Flipping through fashion and fitness magazines can be a fun way to keep up with our favorite celebrities and find out the latest ways to tone our abs or give our skin a summery glow.
The vast majority of fashion and beauty trends are harmless and can even be helpful, providing new ideas to freshen up our appearance. However, every year we come across a few that are simply a bad idea: these dangerous beauty trends range from unrealistic to risky.
Here are five of the worst beauty trends we have seen circulating recently. At best they are a waste of time and money, at worst they can cause long-term health problems.
#1. Waist Training
The trend: Waist training enthusiasts (including famous figures like Kim Kardashian) wear a tight-fitting corset day after day to try and force their bodies to adopt a dramatic hourglass figure with a tiny waist circumference.
The danger: Squeezing your abdomen into a corset for long time periods not only limits breathing capacity, leads to indigestion, and potentially displaces and damages organs, but waist training does not work. Your waist-to-hip ratio is largely determined by genetics, so a corset will only provide a temporary effect that is not worth the associated health risks.
Healthier alternatives: There are safer and longer-lasting ways to improve body contours. Add core strengthening exercises to your workouts to tone abdominal muscles and help improve posture. Liposuction can also help sculpt a more feminine silhouette. If you are looking for more dramatic curves on your lower body, a Brazilian butt lift is an option to consider.
#2. The Bikini Bridge
The trend: A “bikini bridge” occurs if the hip bones jut out when a person is lying down, creating a space between the swimsuit waistband and the lower belly. Ironically, this trend is thought to have originated as a satirical hoax in response to other dangerous beauty trends.
The danger: The idea that hip bones must protrude for a woman to be considered beautiful is troubling enough, but the “bikini bridge” is also an inaccurate way to measure size, given that the fullness of your abdomen can change depending on how recently you have eaten! Trying to achieve a permanent “bikini bridge” through extreme dieting could jeopardize your health.
Healthier alternatives: If you want a flatter stomach, there are safer options. Non-surgical fat reduction treatments such as CoolSculpting can shrink a lower belly bulge gradually with no downtime. Tummy tuck surgery can restore a much firmer, flatter belly by removing sagging skin and tightening protruding muscles.
#3. The Thigh Gap
The trend: A “thigh gap” exists when a person stands with her feet together and the inner thighs do not touch.
A thigh gap is a matter of genetics. Trying to diet and exercise your way to one will only leave you frustrated, injured, and unhealthy.
The danger: Trying to get a thigh gap is futile. Whether or not the thighs touch depends in large part on the width and angle of the pelvic and thigh bones—a matter of genetics. Those with wider hips and a more perpendicular thigh bone attachment are more likely to have a natural thigh gap. The rest of us will not. Trying to diet and exercise your way to a thigh gap will only leave you frustrated and in extreme cases injured or unhealthy.
Healthier alternatives: Consider safe and effective ways to improve the shape of your thighs. Liposuction is a tried-and-true way to sculpt away pockets fat on the inner and outer thighs and restore a slimmer contour. Non-surgical options such as THERMI or CoolSmooth can help reduce cellulite, address saddlebags, and improve small areas like the inner thighs.
#4. Tanning Beds
The trend: By exposing your skin to highly concentrated (and highly damaging) ultraviolet light, tanning beds supply a shortcut to a bronzed body.
The danger: Unfortunately, tanning beds remain popular despite mountains of evidence that they increase skin cancer risk. Baking under powerful UVA and UVB radiation may darken your skin quickly, but doing so also leads premature aging, elevates your risk for melanoma, and can even suppress your immune system.
Healthier alternatives: The only healthy tan comes from a bottle. Consult a trained skincare professional to find products that are safe and offer consistent, realistic-looking tans. Another option is to eschew bronzing altogether and concentrate on enhancing your skin’s natural glow, which can come through beautifully on untanned skin. In any case, remember to protect exposed skin with broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen every day.
#5. The A4 and Belly Button “Challenges”
These completely unscientific “challenges” emphasize an unrealistic beauty standard based on extreme thinness.
The trends: These are “tests” you can take to see if your body measures up to an arbitrary standard. You “pass” the A4 challenge if you can hold an 8½ x 11 sheet of paper over your middle and not see your waist behind it. The belly button challenge asks you to try and reach around behind your back and touch your belly button.
The danger: These completely unscientific “challenges” emphasize an unrealistic beauty standard based on extreme thinness (or extreme shoulder flexibility, in the case of the belly button challenge). Moreover, these unhealthy challenges tend to be popular among teens and younger women who are still developing physically and emotionally and may be tempted to go to extreme measures to “fit in.”
Healthier alternatives: Frankly, we discourage anyone from trying to achieve an unrealistically tiny waist through any means. While cosmetic procedures can help improve the shape and appearance of the abdomen, a reputable plastic surgeon will prioritize patient safety and a natural appearance. If you believe you need to shed weight, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you determine a healthy goal weight for your body, taking your height and anatomy into consideration, then provide diet and exercise guidelines. For additional support with your weight loss plan, consider also working with a qualified nutritionist and a fitness professional on an ongoing basis.
In sum, if you’re looking to noticeably improve your shape or appearance, don’t rely on the beauty magazines or celebrity tactics—be safe and treat your body right by talking to a medical professional first.
If you are in the Washington, DC, or Chevy Chase, MD areas, we welcome you to give us a call. As board certified plastic surgeons who are committed to bettering patients’ physical and emotional health, we will offer you knowledgeable guidance about safe ways to enhance your appearance.