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UTIs, Baldness, Broken Ankles, and Other Fashion Emergencies

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Fashion-induced anorexia isn't the only health risk faced by runway models. New photos of Naomi Campbell revealed a significant bald patch above her left ear which almost looks like one of those trendy shaved-head 'dos being rocked by Rihanna. But Campbell's lack of hair is thought to be traction alopecia, a condition stemming from years of wearing tight braids and extensions. This makes sense, considering many African-American women commonly wear braids or weaves. And really, how else would a supermodel for from rocking a short pageboy bob one month to long, stick-straight hair with bangs the next?

Being a hair chameleon may come with the territory of supermodeldome, but, as the pics of Campbell demonstrate, at what cost? And what about the other ways women - famous or everyday - suffer for fashion?

Urinary Tract Infections from thongs: You might avoid the dreaded VPL (Visible panty Line,) but you could be inviting the far-worse UTI. Think about it: A strip of fabric is being snugly run along your vagina, letting it breathe about as easily as an asthmatic during a pollen advisory. Besides stifling your pretty little flower, that fabric also acts as a conduit for bacteria, picking up fecal matter and bacteria from the rear and paying it forward. When bacteria reach the urinary tract and aren't flushed away, they can travel up and cause an infection. (This is why women are taught from early on the wipe from front to back.) According to Go Ask Alice, thongs can also irritate our vaginal tissues. "The function of underwear is to provide a soft barrier between potential irritants, such as your clothes, and the vagina. In addition to failing to provide that barrier, a thong may itself irritate vaginal tissue by causing micro-abrasions or cracks in the skin, which can leave delicate tissues more susceptible to infection."

If you're like me and you still want to wear thongs, check out these vagina-friendly undies and shorts I found when writing an article on "down there" health myths for Health Magazine.

Bone-breaking high heels: Granted, watching videos of models tumbling down runways makes me giggle the same way I did last night when I was treated to my first five minutes of Wipeout. But it's truly NOT funny. The fact that these ladies didn't fracture an ankle - or worse - is a marvel, especially considering their lack of body fat to cushion their falls. Stratospheric stilettos and wedges are everywhere this summer - at Nordstroms, you can get 5" pumps with 1.5" platforms; if those Fendis are too pricey, head to Payless, where these slingbacks offer a daring 5.25" heel with a 1.75" platform. You can break your back for 1/18 the price!

Nerve damage from skinny jeans: 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. I suppose this gives new meaning to the term "skinny jeans:" When your legs are going numb, you're going to be so freaked out that you have some dreaded neurological condition that you won't be able to keep food down.

Another skinny jean danger: Yeast infection and peeing problems. "Super-skinny jeans won't crush your organs the way corsets did, but they can irritate your skin and trap moisture, which can set you up for a yeast infection," Elizabeth Kavaler, MD, a urologist in New York City, told Women's Health. It turns out a stiff denim crotch seam can also cause your pelvic muscles to clench in an effort to "push" the fabric away, making urination difficult.

Heavy handbags that cause bulging disks: In 2007, O Magazine tested 786 bags in an effort to give readers options that wouldn't wreck their posture, kill their backs or cause them to walk lopsided. (It's not that the handbag itself is a problem, but the larger the vessel, the more likely you are to shove laptops, books, spare shoes, bottled water and more into it.) The article included advice from New York chiropractor Isis Medina on how buying a safe handbag: She suggested avoiding long straps, chain handles and slouchy, structure-less models because "when items shift around and aren't well distributed, your balance is thrown off." The American Chiropractic Association recommends that women shlep around no more than 10 percent of their body weight.

It's not just giant satchels and baguettes causing trouble: According to Romy Fazeli of Kymaro Health & Beauty/Spa Essentials, heavy necklaces like those popular bibs http://abbysroad.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/vera-wang1.jpg can strain the neck and upper back muscles, leaving you saddled with pain.

Naked vajajays are nobody's friend: Pubic hair cushions and protects your vagina from friction and infection. Waxing or lasering off all of your hair, or even leaving just a teeny landing strip, can lead to major irritation (from the removal process itself or from rubbing against undies or jeans.) That friction can cause invisible tears that give bacteria a chance to sneak into the bloodstream, according to Melissa Goist, MD, and OB/gyn at The Ohio State University Medical Center. "People think less hair is good, but that's only if you have lice or crabs," she says. Going bare can also increase transmission of skin-to-skin STIs like HPV. We say, Go Bushy or Go Home!

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