Fact or Myth: Is Antibacterial Soap Bad for You?

This is a FACT.

If you’ve kept up with the battle of antibacterial soap vs. regular soap you might think antibacterial soap is in the lead. Especially when you consider the marketing ploys and pushes that trick consumers into thinking that good ole’ fashion soap doesn’t have what it takes to kill germs and bacteria. Don’t get hoodwinked by cleaver advertising. The fact is that antibacterial soaps are doing you much more harm than good.

A Battlefield of Bacteria

Washing Hands

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that antibacterial soaps protect against infection better than non-antibacterial soaps do. In fact, the AMA claims that widespread use of antibacterial soaps and scrubs have led to stronger, more resistant germs. Despite these warnings, nearly 50% of all soaps contain antimicrobial chemicals, many of which have never been approved by U.S. health regulators.  Antimicrobial agents were developed before laws requiring the scientific evaluation of cosmetic and household cleaning ingredients were instituted.

Antibacterial products were originally used to prevent infections from spreading in hospitals. The marketing appeal of such products took over, and as consumers starting using antibacterial soaps on the daily bacteria evolved into tougher, more virulent strains. Some antimicrobial agents in antibacterial soaps seek to eliminate bacteria in the same manner as prescription antibiotics. Should bacteria develop a resistant strain, it will most likely resist prescription antibiotics as well, leaving you with a thin line of defense against infectious illness.

The Dangers of Triclosan

Triclosan is an antimicrobial ingredient found in 75% of all antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes. It’s been used in toothpaste, mouthwash, clothes and even toys for more than four decades. Recent scientific studies, however, indicate a link between triclosan and hormone related problems, including infertility and early onset puberty.

Why is triclosan not being held accountable? In 1972, Congress passed a law requiring the FDA to formulate guidelines for the dozens of unapproved chemicals being used in over-the-counter soaps and scrubs. Six years later, the FDA drafted a first set of guidelines… four decades later and that draft is still incomplete. Pressure from consumer advocates and health organizations is mounting, and the FDA is launching a complete review on the effectiveness and safety of triclosan this year. As of now the FDA states, “the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”

Kill Germs the Natural Way

Save the antibiotics for when you really need them, which isn’t when you are washing your hands or body. When it comes to antibacterial soap vs. regular soap, plain soap is the reigning champ. You can also prevent germs by using naturally occurring antibacterial agents such as lemon juice, which alters the pH of bacteria cells into an acidic environment that destroys microbes. Other natural antibacterial ingredients dry out bacteria, which thrive in moist environments. So practice safe soap and lather up!