Washing your hands is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy and prevent the further spread of germs. But, did you know that simple soap and water are the best? No need to look for labels like “antibacterial” on your soap to get rid of everyday germs.
Of course, it sounds like it has a great added benefit. I mean, we do want to kill germs right? Well, here are my many reasons why you don’t want to use antibacterial soap. In fact, it may even be more harmful.
Here are some things you may want to know.
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Antibacterial Soap is NO More Effective Than Standard Soap
Yes, that’s right! plain old soap and water are all you need. Why risk the exposure to extra chemicals and additives when there is no added benefit?
The properties of soap itself basically help to loosen and encapsulate the grime (including germs) making it easier to wash away. By washing long enough to get the soap off, the germs go right down the drain! No extra additives needed.
Here are the simple instructions per the CDC for proper hand washing.
- Wet: Start with clean, running water to get your hands wet. It doesn’t even have to be hot.
- Lather: Lather the soap, covering all parts of your hands. Make sure to get backs, between fingers, nails, etc. This is to loosen all that grime.
- Scrub: Scrub for at least 20-30 seconds (just hum the happy birthday song twice!)
- Rinse: Now rinse with clean running water to remove all the soap and help wash those germs away.
- Dry: Dry with a clean towel or air dry. Of course, it is important to be sure you have a clean towel not to reintroduce germs. You also want to make sure to dry your hands. It is easier to transfer germs to and from your hands when they are wet.
The FDA Banned Companies from Marketing Many Antibacterial Soaps – Including Triclosan
In 2013 the FDA issued a warning to companies marketing antibacterial soap. The FDA asked companies to provide evidence that antibacterial additives were more effective than standard soap and water. This was not proven, therefore in 2016, per the FDA, the manufacturers were no longer able to market these products. The ban included a list of 19 additives, including the most widely used chemical triclosan.
Triclosan has been in use since the 1960s. It is the most researched so you will see me mention it most here. Although triclosan has been banned for use in antibacterial soap, it appears in other personal care products.
Do you know that triclosan is found in toothpaste, lotions, deodorants, body washes, and other cosmetics and personal care items? It is even in other household items like kitchen utensils!
The concern for triclosan remains. It was removed from most soaps, however, the replacements may not be any better. The primary takeaway is this: Antibacterial chemicals in soap provide NO extra benefit. Just follow simple proper washing instructions.
If the FDA was concerned shouldn’t you be?
Antibacterial Soap May Contribute to Antibiotic Resistance
Bacteria can be smart. Bacteria develop a mutation that allows them to be resistant to the antibiotic and survive when they are continually exposed. We know this can happen with some of the antibiotic substances found in antibacterial soap. As the use of the antibiotic continues, the resistant strains survive while the remainder are killed. It is also possible that the mutation that occurs may actually render other antibiotics less effective or even useless.
This is a big problem in medicine now and in the future could lead to a significant health crisis. Imagine being sick with an illness caused by a bacteria resistant to all developed antibiotics. This is also why you should not unnecessarily take antibiotics or expose yourself to them.
Most Common Illnesses are Viral NOT Bacterial
Many of the most common illnesses that we are concerned with are viral. Influenza, cough & colds, vomiting & diarrhea are illnesses that are primarily caused by viruses. They are NOT the same as bacteria! This means that the antibacterial soap offers no direct or additional action on the viruses themselves, only bacteria.
Here again, we go back to basic hand washing advice to help protect yourself from these viruses.
Antibacterial Soap Use May Make You More Sensitive to Allergens
Some studies support an increase in the prevalence of peanut allergies in children exposed to triclosan. This chemical is one of the primary antibacterial agents once used in antibacterial soap. (Published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 2013)
Some studies indicate a higher prevalence of hay fever or seasonal allergies with detection of higher levels of triclosan in their urine. (Environmental Health Perspectives 2011)
A substance like triclosan negatively impacts our immune system and therefore we may see the risk for development of these allergies increase.
Triclosan & Other Antibiotic Additives May Alter Your Gut Flora
There are some mixed thoughts and evidence on this issue. We do know however that when exposed to other antibiotics that it may change the normal bacteria in your gut. Not all bacteria is bad!! This is becoming more and more well known throughout the general population. Most everyone has now heard of probiotics. They are present in some foods and available as supplements. Health care providers often recommended probiotics after taking an antibiotic. This will restore some of your natural gut flora. This normal bacteria keeps the bad bacteria in check and is important in your immune function.
Triclosan May Impair Muscle Function – Including Your Heart
Scientists have done animal studies that demonstrate that exposure to triclosan impairs muscle function in animals. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012) The study used fish and mice. Then also at a cellular level with humans. Triclosan exposure affected the animals (like fish ability to swim well), as well as human muscle at the cellular level.
The study was done in a test tube, however, it is quite concerning that even in the heart, the muscle contraction was negatively impacted. Your heart!! You know, that organ that delivers the blood, oxygen, and nutrition for you to survive? Yeah, I would say it is pretty important. Even the co-author of the study was noted to say that the effect on the cardiac (heart) muscle was dramatic.
Triclosan May Be a Hormone Disruptor in Humans
Triclosan’s effect on hormones has been demonstrated in animals, however, it is not completely clear in humans. Many agree that triclosan is associated with effects on thyroid hormone (predominantly decrease of). This seems to have a decent amount of support. There are other concerns from some studies for early advancement of puberty in females, a decrease in sperm production and appearance. Since there may be some effect on estrogen receptors, there is some evidence that it may increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. (These studies are summarized and linked to in the triclosan reference document on Science Direct)
Antibacterial Soap is Bad for the Environment
Soap and body washes go down the drain right? Well, that means that this chemical makes its way to streams and other bodies of water, therefore exposing plants and animals. There is a study that demonstrated that triclosan inhibits photosynthesis of some algae.
Triclosan is Readily Absorbed
Triclosan is found in urine, breast milk, serum, and cord blood. In 2003-2004 the CDC measured triclosan levels of 2,517 individuals from age 6 and above. They found the chemical present in the urine of 75% of those tested.
Well, first of all, I would avoid all antibacterial soap if possible. I actually make my own hand soap to place by my sinks. This is so easy and much cheaper than buying already filled pumps of soap. Here’s my recipe:
- 2-3 Tablespoons Castile Soap
- 2 teaspoons Fractionated Coconut Oil
- Optional: 5-10 drops essential oil
First, put water in a foaming bottle or mason jar leaving room for the remainder of the ingredients. Then add Castile Soap, coconut oil, and optional essential oil. You may also buy Castile Soap that already has peppermint, lavender or other oils already added if you wish. I usually buy the unscented and then add for some of my jars or mix it up. This is so much cheaper than buying soap, you can change up the scent and you know what is in it!
Beware of your choices. We know that triclosan is found in common household items, like cutting boards as well as personal care products like toothpaste. They do NOT always have to disclose this ingredient if it is not a personal care item.
You may check your product using the Think Dirty app or the Environmental Working Group database. Also look for words or phrases like:
- fights odors
- fights germs
These phrases all indicate that triclosan may be present. If not there is likely another chemical that is similar.
Know Your Ingredients
This is another reason that I chose EVER skincare. They are transparent about all of their ingredients and have a substantial NO list of ingredients that will never be used in EVER products. These ingredients are banned in Europe and Canada already. You will be able to look at all ingredients prior to your purchase on the website.
Here are my 10 reasons to choose EVER for your skincare and cosmetic products and more about the Pure Results Regimen that can be customized for your skin.