Ladies, we all know the marvels achievable with shapewear – those slimming, stretchy undergarments that can help you go down a dress size and make your body seem smaller and firmer.
Unlike Victorian-era corsets, with their tight lacings and metal panels, modern-day shapewear is not going to permanently narrow your ribcage or relocate your organs.
That’s not to say shapewear can’t be the source of some minor problems. But worn with some common sense, these little miracle workers are perfectly safe, says hepatologist Jamile Wakim-Fleming, MD.
The most likely problem a woman might encounter with shapewear is skin irritation, especially if she has sensitive skin and wears the garment for long periods. An allergic reaction to the chemicals that give the garments their stretch also could be the culprit.
With an irritation or allergy, the skin becomes chafed and may turn red or itchy – and could eventually become infected. If your shapewear is irritating your skin, take a break from wearing the garment until your skin clears up, then try another brand or a larger size, Dr. Wakim-Fleming says. And of course, keep your body-slimmer clean with frequent laundering.
“These garments touch with skin more than any other fabric you are wearing,” Dr. Wakim-Fleming says. “Because it’s synthetic, you can develop an irritation.”
Make sure you are getting the right size when you purchase shapewear – or any type of clothing for that matter, Dr. Wakim-Fleming says.
Ultra-tight shapewear could compress nerves – particularly if you are thin – resulting in tingling sensations or numbness. If you have poor circulation, too-tight shapewear could worsen the condition, or result in increased swelling in the legs. These symptoms will likely go away once you stop wearing the garment.
One rule of thumb for shapewear: “It if makes a mark, it’s too tight,” Dr. Wakim-Fleming says.
Because of its stretchy nature, shapewear won’t permanently damage your organs, Dr. Wakim-Fleming says. But if you wear a body garment that is extremely tight for a long time, it could squeeze your digestive tract enough to create acid reflux, a condition in which stomach contents leak into the esophagus. One of the first pieces of advice a doctor gives acid reflux patients is to wear looser clothing, Dr. Wakim-Fleming says.
Poor-fitting shapewear also could be responsible for gassiness and bloating after you eat because the gas produced with digestion and the air that you naturally swallow while eating has trouble escaping.
“You’re slowing the free motion of the gastrointestinal system and trapping the gas inside,” Dr. Wakim-Fleming says.
Above all, Dr. Wakim-Fleming says, use common sense. So stop wearing shapewear if it irritates your skin. Get the right size. And don’t wear them for extremely long periods of time every day.
“If people want to wear these garments, they should wear them,” she says. “Unlike jeans or belts, they are extremely flexible and the stretch of these fibers is up to 500 percent. But be smart about your choices.”