Beauty or beast?
It's been proven time and time again that women will do all sorts of seemingly insane -- and occasionally hazardous -- things in the name of beauty. Sometimes the results are worth it, but in some cases, they can be downright dangerous. So before you embark on any of these potentially sketchy treatments, make sure you know what you're in for.
This is the secret trick that celebrities routinely use to go from short to long locks in an instant. But while hair extensions can create the look of fuller, thicker, longer hair, they come with some potential pitfalls as well. They are usually attached to your natural hair using glue, and then an acetone solution is used to dissolve the glue when it's time to remove the extensions. That harsh chemical can cause damage to hair. And the sheer weight of extensions pulling on your hair for weeks at a time can also lead to hair loss. Some women have reported ending up with actual bald spots after their extensions were removed.
A spa in San Francisco recently became the first place in the country to offer Thai face-slapping treatments. The practitioner, a woman named Tata who trained in Thailand, claims that the 15 minutes of vigorous slapping will leave you looking "so beautiful that your beauty will charm everyone." Other than some potential for pain, redness and swelling (and maybe a slightly bruised ego), letting someone try to slap away your wrinkles probably won't cause you any lasting harm. But it's highly unlikely to bring you any beauty benefits either.
Thinking about joining the Polar Bear club or taking an icy plunge in an indoor cold spa? Proponents rave about the invigorating feeling, increased circulation and other health benefits of cold-water soaks. Athletes commonly use an ice bath after a strenuous workout to reduce inflammation and speed muscle recovery. But a sudden dip in the cold can have potential risks. The shock of the cold can increase blood pressure, which can be risky if you already have high blood pressure or a heart condition. And if you soak for 30 minutes or more, your body's core temperature can drop enough to cause hypothermia.
Snake venom moisturizer
The latest cosmetic to claim to be like Botox without the needle is Rodial Glamoxy Snake Serum. And while it may sound dangerous, the biggest risk will be to your wallet. The serum, which retails for $160, doesn't contain any actual venom. The active ingredient is the patented dipeptide its creators call Syn-ake. They claim the ingredient mimics the effects of the venom of the Southeast Asian temple viper, whose bite paralyzes its victims. Syn-ake supposedly has a mild freezing effect on muscles, similar to Botox injections.
This straightening treatment has won raves from legions of curly- and frizzy-haired women who leave the salon with sleek, smooth strands that stay that way for weeks. But many salons have now banned the procedure because it uses potentially unsafe levels of the chemical formaldehyde. Last year, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an alert to hair salon workers about the risks of formaldehyde exposure. Possible health hazards include serious irritation of the eyes, nose and lungs -- and it has even been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
A few years ago, this exotic-sounding pedicure treatment made a big splash in the beauty world. Women happily gave up razors and pumice stones in favor of having tiny fish (such as carp) nibble away at their dead, callused skin. The problem is that fish can't be disinfected, and they are inclined to carry bacteria that can cause skin infections. British authorities found fish, slated to be used for these treatments, were infected with group B Streptococcus, which can cause pneumonia and infections -- especially in anyone with a compromised immune system. "The theory is that fish can eat away your dead skin, but the reality is that they can also put you at risk for soft tissue infections," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
Any time you use chemicals that close to your eyes, you should be extremely careful. Not only do you need to protect the eyes themselves, but also the delicate skin surrounding them. "The dyes can cause allergies or irritation to the skin around the eyes," warns Zeichner. "Make sure you only do it at a reputable salon with someone very experienced in the technique."
The beauty of the gel manicure is that it lasts -- and looks perfectly chip-free -- for weeks. But there is a potential downside to the treatment. "One of the main risks of gel manicures is the long exposure to UV dryers which have been shown to increase the risk of skin cancers on the hands," says Zeichner. One possible solution is to apply a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher to hands before placing them under the dryer. While this won't completely eliminate your risk, it will help to protect skin from cancer-causing UV rays.
The Indoor Tanning Association likes to paint a picture of tanning beds as a safe way to get a little healthy glow, and they've even tried to convince consumers that some time in the tanning bed is good for you because it helps your body produce vitamin D. But skin experts have a different take on tanning. "Tanning beds are considered a Class 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization," says Zeichner. "Other carcinogens in this category include asbestos and plutonium." According to statistics from the Skin Cancer Foundation, those who use tanning beds are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer) than those who have never tanned indoors. And people who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop the less fatal -- but still dangerous -- type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. They're also 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.