You run weekend errands in your sneakers, but run around in heels all week. And you wear sunscreen religiously, but don’t apply (or reapply) enough for maximum protection. Find out which common habits could be harming your health.

Bad Habit #1: Wearing an Unsupportive Bra

You scored a sweet sale on lingerie? Not a great deal if the bra doesn’t fit well. Wearing a poorly fitting bra can lead to hunching and sore neck muscles, says John F. Spallino, MD, of the Laser Spine Institute, which has locations throughout the country. And if you have large breasts, their weight may cause you to lean forward, causing backaches. "A bra offers support, and can actually minimize the forward hunch and pain, improving your posture," he explains. And let’s not forget about the comfort factor: You should avoid bras with straps that dig into your shoulders or underwires that cut into your torso. If you have trouble finding the right bra on your own, look for a lingerie shop that will measure you and help you find a comfortable, well-fitting bra.

Bad Habit #2: Carrying a Too-Heavy Shoulder Bag

School kids aren’t the only ones lugging around a heavy load. Women’s bags are notorious for being overloaded, but just like kids with backpacks, women should not carry handbags that weigh more than 10 percent of their body weight. In addition, it’s not just the weight, says Spallino, but how it’s carried: Women should aim to spread the weight evenly by regularly switching the bag to the opposite shoulder or toting a cross-body bag. And extra padding near the shoulder blades can help prevent neck strain and shoulder or arm pain.

Bad Habit #3: Wearing High Heels

High heels change the natural curve in your spine, pitching your torso forward so you lean back when you walk, explains Spallino. That sexy stride stresses the spine and compresses its discs over time. But on the other, er, foot, flat shoes aren’t your best bet—they can increase back discomfort.

Wear shoes that both support your arch and have a fair amount of rubber or soft materials in the heel to absorb the shock as you walk. If you can’t find that in a shoe, try an insert. And if pumps are part of your work wardrobe, wear sneakers while commuting to and from work, and change into your heels when you get to the office. The more time you spend in a cushioned shoe with a good arch, the better.

Bad Habit #4: Skimping on the SPF

Skin cancer rates are high and rising: According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. Protect yourself from sun damage and an increased risk of skin cancer with a UVA- and UVB-blocking sunscreen with a minimum SPF (sun protection factor) of 30, and reapply it every two hours. And forget the old rule about applying the equivalent of a shot glass of sunscreen; instead, make it a double. Don’t forget to boost your sun protection with accessories like a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

Bad Habit #5: Eating (and Drinking) Like a Man

Women are more likely to gain weight after they get married—up to nine pounds within the first five years, according to a University of North Carolina Chapel Hill study. The culprit, experts say, is most likely lifestyle. In other words, marriage makes it easier to cook and eat bigger meals, then cozy up on the couch instead of getting in a post-dinner walk or workout. Being overweight and less active can up your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

But it’s not just food intake that can cause health problems. Women also respond differently to alcohol than men do: Women’s bodies absorb more alcohol, and take longer to metabolize it. That means the alcohol stays in your system longer than it would in a man’s, and this makes you more vulnerable to alcohol’s adverse effects. Excessive drinking can increase your risk of cirrhosis of the liver, certain cancers, heart damage, and even affect memory and thinking ability. Stick to the recommended one drink per day for women.

Bad Habit #6: Sleeping With Your Makeup On

You’re sure to get your beauty rest, but at times, you skip the face-cleansing regimen. We know you’re tired, but just like brushing your teeth and sun protection, you need to designate makeup removal as a non-negotiable. Leaving makeup on overnight can clog your pores and oil glands, causing inflammation, which can lead to rosacea and breakouts. Neglecting to remove mascara and eye makeup can irritate those baby blues, making them bloodshot, or worse, cause an allergic reaction or infection. So be sure to clean your skin before getting some shut-eye.

Reviewed by Alison Massey MS, RD, CDE, LDN, director of Diabetes Education at The Center for Endocrinolgy at Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore.


John F. Spallino, MD, Laser Spine Institute.  

"Skin Cancer Facts." The Skin Cancer Foundation. Page accessed June 4, 2014. 

"Fact Sheet: Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Women’s Health." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Page updated January 16, 2014.

Natalie S. The and Penny Gordon-Larsen. "Entry into Romantic Partnership Is Associated With Obesity." Obesity 2009 17(7): 1441-47. First published online September 6, 2012.