3 Ways Your Clothes Can Affect Your Health

A few simple tweaks to your wardrobe can help reduce certain health risks.

A woman changes from tall stiletto high heels into more comfortable sneakers to protect the health of her feet.

Medically reviewed in February 2022

Updated on March 16, 2022

Wooly sweaters, stiletto heels, and sheer cover-ups could be a health hazard. Here's why it can be risky to wear them, and what you can swap them for.

Cozy-chic wool sweaters
The trap: Wool acts like Velcro for stuff (like cat dander) that causes sneezing in people with allergies.

The impact: If you have allergies or have a loved one who does, your sweater may trigger miserable sneezing, dripping, and tearing. In one study, cat dander levels were 11 times higher and dust mite levels 10 times higher on wool sweaters than on bare skin.

Swap them for: Cotton sweaters. If your allergies are super serious, just wear cotton T-shirts (layer them if it's cold). They pick up the fewest allergens.

Four-inch heels and perilous platforms
The trap: Torturing your feet by jamming them into overly tight or tall shoes.

The impact: High heels boost your risk for serious foot pain down the road by a whopping 67 percent. Wearing heels that are two inches or higher every day shortens calf muscles and thickens your Achilles tendons, making the world's easiest exercise—walking—difficult. Chunky platforms are far easier on your feet, but because you can't feel the ground under you very well, tripping on uneven pavement is a daily risk.

Swap them for: Kitten heels and flats. Not only are they stylish (flats are back, big-time), they're unlikely to send you careening onto the sidewalk.

Flimsy swimsuit cover-ups
The trap: They feel cool, and you feel like you've added at least a little sun protection. 

The impact: Your skin can be burned in minutes. Gauzy materials are almost useless against harmful UV rays from the sun. Most cotton and linen fabrics offer little to no sun protection, say researchers who tested 236 fabrics. The best sun-blocking materials they found were also the least practical: wool and polyester!

Swap them for: Tightly woven dark cotton. Even better, a cover-up with SPF protection built into the fabric. Got a favorite cover-up you think might be okay? Hold it up to the light. If you can see through it, the sun's burning rays can get through.

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