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Dangers of Anti-Microbial Soaps

by Amanda Demsky
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The Dangers of Anti-Microbial Soaps



The Purpose of Hygiene

Excellent hygiene practices are an individual’s—and community’s—first defense against disease and illness. If ill health is already a factor, continual hygiene supports and enables the body to battle pathogens and heal itself. Without it, new and frequent microorganisms, including mold and yeast, would make contact and infiltrate the body on a daily basis, creating health concerns or compounding those that already exist.

The prevailing reason to engage in consistent hygiene practices is to prevent disease. When hygiene is performed correctly, the body and all its processes are able to function at their best. Inadequate—or altogether lacking—hygiene permits an overabundance of harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi to accumulate throughout the body. The “bad” microbes then proliferate at such a pace that the “good” microbes quickly become outnumbered and unable to ward off the offending colonies. Once its defenses are breached, the body responds with typical symptoms of compromised well-being.


How Clean is Too Clean?

Good health, according to the Center for Nutrition Studies (CNS)[1], revolves around hygiene. The Merriam-Webster dictionary specifically refers to hygiene as “a science of the establishment and maintenance of health.”[2] The Oxford Living Dictionary describes this health science as the “conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease,” adding that it is “especially through cleanliness” that good hygiene is achieved.[3]

Too often, however, the pendulum of public opinion regarding cleanliness swings from one extreme to the other. While cleanliness could entail a degree of asepsis—the complete absence of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms—personal and communal hygiene should never be embarked upon in a manner of immaculate sterility. Filth and carelessness is not advised. However, balance is key. The goal is to implement a mindful practice of hygiene that not only keeps an individual or community clean, but does so in a manner that eschews inhibiting the body from functioning optimally.


First Do No Harm

If one is to practice good hygiene, the concept of “First do no harm” should be at the forefront of their mind. Many top brand names in the body and household cleaning industries push for a level of sterility that is actually detrimental to the customer’s health. There is no argument against the necessity to disinfect environments wherein bodily fluids are present and disease can be spread, such as hospitals and bathrooms. Nevertheless, when it comes to regular, everyday cleaning situations, such an extreme measure of cleanliness will only cause harm. This is because the human body—although a seemingly self-supporting agent—is aided and protected by living microorganisms that are sensitive to the soaps and cleansers most use every day. Fever, diarrhea, inflammation, dry skin, and even acne are just a few signs that a host’s health has been aggravated by microbial imbalances caused by harsher standards of hygiene.


Friendly Microbes

The human body is host to a variety of beneficial microorganisms. Advantageous viruses, bacteria, and even yeast share a commensal purpose within and without the body. To better understand this symbiotic relationship between a host and its friendly microbe, one needs only to look to the delicate ecological balance between any given kingdom within biology. One example: the flower feeds the bee; the bee pollinates the flowering plant. Another: the oxpecker eats insects from off the bison; the bison is relieved of unwelcome parasites. Without these and countless other mutually-beneficial exchanges, many species would succumb to illness, weakness, and even death. It is when there is an imbalance in any given eco-system that animals, insects, and plants become endangered or extinct and harmful predators, viruses, and bacteria run rampant.


The Body

The same scenarios play out in the human body. The stomach, intestines, sinuses, skin, and even the hair and eyelashes all harbor beneficial microbiomes. These microscopic entities protect their host from pathogens and facilitate the immune system in its maintenance of the intricate balance between effective defense and damaging inflammation.

It is estimated that for every cell of the human body—and there are approximately 32.7 trillion of them—there are at least 10 hosted microorganisms.
The skin, for example, with its abundance of varying habitats, such as invaginations, appendages, and an assortment of glands and follicles, is littered with microbial communities that are among the most diverse in all the world. This is due, in part, to its endless contact with the external environment.
The hair, while it relies heavily on gut bacteria, is cleaned and protected by “eyelash mites.” These microscopic creatures cause an allergic reaction in a small percentage of people but, for the most part, they are beneficial in keeping the base of eyelashes and other hairs clear of dead skin cells and excess sebum.

A healthy gastrointestinal tract harbors about 100 trillion advantageous bacteria—that’s about three pounds! This impressive variety—300 to sometimes 1000 different types—aggressively defends the gut against pathogenic invasion. In fact, the gut alone is responsible for 2/3 of the function of the immune system.

The slightest imbalance within these microbial communities will permit pathogenic microorganisms to gain a foothold, develop a colony, and wreak havoc on one’s microscopic allies, which, in turn, disables the body’s greater defense system. As a result, fungal infestation, whether mold or yeast, will have the advantage in what would normally be an extremely anti-fungal environment.


Anti-Microbial Soaps

The issue with anti-microbial/bacterial soaps is that they do not target only harmful microbes. Instead, both the “good” and the “bad” are at the mercy of chemically-corrosive properties.

The trouble goes beyond one’s microbial allies, however. Many cleansers cause direct damage or injury to the skin, lungs, kidneys, glands, and liver. Accruing damage to the latter three will especially cause an incremental impedance to the function and health of the rest of the body.

The majority of soaps on the common market contain injurious ingredients that not only leave the body susceptible to pathogens, but are also documented as being neurotoxic, disruptive to glandular processes (hormones), and carcinogenic (cancer-causing).


3 Common Ingredients in Anti-Microbial Soaps

1. Triclosan

Triclosan is an irritant to the skin, eyes, and lungs. It accumulates in the body’s fat cells, often leading to endocrine disruption and organ system toxicity.

Despite the claims made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)[4] , various studies support a link between triclosan and muscle function weakness[5] (both cardiac and skeletal), as well as a link to hormone disruption.[6][7] Furthermore, researchers insist that there appears to be no observable efficacy in triclosan-involved antibacterial soaps and that, considering the perceived risks, consumers are better off using a routine of regular soap and water until there is “further evaluation by governmental regulators regarding antibacterial product claims and advertising.”[8]

Products Containing Triclosan

Dial® Liquid handsoap and bodywash
Tea Tree Therapy™ Liquid Soap
Clearasil® Daily Face Wash
Dermalogica® Skin Purifying Wipes
DermaKleen™ Antibacterial Lotion Soap
CVS Antibacterial Soap
Ajax Antibacterial Dishsoap
Kimcare Antibacterial Clear Soap
Bath and Body Works Antibacterial Hand Soaps
Gels and Foaming Sanitizers
And any more…


For more triclosan products, click here.

2. Triclocarban

Often a companion ingredient to triclosan, triclocarban is responsible for similar negative effects. Recent studies conclude that it “enhances testosterone action”[9] (endocrine disruptor) and activates ERa (estrogen receptor alpha—could lead to proliferation of breast cancer cells).[10] By activating the xenobiotic receptors (CAR and ERa, specifically), triclocarban has the potential to “alter normal physiological homeostasis.”[11] In other words, “[t]hese studies demonstrate that acute exposure to TCC [triclocarban] results in the activation of important regulatory pathways dictated by CAR and ER? that can potentially impact the steady-state levels of hormones, as well as altering routes of drug metabolism.” Additionally, “[triclocarban] significantly affects intact male reproductive organs and potentiates androgen effects in prostate cancer cells.”[12] (Androgen stimulates prostate cancer cells to grow.)

Products Containing Triclocarban

Safeguard Antibacterial Deodorant Soap (Beige)
Avon Black Suede Talc Powder
Dial Antibacterial Deodorant Bar Soap: “Mountain Fresh”
Dial White Antibacterial Deodorant Bar Soap (White)
Dial for Men Glycerin Bar Soap, Power Scrub, Deep Down Cleansing
Zest Deodorant Bar Soap: “Whitewater Fresh”
Safeguard Antibacterial Deodorant Bar Soap
Irish Spring Deodorant Bath Bar: “Sport”
Safeguard Antibacterial Bar Soap (Beige)
Dial Antibacterial Deodorant Bar Soap (Gold)
Dial Antibacterial Deodorant Bar Soap: “Spring Water”
Dial Antibacterial Deodorant Bar Soap: “Tropical Escape”
Dial Antibacterial Deodorant Bar Soap: “Lavender” and “Twilight Jasmine”
And many more…

For more triclocarban products, click here.

3. Chloroxylenol

Also known as p-chloro-xylenol (PCMX), chloroxylenol is used as a preservative in cosmetics and an active agent in anti-microbial cleansers. It is a known skin and eye irritant, causing burning, itching, rash, redness, and/or swelling.[13]

Like triclosan and triclocarban, chloroxylenol is known for its persistent bioaccumulation, which means that it enters the body much faster and in greater quantity than the body can dispose of it via catabolism or excretion. This leads to organ system toxicity (non-reproductive) and possible allergy development. Furthermore, when the body does excrete it (urine, saliva, showering), it manages to maintain its toxicity as it enters rivers and lakes, and has a tendency to poison fish and other wildlife. (See EWG.org.)

Products Containing Chloroxylenol

Caricia Care Antiseptic and Germicide
Most anti-infectives for pre- or post-surgery
Gordochom: topical antifungal
Metrex VioNexus Antimicrobial Foaming Soap, Professional Use
Dettol Antisepic Liquid (Canada)
Oil Eater Hand Cleaner with Pumice
Gold Label Antiseptic Hand Cleaner
Absorbine Hooflex Therapeutic Conditioner, Original Liquid
Absorbine Hooflex Therapeutic Conditioner, Original Ointment
GoJo Antimicrobial Lotion Soap with Chloroxylenol
And many more…

For more chloroxylenol products, click here.

Researchers agree that the risks of these three anti-microbial ingredients far outweigh the benefits. In many research conclusions, consumers are advised to use only regular soap—to not only avoid toxicity but to preserve the delicate balance of the skin and gut flora. Until further investigations can be made, only natural anti-microbial agents should be employed.


Natural Suggestions

Tea Tree Essential Oil
Peppermint Essential Oil
Lemon Essential Oil
Vinegar (White or Apple Cider)


Related Topics

Fighting Mold Naturally With 5 Essential Oils
Fighting Mold Naturally With Essential Oils
Essential Oil Sprays and Herbal Medicines: Battling Mold Naturally
Fighting Mold With Clove Essential Oil
Fighting Mold With Cinnamon Essential Oil
Cleaning Mold With Tea Tree Oil


[1] Goldhamer, Alan. “How Your Body Heals Itself.” Center for Nutrition Studies. Accessed February 20, 2017. http://nutritionstudies.org/body-heals/.
[2] “Hygiene.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hygiene. Web. February 20, 2017.
[3] “Hygiene.” Oxford Living Dictionary. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2017. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/hygiene. Web. February 20, 2017.
[4] U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). “5 Things to Know About Triclosan.” Last modified September 2, 2016. Accessed May 22, 2017. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm205999.htm.
[5] Stromberg, Joseph. “Triclosan, A Chemical Used in Antibacterial Soaps, is Found to Impair Muscle Function.” Smithsonian.com. Published August 13, 2012. Accessed May 22, 2017. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/triclosan-a-chemical-used-in-antibacterial-soaps-is-found-to-impair-muscle-function-22127536/.
[6] Stoker, Tammy E., Gibson, Emily K., and Zorrilla, Leah M. “Triclosan Modulates Estrogen-Dependent Responses in the Female Wistar Rat.” Toxicological Sciences 117 (2010): 43­–53. Accessed May 22, 2017. doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfq180.
[7]Veldhoen, Nik et al. “The Bactericidal Agent Triclosan Modulates Thyroid Hormone-Associated Gene Expression and Disrupts Postembryonic Anuran Development.” Aquatic Toxicology 80 (December 1, 2006): 217–227. Accessed May 22, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquatox.2006.08.010″.
[8] Aiello, Allison E., Larson, Elaine L., and Levy, Stuart B. “Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky?” Clinical Infectious Diseases 45 (2007): S137–S147. Accessed May 22, 2017. doi:10.1086/519255.
[9] Chen, Jiangang, et al. “Triclocarban Enhances Testosterone Action: A New Type of Endocrine Disruptor?” Endocrinology 149 (2008): 1173–1179. Accessed June 21, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1210/en.2007-1057.
[10] Yueh, Mei-Fei, et al. “Triclocarban Mediates Induction of Xenobiotic Metabolism Through Activation of the Constitutive Androstane Receptor and the Estrogen Receptor Alpha.” PLOS One (2012). Accessed June 21, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037705.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Duleba, Antoni J., Ahmed, Mohamed I., and Sun, Meng. “Effects of Triclocarban on Intact Immature Male Rat: Augmentation of Androgen Action.” Sage Journals (2010). Accessed June 21, 2017. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1933719110382581.
[13] Berthelot, Cindy and Zirwas, Matthew J. “Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Chloroxylenol.” Dermatitis 17 (September 2006): 156–159. Accessed June 21, 2017. doi:10.2310/6620.2006.05057. (See also: Hui-zhen, Chen and Zi-hong, Zhang. “Study on Biological Effect of Compound Disinfectant of P-Chloro-Xylenol.” Chinese Journal of Disinfection (2005). Accessed June 21, 2017. http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-ZGXD200502027.htm.)


About the Author:
TheWife is the mother and personal chef of two boys, the domestic technician of a three-bedroom desert home, and occasionally, a freelance writer and editor. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @TheWifesLife

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