Chatov silk scarf that her friend Mary Desti (who also witnessed the accident) had given to her. So, kiddos, remember — two and ten, buckle up, and keep your hands, feet, and scarves inside the vehicle at all times.


2. Platform Shoes

The phrase might not be “The higher the heel, the closer to God,” but it may as well be. Super-high platforms, stilettos, and wedges may give you a boost, height-wise, but anyone who’s worn them knows that one misstep, and you can end up with a twisted ankle — or worse. Allegedly, a 25-year-old teacher in Japan died after falling from a 5-inch platform sandal and fracturing her skull, and another Japanese woman died in a car crash when her stiletto-clad foot couldn’t get to the brake in time. Yikes.


3. Skinny Jeans

Skinny jeans might be the everyday pant for most women, but wearing too-tight pants every day might lead to meralgia parenthetic (MP), a form of itchy, burning, tingling nerve damage on the pelvis and upper thigh. According to Consumer News, skinny jeans are also responsible for bladder infections, yeast infections, dermatitis, blood clots, and a condition called lipotraphia semicircular, when your skin develops depressions due to constant and uneven pressure.


4. Oversized Purses

We’re working ladies with lots to lug around, but upgrading in bag size to accommodate all our daly knickknacks is probably a bad idea. Said family physical practitioner Dr. Jane Sadler to Reuters, “I see so many women with neck pains and headaches and what I usually do is look for their purse and pick it up […] and they’re usually anywhere from seven to ten pounds.” Extended use of a large, heavy bag may lead to irreversible back, neck, and shoulder problems.


5. Flip-Flops

Without much in the way of support, protection, grip, or secureness, flip flops might be the most dangerous piece of footwear around. According to The Wall Street Journal, researchers at Auburn University found that flip-flops led to “foot fatigue, sore calf muscles and an altered gait, which could cause long-term ankle and hip problems.” Moreover, slipping in them, being stepped on while wearing them, and tripping in them are common flip-flop flubs — more reasons to ditch this shoe altogether!


6. Cheap Jewelry

There’s a reason all that fantastic costume jewelry from your favorite high-street shops is so cheap. According to The Ecology Center, more than half of the jewelry found at stores like Claire’s, Forever21, Hot Topic, and Wal-Mart contained high levels of hazardous chemicals over the limit of what’s safe, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The next time you’re thinking of picking up a strand of fake pearls, a fake diamond ring, or a fake silver bracelet, know that you’re also buying real cadmium, real lead, and real chromium.


7. Wedding Rings

If you have a ring that you never, ever take off (for most, that piece is a wedding ring), well…you might want to consider removing the sucker every once in a while. Oftentimes, as fingers change sizes due to weight gain, rings become stuck, and can cause a nasty variety of accidental injuries ranging from bruising and circulatory damage to — in some gruesome cases — the accidental loss of a finger.

Says surgeon Monica Wood, MD, from Northwest Hand & Orthopedics, “I remember one patient—a charming senior who did no heavy work. She got up on a step to put something on a shelf.  The step tipped and she reached to catch herself on the shelf. She very nearly lost her finger. Her ring caught on the shelf and ripped through the tissue, lodging itself in one of her joints.”


8. Keratin Straightening

The Brazilian blowout seemed like a dream come true for girls with persistent frizz — an in-salon treatment that gave you semi-permanent results of smooth, shiny strands — but that dream quickly became a nightmare with the news that many of these treatments contained unsafe levels of formaldehyde. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to cancer, not to mention side effects of eye and nervous system disorders, respiratory tract problems, chest pain, vomiting, and rashes.

This treatment is particularly dangerous for salon technicians and people who undergo frequent straightening treatments because they are constantly exposed to the chemicals. “The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel recently completed a comprehensive review and found that the safety of methylene glycol and formaldehyde in hair straightening products depends on a number of factors, including the concentration of formaldehyde and methylene glycol, the amount of product applied, the temperature used during the application process, and the ventilation provided at the point of use,” says Jay Ansell, PhD,  vice president for cosmetics programs at the Personal Care Products Council. “The Panel concluded that under present practices of use and concentration, formaldehyde and methylene glycol are unsafe in hair straightening products. Consumers should go to a licensed professional salon and ensure that adequate safety measures and ventilation are present.” If your salon says that they use a formaldehyde-free straightener, make sure they have the proof to back that up.


9. Expired Beauty Products

All beauty products use some type of preservative, be it natural or chemical, to keep the ingredients fresh and free of bacteria. Problem is, those preservativeswill expire, meaning that your face cream could be swimming with germs, post-expiration date.

“Preservation systems are designed to assure that products are adequately preserved from point of purchase and through normal and customary use preventing bacteria from developing.” says Ansell. “However, misusing them has the potential to allow bacteria or fungi to grow. Products, particularly eye area products, like mascaras should not be shared, never remoistened with saliva, or applied in the car or on the bus.”

In addition, pay attention to the expiration dates of your products. Most beauty products will have something called a PAO (period after opening) symbol, which looks like a little jar with a number in it. That number tells you how many months that product is safe to use after you first open it. After that time period, the preservatives are no longer guaranteed, so your products aren’t protected and could cause some pretty serious infections.

So, how do you know if your product is still good? “The simplest advice is: “If the product looks bad or smells bad, discard it,” says Ansell.


10. Colored Contacts

While wearing the latest crazy shades on your eyes (ooh, violet) can look rad, it can also be really dangerous if you don’t go to an optometrist first. Since contacts lay directly on your eyes, they need to be fitted correctly, especially if you plan to be wearing them for a long time. They also need to be cleaned properly — the last thing you want to deal with is bacteria in your eyes. Using contacts that haven’t been properly fitted and cared for can lead to infections and, in extreme cases, vision loss, so check in with your eye doctor first, before you decide to invest in new lenses.

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