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Have you had those mornings where you wake up with stiff joints, a pesky mental fog even the darkest java can’t shake, and a chronic worry this is the new normal? Once you hit 30, it’s easy to write off symptoms like these as just the joys of aging.

But is it really? For 50 million people and counting, it isn’t aging – its Autoimmune Disease. And if you’re not in the AD club, give it time. According to an AARDA survey, it takes autoimmune patients up to 4.6 years and 5 doctors to get a diagnosis. 

Let me repeat that – 4.6 years of knowing deep down something is terribly wrong, but being made to feel like it’s all in your head. If the symptoms I mentioned above feel familiar, keep pressuring your doctors for answers. You might not be crazy after all. And that’s not the only shocking statistic.

Of those diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, 80% are women. So if we do the math that’s nearly 40 million women, many of whom are of childbearing age. The most common conditions include Diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis and Celiac disease. 

What’s even more frightening is when you break down the triggers of these diseases and their prevalence in our everyday lives. One example, is the group of chemicals called phthalates (pronounced “thal-ates”). It is an industrial plasticizer widely used in personal care products to moisturize and soften skin and to dissolve and combine ingredients, and has been found to directly contribute to the development of Diabetes. 

And we aren’t talking about a “slight increase.” The numbers are staggering. A panel of scientists in Europe determined phthalate exposure had a 40 – 69% probability of causing 20,500 new-onset cases of diabetes in older women. 

While findings like these have led the EU to ban and otherwise restrict the use of many of these phthalates, many are still legal and readily used here in the United States. 

According to EWG.org, a consumer health watchdog organization,

“Since 2009, 595 cosmetics manufacturers have reported using 88 chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm in over 73,000 products.” 

After taking a quick scroll through their Skin Deep Consumer Guide, I quickly recognized many of the top offenders from my frequent trips through the beauty aisles. These are the exact products I’ve had on my bathroom shelves and very likely you have too.

The average person uses 9 personal care products a day for a combined exposure to about 126 ingredients. If you’re not actively restricting your exposure to these toxins, the likelihood of you being exposed to not only phthalates, but asbestos, formaldehyde, and others is very high.

So how do we protect ourselves? Or at least limit our exposure to these toxins?

Educate Yourself

Sure, there are mountains of highly technical scientific studies all with mile-long words, but don’t let yourself get intimidated! You don’t have to become an expert overnight. Instead, focus on learning about and identifying the notorious “Toxic Twenty.” These are the high profile chemicals most commonly found. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with these, you’ll be able to quickly recognize them on an ingredient list. 

Take the First Step

It’s easy to read these statistics and want to have a full-blown panic attack knowing there are 73,000 of these products in our marketplace. You might even feel compelled to ditch every single cosmetic you can find. I get it! While I’m a fan of the “all-or-nothing approach”, it’s typically not very realistic – or even necessary. 

EWG.org Skin Deep Database

A more measured approach would be to grab all your favorites and search them up on the Skin Deep database. From there, you will see the EWG rating of 1 to 10 (best to worst) of all the ingredients and their associated medical concerns. These ratings take into consideration their cancer risk potential, immunotoxicity, and even their effects on the reproductive system. If a product is chocked full ingredients that are ranking 7+, ditch it fast. However, if it’s mostly 2’s and 3’s with a few 6’s, it might be worth finishing and simply replacing it when the time comes.

Find New, Healthier Favorites

Few things are harder than change. You may have gone through 10 different moisturizers before you found your reigning 5 year favorite. But if that favorite is high in toxic ingredients, it’s time to find a healthier alternative. 

Fortunately, as consumer awareness of the Toxic Twenty has risen, so has the amount of healthy, responsibly produced alternatives on the market. Indie consumer brands such as StungBeauty.Co, are not only phthalate-free, but vegan, paraben-free, sulfate-free, silicon-free, and talc-free. Click below for a few bestsellers perfect for easing the switch to toxin-free cosmetics. All products are backed by a healthier skin in 30 days money-back guarantee.

By reducing your exposure to ingredients that are an immunotoxin, you are reducing your risk of developing an autoimmune disease. If you are currently suffering from an autoimmune disease, limiting exposure can help lower your chances of developing a subsequent one. 

While there isn’t a cure for Autoimmune Disease, the goal should be to manage and ideally improve your quality of life by limiting your exposure to known triggers that can spike inflammation. As you make adjustments to your diet, sleep and work to minimize stress, do yourself a favor and clean out that cosmetic counter too! 

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