Body shapers: boon or bane

Body shapers: boon or bane

PETALING JAYA - With their promise to smooth out lumps and bumps, the foundation garment industry has found its products on the lips - and hips - of shapewear users worldwide.

The shapewear market's stunning profits has even propelled its movers and shapers to the top: Spanx founder, billionaire Sara Blakely, is one such success story.

But while many swear by the slimming effect of body shapers such as waist cinchers and thigh slenderisers, most forget that the flaw-fixing favourites are not without their faults.

Marketing executive Mae Wong uses shapewear under dresses and skirts to smooth out slight bulges and prevent unwanted peekaboos.

"When the elastic part presses into your skin, it's a bit uncomfortable. If worn on a daily basis, there's an itchy heat rash," said the 25-year-old.

Wong believes in a gradual approach to slimming down, and only buys properly-sized shapewear she feels comfortable and confident in.

However, her friends go down several sizes as a motivation to lose weight, and some even experience breathing difficulties in their too-tight corsets.

"Sakit lah, but they assure me that 'beauty is pain'. Health concerns include poor blood circulation, trapped perspiration (often caused by silk and polyester), and less flexibility to move around," she added.

As for Adelaide-based nursing student Cindy Chow, thermal shapewear in winter is a necessary evil to fend off chilly temperatures in hospitals and nursing homes.

As a result, the 25-year-old experiences recurring vaginal thrush (yeast infection): "It does not damage the vaginal wall or the cervix, but a painful and severe infection can get in the way of daily activities such as exercise or simply walking about."

In the summer heat, only big events can convince Chow to don said shapers, but continuous exercise, dieting and use of slimming applicators have lessened her need for such shapewear.

"Unless you use Victorian-style corsets, shapewear doesn't really hurt the stomach or result in intestinal shifting. But in humid conditions, it helps more bacteria grow in the crotch area," she said.

Though a more "breathable" material like cotton would prevent such episodes, she considers it less effective at streamlining one's silhouette when compared to her preferred full-body nylon-spandex girdles.

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