Clothing in today’s fast-paced fashion business is about more than just appearance; it is an area where health concerns often take a backseat. From toxic chemicals in fabrics to ill-fitting garments that cause physical discomfort, the clothes people wear can pose major hazards to their health. Many people unknowingly expose themselves to potential health risks by choosing clothing that prioritises style over safety and function over well-being.

Toxic Chemicals in Fast Fashion

In the age of fast fashion, where trends change rapidly, and clothing is more accessible and affordable than ever before, there is a hidden cost that often goes unnoticed – the prevalence of toxic chemicals in garments. From production to the store shelves and ultimately to people’s closets, the fast fashion industry relies heavily on the use of hazardous chemicals that pose serious risks to both human health and the environment.

The production of fast fashion involves a complex supply chain that often spans multiple countries, with each step adding toxic chemicals to the garments. From synthetic dyes and finishes to chemical additives for wrinkle resistance and stain repellency, a myriad of hazardous substances finds its way into the fabrics that are used to make garments. These chemicals include carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and allergens, among others, posing significant risks to factory workers, consumers, and the ecosystems where they accumulate.

Recent investigations have shed light on the widespread use of toxic chemicals in fast fashion. Substances like perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and bisphenol A (BPA) are commonly found in clothing, posing serious health risks to both consumers and the environment alike. PFAS is linked to hormonal disruptions, immune system suppression, and even cancer, while BPA exposure is associated with reproductive issues and developmental abnormalities.

The impact of toxic chemicals used in making clothes on the human body can be significant and wide-ranging, affecting various aspects of health and well-being. Here are some key points to consider:

Skin Irritation and Allergic Reactions: Many clothing manufacturers use synthetic dyes, finishes, and chemical additives that can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Contact with these chemicals can lead to redness, itching, rashes, and dermatitis, particularly in areas where clothing comes into direct contact with the skin, such as the neckline, underarms, and waistline.

Respiratory Problems: Inhalation of toxic chemicals emitted from clothing, especially when new, can irritate the respiratory system and exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma and allergies. Chemicals like formaldehyde, used in fabric finishing processes, can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, leading to respiratory discomfort, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Hormonal Disruption: Certain chemicals used in clothing production, such as phthalates, flame retardants, and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), have been linked to hormonal disruptions and endocrine system disorders. These chemicals can mimic or interfere with hormones in the body, potentially leading to reproductive issues, developmental abnormalities, and disruptions in thyroid function.

Cancer Risk: Some chemicals used in textile manufacturing, including azo dyes, formaldehyde, and certain heavy metals like cadmium and lead, are classified as carcinogens or have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Prolonged exposure to these substances, either through direct contact with the skin or through inhalation of airborne particles, may contribute to the development of various cancers, including skin cancer and certain types of leukaemia.

Environmental Pollution: The production and disposal of clothing containing toxic chemicals contribute to environmental pollution and ecosystem degradation. Chemical runoff from textile factories contaminates waterways, soil, and air, posing risks to wildlife and human populations living in proximity to manufacturing sites. Moreover, the persistence of these chemicals in the environment can lead to long-term ecological damage and bioaccumulation in the food chain.

Prevention Methods

  • Prioritise clothing made from organic or sustainably sourced materials to minimise exposure to harmful chemicals.

  • Check clothing labels for certifications like GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) or OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100, indicating the absence of hazardous substances.

  • Advocate for stricter regulations and transparency within the fashion industry to hold brands accountable for their chemical usage.

  • By raising awareness of the issue, holding brands accountable, and embracing sustainable alternatives, everyone can work towards a fashion industry that prioritises the well-being of both people and the planet.

The Dangers Lurking in Undergarments

Undergarments, encompassing items such as bras and underwear, serve as a fundamental component of daily attire, offering support, comfort, and modesty. Despite the emphasis often placed on their aesthetic appeal and practicality, the impact of these garments on health and well-being tends to be overlooked. These essential pieces of clothing can exert various negative effects on the human body, ranging from physical discomfort to potential health risks.

Restricted Blood Circulation: Tight undergarments, particularly those with constrictive elastic bands or underwires, can impede blood circulation, especially in areas like the waist, groin, and thighs. Prolonged restriction of blood flow can lead to discomfort, numbness, and tingling sensations, and in severe cases, it may contribute to conditions like varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.

Skin Irritation and Allergies: Many undergarments are made from synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon, which can trap moisture against the skin, leading to irritation, chafing, and the development of fungal infections. Additionally, the dyes, finishes, and chemical additives used in the manufacturing process can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, resulting in redness, itching, and dermatitis.

Impact on Posture and Musculoskeletal Health: Ill-fitting bras and underwear can exert uneven pressure on the body, leading to poor posture and musculoskeletal imbalances. Bras with inadequate support can contribute to shoulder and back pain, while underwear that rides up or digs into the skin can cause discomfort and tension in the hips and lower back. Over time, these issues may lead to chronic pain and postural deformities.

Compromised Lymphatic Drainage: Tight bras, particularly those with underwires, can compress the lymphatic vessels in the breast area, hindering the flow of lymph fluid. This may impair the body’s ability to remove toxins and waste products, potentially increasing the risk of lymphedema and other lymphatic-related disorders. Moreover, prolonged compression of the lymph nodes may contribute to breast health issues, including cysts and fibrocystic changes.

Thermal Discomfort and Moisture Build-up: Certain types of undergarments, such as shapewear and compression garments, are designed to provide firm support and sculpt the body. However, these garments can trap heat and moisture against the skin, leading to excessive sweating, skin maceration, and bacterial growth. Prolonged exposure to a warm and humid environment may also exacerbate existing skin conditions like eczema and folliculitis.

Prevention Methods

  • Get professionally fitted for bras to ensure proper support and comfort.

  • Choosing undergarments made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics, opting for styles that provide adequate support and comfort, and avoiding excessively tight or restrictive garments can help minimise these risks.

  • Practicing good hygiene habits, such as regular laundering of undergarments and allowing the skin to breathe, can further mitigate potential side effects.

  • Opt for undergarments made from natural and breathable fabrics like organic cotton or bamboo.

  • Choose bra styles with wide straps and underwire-free designs to reduce pressure on sensitive areas.

  • Consider investing in toxin-free lingerie brands committed to using safe and sustainable materials.

The Skin-Fit Clothing Dilemma

In the pursuit of fashion and style, many individuals opt for skin-fit clothing and denim pants, appreciating their sleek silhouette and casual appeal. However, while these garments may enhance the appearance, they can also exert various negative effects on the human body, impacting both physical comfort and long-term health.

Restricted Movement and Muscle Compression: Skin-fit clothing, designed to conform closely to the body’s contours, can restrict natural movement and compress muscles, especially in areas like the waist, thighs, and calves. Prolonged wear of tight-fitting garments may lead to discomfort, restricted mobility, and muscle fatigue. A study by Smita Kanase and her team from Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences found higher hamstring tightness in skin-fit clothing users compared to loose clothing users. Additionally, skin-fit clothing can impede proper blood circulation, potentially contributing to numbness, tingling, and even muscle cramps.

Skin Irritation and Chafing: The snug fit of skin-fit clothing and the friction between fabric and skin can result in skin irritation, chafing, and the development of friction blisters, particularly in areas where clothing rubs against the skin. Synthetic fabrics commonly used in skin-fit garments, such as polyester and spandex, can exacerbate these issues by trapping moisture and heat against the skin, leading to inflammation and discomfort.

Respiratory Constraints and Digestive Discomfort: Skin-fit tops and pants with tight waistbands can exert pressure on the abdomen, potentially impacting respiratory function and digestive processes. Constriction around the waist may restrict diaphragmatic movement, leading to shallow breathing and decreased lung capacity. Moreover, tight clothing can compress the stomach and intestines, impeding digestion and causing discomfort, bloating, and acid reflux.

Postural Misalignment and Musculoskeletal Strain: Skin-fit clothing, particularly when excessively tight or restrictive, can alter body alignment and posture, placing undue stress on the spine and musculoskeletal system. Tight waistbands and narrow leg openings in denim pants may exacerbate existing postural imbalances and contribute to lower back pain, hip discomfort, and muscle strain. Over time, these issues may lead to chronic musculoskeletal conditions and reduced mobility.

Circulatory Impairment and Thermal Discomfort: The close-fitting nature of skin-fit clothing and denim pants can impede blood circulation, especially in areas where fabric exerts the most pressure, such as the waist, thighs, and calves. Reduced blood flow may result in cold extremities, numbness, and a sensation of heaviness in the affected limbs. Moreover, tight clothing can trap heat and moisture against the skin, leading to excessive sweating, skin irritation, and discomfort.

Prevention Methods

  • Opt for jeans with a slightly relaxed fit to allow for unrestricted movement and circulation.

  • Take breaks from wearing skinny clothes and opt for looser styles or active wear during physical activities.

  • Incorporate regular stretching exercises to alleviate muscle tension and improve flexibility.

  • Consider Ayurvastra denim, infused with natural herbs known for their therapeutic properties, to promote better circulation and comfort.

Fashioning Change: Green Wardrobes and Body-Positive Clothing for a Better World

Clothing is associated with a wide range of concerns. Because clothing is one of the most basic human requirements and provides numerous psychological and physical benefits, one can make a few changes to their wardrobe to protect themselves from the health risks associated with clothing. Building a green wardrobe and adopting body-friendly clothing would be extremely beneficial.

The concept of a green wardrobe and body-friendly clothing revolves around prioritising sustainability, environmental responsibility, and health-consciousness in the fashion industry. Here’s a breakdown of each concept:

Green Wardrobe

A green wardrobe refers to a collection of clothing items that are produced and consumed in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner. Key principles of a green wardrobe include:

Sustainable Materials: Choosing clothing made from sustainable and renewable materials such as organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, linen, and Tencel (lyocell).

Ethical Production: Supporting brands and manufacturers that prioritise fair labour practices, ethical sourcing of materials, and transparency in their supply chain.

Minimalism and Versatility: Adopting a minimalist approach to wardrobe curation by investing in timeless, high-quality pieces that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits, reducing the need for excessive consumption.

Secondhand and Vintage: Embracing secondhand shopping, thrift stores, and clothing swaps as sustainable alternatives to buying new garments, thereby reducing waste and extending the lifespan of clothing.

Care and Repair: Practicing proper garment care, including washing clothes in eco-friendly detergents, air-drying when possible, and repairing garments rather than discarding them at the first sign of wear and tear.

By adopting the principles of a green wardrobe, individuals can reduce their environmental footprint, support ethical practices in the fashion industry, and cultivate a more conscious approach to clothing consumption.

Body-Friendly Clothing

Body-friendly clothing focuses on prioritising comfort, fit, and health-conscious design elements to promote overall well-being. Key aspects of body-friendly clothing include:

Comfortable Fabrics: Choosing clothing made from soft, breathable, and stretchy fabrics that allow for ease of movement and minimise skin irritation. Natural materials such as organic cotton, bamboo, and modal are often favoured for their hypoallergenic properties.

Proper Fit: Opt for clothing that fits well and complements the body’s natural shape without constricting or causing discomfort. Tailored and adjustable garments can help accommodate individual body types and preferences.

Supportive Design: Selecting undergarments, activewear, and footwear that provide adequate support and cushioning to prevent strain, injury, and discomfort during physical activity or prolonged wear.

Non-Toxic Materials: Avoid clothing made from synthetic fibres treated with harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, phthalates, and flame retardants, which can irritate the skin and pose health risks upon prolonged exposure.

Sustainable Practices: Supporting brands that prioritise eco-friendly and health-conscious manufacturing practices, such as using non-toxic dyes, low-impact production methods, and eco-certified materials.

By choosing body-friendly clothing, individuals can prioritise their comfort, health, and well-being, while also contributing to a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry.


Clothing can negatively affect human health due to harmful dyes and chemicals, inadequate fit, and inappropriate fashion trends. To mitigate these risks, consumers should prioritise garments made from natural and non-toxic materials, ensure a proper fit and comfort, and choose fashion trends and designs that balance aesthetics with well-being. Moreover, advocating for increased transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry can lead to safer and healthier clothing choices for everyone.