A GP debunks 15 health and beauty myths

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  • Do you go outside in the winter with wet hair? Would you pluck a grey hair from your head, or put toothpaste on a spot? These health and beauty tales have been doing the rounds for decades, but what happened when online doctor consultation service, Babylonhealth.com asked GP Dr Haider Al-Hilaly via to sort fact from fiction? The results are in:

    Myth 1: If you go outside with wet hair you can catch a cold

    Doctor’s verdict: Colds are viruses and can be contracted at any time, including in the summer. The reason we associate them with cold weather is because people tend to congregate in small spaces for warmth and cold viruses are then more likely to be passed around.

    Myth 2: Hair and nails grow after you die

    Doctor’s verdict: There’s no evidence that hair and nails grow after you die. After death, dead skin retracts so that if you observe a dead body (even after three to four days) it may look like the hair and nails have grown even though they haven’t.

    Myth 3: If you shave, the hair grows back thicker and darker

    Doctor’s verdict: This is false. Shaving (as opposed to waxing from the root) can make regrowing hair feel blunter and look thicker, but the act of shaving has no effect on the hair itself.

    Myth 4: Eating fatty food gives you acne

    Doctor’s verdict: Whilst acne is associated with eating a Western-style diet high in calories, fats and refined sugars, this may increase acne risk while not directly causing it.

    Myth 5: When women live together their periods sync up

    Doctor’s verdict: There is no evidence to support this. The myth is based on a 1971 study which initially appeared to prove this, however it’s now widely understood not to be true.

    Myth 6: Juice cleanses rid your body of toxins

    Doctor’s verdict: Our body detoxifies itself through the digestive tract, liver, lungs and kidneys. Juice cleanses may contain less calories and fat than normal meals and make us lose weight, but they don’t ‘detoxify’ anything.

    Myth 7: Getting a base tan can prevent sunburns

    Doctor’s verdict: There has never been any evidence to suggest that a base tan protects against a sunburn. It is not a substitute for good SPF protection.

    Myth 8: Toothpaste can help heal spots

    Doctor’s verdict: It depends on the type of toothpaste. Most contain several chemicals which can reduce inflammation, however, it is not as kind on your skin as proper spot medication.

    Myth 9: Chocolate relieves period pains

    Doctor’s verdict: This is based on a number of observations. Chocolate with a high percentage of cacao can contain magnesium, which can be used to help with cramps. Many on pain pathways have suggested that chocolate is a natural mood booster and painkiller.

    Myth 10. Deodorants cause cancer

    Doctor’s verdict: The myth is thought to originate from an email hoax. Cancer Research UK has stated that there is no convincing evidence behind it.

    Myth 11: Eating bread crusts can turn your hair curly

    Doctor’s verdict: Hair and how it looks – curly or not – is a genetically inherited characteristic. Ingesting food cannot influence this innate characteristic. Being exposed to weather conditions, such as humidity or heat, can turn your hair curly but only if you are genetically predisposed to it.

    Myth 12: Eating late at night makes you gain weight

    Doctor’s verdict: There is no evidence to support this myth. Calories are calories regardless of when eaten, however eating late at night can cause problems such as indigestion/heart burn.

    Myth 13: The most skin damage by the sun is done before age 18

    Doctor’s verdict: False. You always need to be sensible in the sun and wear adequate SPF protection. Older people may be more susceptible to skin damage in the sun because skin thins with age and loses its ability to hold moisture.

    Myth 14: Sleeping with a bra on can give you breast cancer

    Doctor’s verdict: The myth originated from an American study that proposed that wearing a bra cut off lymph drainage from the breasts. However, the studies comparatively showed no significant difference between the two test groups.

    Myth 15: Pull out a grey hair and two grow in its place

    Doctor’s verdict: Hair follicles contain one hair and anchor it into the skin. They help hair grow in this area for years, then can take a break. The act of pulling out a hair forcibly does not cause two to develop in its place, and the colour of the hair makes no difference to this.

    For more information, visit Babylonhealth.com/myth-or-medicine

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