Ph. D. Candidate Eschew Mirrors, Raises Eyebrows



Kjerstin Gruys
Kjerstin Gruys - Profile Photo

Kjerstin Gruys is attempting to avoid her own image for a year, including mirrors and reflective surfaces.

She explained that, after successfully shopping for her wedding dress, she”was getting really, really sick of staring at myself in the mirror. In those moments I felt like the worst version of myself–insecure, indecisive, vain.”

She will not see her own wedding photos until six months after the fact, and has learned to apply makeup, style her hair and insert contact lenses without a mirror. She is also blogging about the experience.

While it sounds great in theory, this is a horrible idea from a health standpoint. While Mz. Gruys’ studies focus on sociology, beauty, and inequality issues, she might want to consult a hypersensitive and anal nerd who majored in medicine or biology.

Skin Changes

From the photo provided, Mz. Gruys is a blonde, light-skinned Caucasian. The American Cancer Society lists fair-skinned individuals at a higher risk for both melanoma and non-melanoma types of skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology urges regular self-examinations of every inch of your skin. You have to use a mirror to check your back, the backs of your arms, and the backs of your own legs. If she absolutely refuses to do self-exams during this experiment, regular exams from her dermatologist should be scheduled at frequent intervals to check for any skin changes. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, so forgoing self-exams may not be in her best interest.

Dental Issues

The same concern applies to peering at her own choppers and tissues in her mouth and throat. In addition to dental cleanings twice a year, self-examination is crucial to catching dental issues early. There were almost 40,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed in 2010, 7,900 of which were fatal, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other oral issues, such as visible cavities, cracks or chips in the teeth, are sometimes not immediately painful. Again, if she insists upon refusing to self-examine, she should have more frequent check-ups for her dental health.

Other Body Changes

Dry, lackluster hair is a sign of hypothyroidism. A slight yellowing of the eyes could point to a liver disorder. Minor changes in the color of the eyes can be a harbinger of certain types of ocular cancer, glaucoma or Waardenberg syndrome. Can she rely on a friend or family member to notice these slight, almost imperceptible changes? That’s a big leap of faith in others. Just to be safe, her primary care physician and optician should be aware of her experiment so they can be even more vigilant than usual.

In short, while this experiment is quite interesting in theory, it borders on irresponsible in regards to her physical health. Should she insist on going an entire year without inspecting herself carefully, she is placing a huge amount of confidence in her various healthcare professionals. As any medical geek will assert, self-exams are integral to avoiding potentially life-threatening conditions. While we absolutely hope nothing bad comes of this experiment, we can’t help but be concerned for her physical health.

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