Clothes unmake the man

How men’s wardrobe and personal grooming can be hurting them
© MSN Healthy Living // © MSN Health

Every morning, men from one coast to the other stand before the mirror and smile. They’ve got the right clothes, the right hair, the right phone, even the right antiperspirant, body spray and personal grooming (ahem, “manscaping”). They are ready to take on the world. What could go wrong? Turns out, a lot, including clothes that make them sick and shaving snafus that land them in the ER.

--By John Zebrowski for MSN Healthy Living

1 of 12 Fashion can harm you (Tim Robberts/Getty Images)

Shaving

For generations, proper grooming meant keeping your face closely shaved. But more recently, the razor’s track has moved south, past the chest long ago freed of its Burt Reynoldsesque thicket, down to the pelvic region to tackle “Mt. Pubis.” Shaving down there is tricky – and sometimes gruesome. “The injuries you see from shaving can be truly eye-opening,” said Dr. Benjamin Breyer, a San Francisco-based urologist and faculty member at the University of California, San Francisco. Breyer worked on a study that tracked emergency room visits for genital injuries over a 10-year period. It found that hospitalizations for shaving accidents increased fivefold between 2002 and 2010. In all, about 5,000 men turned up in ERs for lacerations, infections and abscesses resulting from failed attempts at manscaping. The good news is that the vast majority were quickly patched up and sent home. Breyer said there are a few main takeaways from the study. “Obviously, don’t groom yourself down there,” he said. “But if you must, use an electric shaver, not some old thing that’s dull and nasty. And be careful. Take your time.”

2 of 12 Pelvic shaving (Brian Klutch/Getty Images)

Antiperspirant

Each morning, millions of men apply antiperspirants in hopes of not becoming a sopping, stinky mess before lunch. It’s as much a morning ritual as brushing your teeth. But critics insist that antiperspirant’s key ingredient – aluminum – is responsible for various conditions, including cancer to Alzheimer’s. But the National Cancer Institute and the Alzheimer’s Association say there are no definitive studies that link the ingredients in antiperspirants to cancer or Alzheimer’s. Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York-based dermatologist and author, agrees. But she recognizes that regardless of what the studies say, people will continue to worry. “People who are concerned about antiperspirants should just use deodorant,” she says.

3 of 12 Antiperspirant can cause cancer (Rolf Bruderer/Getty Images)

Axe body spray

Men make up a fraction of the $25 billion-plus global perfume market. But they utterly dominate the body spray category. And Axe is king of that market, a $2.5 billion global brand with double-digit annual growth. There have yet to be any serious studies on potential dangers, but huffing has become enough of a problem Axe has a video on its website mocking people who get high from inhaling the product as un-dateable. And while it should be common sense not to mix a highly-flammable aerosol with a lighter, enough young men have done exactly that to create a trend: the Axe bomb. It’s become so prevalent, Axe also made a video warning people against doing that. “Not only do chicks think it’s not cool,” says the hip blonde girl standing next to the hip brunette guy, “but you could actually kill yourself doing it.” Moral: Don’t be an idiot.

4 of 12 People using 'Axe' to get high (Puneet Vikram Singh/Getty Images)

Wrinkle-free shirt

The dress shirt has one great flaw: It wrinkles. Since most men view the iron as mysterious and frightening, the garment industry created the no-iron, or wrinkle-free, shirt. No-iron shirts now make up nearly half the dress-shirt market. There’s only one problem. Makers treat shirts with a resin that releases formaldehyde. According to a government study, wrinkle-free shirts had high enough levels of formaldehyde to cause skin irritation in some people. The study sparked outrage, with a writer for Slate calling the shirts maybe “the greatest fashion crime of our age.” But Dr. Jessica Krant, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center, notes that only people allergic to chemical agents need worry. “The surest way to avoid a trip to the dermatologist?” she says. “Learn how to operate an iron.”

5 of 12 Wrinkle-free shirts contain formaldehyde (Pgiam/Getty Images)

Skinny jeans

Skinny jeans have gone in and out of style, but among hipsters they continue to hold sway. They can definitely be uncomfortable. But harmful? Some recent surveys suggest yes, blaming them for nerve issues and acid reflux. Last year a British poll claimed that skinny jeans were responsible for a surge in bladder problems, urinary tract infections, and something called the “twisted testicle.” Breyer, however, said that in his practice, the most common clothing problem men face is getting caught in their zippers. He said as long as a man is able to urinate he’ll avoid a urinary tract infection. As for the twisted testicle, he hopes not. “When you get a twisted testicle, the blood supply gets cut off and you must act to get it treated within six hours or it will die,” he said. “It’s super-painful. It’s like a heart attack in the testicle.”

6 of 12 Skinny jeans can cause infection (Tracy Packer Photography/Getty Images)

Wallet

The wallet is the forgotten component of a man’s wardrobe. He slips it in his back pocket and moves on. Until his back begins aching. This is fat-wallet syndrome. Its medical name is piriformis syndrome, and it occurs when the sciatic nerve gets compressed, causing pain and numbness. Dr. Jose Guevara, an Atlanta chiropractor, said he commonly treats men with the condition. “You see this a lot in people who do the same thing every single day and sit on their wallets,” he said. The solution, Guevara says, is to do what he does. “I keep my wallet in my front pocket.”

7 of 12 Putting a wallet in the back pocket (Derek Croucher/Getty Images)

Flip-flops

Flip-flops were once only for hot summer days. Now they’re pretty much year-round. And why not? Even if it’s the dead of winter, they make you feel like it’s July. But flip-flops weren’t engineered for so much – or such diverse – activity. Dr. Jeffrey DeSantis, a California-based podiatrist and trustee of the American Podiatric Medical Association, sees flip-flop wearers with a wide variety of ailments – ankle sprains, metatarsal fractures, toes severed by lawn mowers and plantar fasciitis. With a practice in Newport Beach, DeSantis considers himself pretty pro-flip-flop. “Just don’t wear flip-flops when you’re doing yard work; don’t wear them when you’re playing sports, and don’t wear them to take a long hike,” he says. “And don’t buy the cheapest ones you find. People will spend hundreds of dollars on shoes and then go out and pay $9.99 for flip-flops at Kmart.”

8 of 12 Flip-flops are bad for feet (Sean Marc Lee/Getty Images)

Wedding ring

Most married men stop thinking about their wedding ring not long after the first dance. Search wedding ring injury and you’ll see why this is a mistake. The results are pretty gruesome. Then there are warnings: Don’t wear wedding ring while weightlifting or rock climbing or fixing a car! Rings can get snagged and cause either an avulsion injury – in which the skin is torn from the bone– or even an amputation. Many men don’t remove them before certain activities and don’t get them re-sized as they put on weight. Dr. Bardia Amirlak, a Dallas-based plastic surgeon, wishes they’d follow a simple axiom: Take the wedding ring off when you’re active. “The injury will be terrible if it happens; I’ve seen it many times,” he said. “And it’s very difficult to repair.”

9 of 12 Wedding rings can cut off circulation (Ryan McVay/Getty Images)

Cellphone

The cellphone is both a technological marvel and a pedestrian device; a computing powerhouse and a fashion statement. It’s also something many people believe is a serious danger. Almost since cellphones were introduced, people have worried that the electromagnetic radiation they emit causes brain tumors. With good reason. A 2011 Swedish study found statistically significant increases in brain cancer risk among those who began significant usage before age 20. And last year the Italian Supreme Court ruled that there was a link between an executive’s heavy cellphone use and a brain tumor. But other large studies, including in Sweden, showed no connection. The National Cancer Institute states there is no evidence linking cellphones to cancer. Dr. Elizabeth Thompson, a New York-based radiation oncologist, agrees with the NCI’s assessment but understands why people continue to worry. “There is this lingering suspicion that cellphones are dangerous, but there’s lack of definitive proof,” she says. “I have one, but I rarely talk on it – I prefer texting.”

10 of 12 Cell phones and brain tumors (Akiko Aoki/Getty Images)