9 modern-day health myths, busted Advertisement

9 modern-day health myths, busted

You have nothing to fear from birth control pills, hair colour or menstruation

By Saba Imtiaz  February 22nd, 2017

It’s tough to say how a myth gets started. Some have been around for so long, they acquire a ring of authenticity with every repetition. For example, that birth control pills make you fat. Or that hair colour hastens the greying process. Or this piece of blatant discrimination: curly-haired women cannot get bangs. Science, logic and your favourite hairstylist can easily help expose these time-honoured fairy tales. We take a handful of them head-on to see if there’s even a little bit of truth in there. (Spoiler: There isn’t.)

Common modern-day myths: Busted

Myth: The pill makes you gain weight

Reality check: Various studies confirm that there is no direct correlation between oral contraception and weight gain. “Don’t blame the pill. If you have a tendency to gain weight, you will,” says Bangalore-based gynaecologist Dr Vidya Desai Mohan. “I meet a lot of women [patients] who don’t gain weight [on the pill],” she says, but notes that many initially suffer from water retention, which disappears in a few weeks. Oral contraceptives get a bad rap, but they are also prescribed for other medical reasons like regularising periods and easing acne, menstrual cramps and the symptoms of endometriosis. Dr Mohan says, “We use it in varying combinations and strengths, tailoring it for the requirement.”

Myth: A sugar substitute is healthier than the real thing

Reality check: Feel virtuous about swapping your usual two sugars with sweetener in your coffee? Pause before you high-five yourself. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame have zero nutrition and can cause health problems like insulin resistance, headaches, impaired glucose tolerance and high blood pressure. Culinary nutritionist Mikaela Reuben, who has cooked for Owen Wilson and Whitney Port, recommends sweeteners that pack nutrients as well, like raw honey, pure maple syrup or organic stevia.


Myth: Facials are for special occasions

Reality check: A facial is often considered a luxury or ideal for just before a wedding or major event. Rarely is it a regular fixture in your diary. But it’s essential in maintaining good skin because the regular exfoliation gets rid of the outermost layers of dead cells. Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of the eponymous salon in New York, recommends getting “old-fashioned, deep-cleansing facials monthly.” Vargas, whose clients include Naomi Watts and Emma Stone, says, “It’s helpful to keep acne-prone skin clean as it can heal and rebalance it.” You can even opt for a salicylic peel at your dermat’s clinic every now and then to reduce sunspots and unclog pores. 

Myth: Period = gym holiday

Reality check: “Those who experience severe pain [during their period] can take it easy or just opt for a lighter exercise routine,” says Mumbai-based wellness and fitness coach Swati Shah. Everyone else, get back in line. “Exercising can uplift your mood and release endorphins, which help distract you from the pain,” Shah says. “Since working out boosts your blood flow in a good and healthy way, even a little stretching or yoga can help during your period.”

Myth: Sleeping in make-up is no big deal

Reality check: At 2am after a night out, your brain can only process a few things: take off your shoes, find a phone charger and try not to double-tap too many Instagram posts while you’re stalking. Painstakingly removing every last trace of make-up is often way down on the list of priorities. But the morning-after might make you think again: “Never sleep with your make-up on,” says hair and make-up expert Raana Khan in Karachi, who promises you’ll wake up with irritated and dull skin, blocked pores and bacteria that could lead to zits and eye infections. “Always cleanse with an antibacterial face wash before going to bed,” Khan says. 

Myth: Women with curly hair can’t have bangs

Reality check: Take a look at the DVF Fall/Winter 2016-17 runway show, which officially anointed curly bangs the new cool-girl haircut. Crimped, curled, corkscrewed or spiralled—everything goes. “Fringes are a fashion trend and like any trend, it’s all about how you pull it off,” says Rashid Gill, who has worked with Pakistani actors Mahira Khan and Fawad Khan. Gill says the secret to a great fringe lies in the texture of the hair. For fine hair, he recommends finger-drying the bangs after a wash to relax the wave. Define thicker hair with mousse. 

Myth: Counting calories keeps you thin

Reality check: This subject has divided the fitness world into camps, with proponents of something like the ketogenic diet claiming that calories from fat are good for you. Most diets, however, still work by restricting calories. But Cindy Jourdain, a CrossFit coach in Mumbai, cautions against using calories as the sole barometer. “Between 1,600-2,000 calories a day will meet the requirements of the average woman, but if she’s getting them from the wrong food, she will put on weight. Calorie-counting helps when you need to understand portion sizes or if you’re looking at an athletic transformation.” As Jourdain puts it, there has to be a balance between a good diet, a resistance and cardio training programme and managing the “big three”—sleep, hydration and stress management.

Myth: Hair colour makes you go grey

Reality check: “Grey hair is caused due to an internal change—when the production of melanin (colour-producing cells) slows down or completely stops,” says Dana Ionato, a colourist at the Sally Hershberger salon in New York. Ionato also does not recommend pulling out the offending strands—there goes your coffee break pastime—even if it’s just a few greys. “This only damages the hair follicles. If you colour your hair, you don’t want new greys growing in just after a dye job.” For a low-maintenance solution, she recommends asking your colourist for lowlights to cover the greys. 

Myth: Breastfeeding burns all your fat

Reality check: While it’s true that nursing a baby can torch up to 600 calories a day, it’s not really an all-you-can-eat golden ticket. “I wouldn’t even use [weight loss] as an incentive,” Dr Mohan says. If you consume more calories than your body burns (including the energy required to produce the milk), you will pack on the kilos. Regardless of the speed of your metabolism, doctors suggest you get back to eating sensibly and working out as soon as you can—nursing or not.