The “antibacterial” label on most bar soaps and liquids is misleading consumers, who believe it will keep them healthier and protect them against germs and bacteria. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that people use plain soap and water to wash their hands.
This is because about 75 percent of liquid antibacterial soaps and 30 percent of bars use a chemical called triclosan as an active ingredient.
Along with triclosan, other harmful chemicals found in most of the antibacterial soaps are triclocarban, 2-butoxyethanol, bisphenol A, d-limonene, dyes, parabens, phthalates and chloride.
Many experts believe that regular use of products with these ingredients can be harmful to your health.
In September 2016, the FDA ruled that manufacturers could no longer market antibacterial wash products containing certain active ingredients in the United States because the companies did not demonstrate that the ingredients were safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections.
Here are some of the top reasons why you should stop using antibacterial soap.
1. Acts as an Endocrine Disruptor
Several studies have demonstrated that triclosan, one of the main chemicals in antibacterial soap, interferes with the body’s regulation of thyroid hormones.
This is mainly because triclosan chemically resembles the hormones secreted by the thyroid gland. Thus, triclosan binds to its receptor sites, leading to abnormal functionality of the thyroid.
A 2006 study published in Aquatic Toxicology reports that exposure to low levels of triclosan disrupts thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and can alter the rate of thyroid hormone-mediated postembryonic anuran development.
Another 2009 study published in Toxicological Sciences demonstrates that triclosan exposure does not alter androgen-dependent tissue weights, but its exposure can significantly impact thyroid hormone concentrations.
2. Leads to Hormone Imbalances
The harmful chemicals in antibacterial soap can change the hormonal makeup of human and animal cells. In fact, triclosan can affect glands like the prostate regulated by testosterone. This can cause the prostate to grow larger.
In a 2007 study published in Endocrinology, researchers found two key effects of triclocarban. First in human cells in the laboratory, triclocarban increased gene expression that is normally regulated by testosterone. Secondly, when male rats were fed triclocarban, testosterone-dependent organs such as the prostate gland grew abnormally large.
3. Not Effective Against New Bacteria
One of the main reasons for using antibacterial products is to kill germs and bacteria that a person comes in with.
But in doing this, the body does not naturally build resistance to new bacteria. Moreover, as in case of antibiotics, prolonged use of antibacterial soap may even contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This results in the possibility of new bugs threatening your health as your body is unable to fight them off.
A 2006 study published in Microbial Drug Resistance shows that widespread use of triclosan may represent a potential public health risk in regard to development of concomitant resistance to clinically important antimicrobials.
Plus, while antibacterial soaps and cleansers may kill bacteria that isn’t good for your body, they also kill the good bacteria. Good bacteria helps prevent other bacteria from spreading and helps you build a natural resistance to bad bacteria.
4. Makes Skin Dry
Another reason to avoid using antibacterial soap, especially for washing your hands, is dry skin. In fact, people who already have dry skin should stay away from such soaps.
The powerful antibacterial agent in the soap, triclosan, strips the skin of its hydrating oil. This results in dry skin with symptoms including mild itching, redness, irritation and flaking.
Also, the American Skin Association advises against the use of antibacterial soap. Instead, use mild soap containing natural ingredients like aloe vera or coconut oil.
After washing your hands with any soap, do not forget to apply some moisturizer.
5. Makes You Prone to Allergies
If you are using antibacterial soap to protect your children from germs and bacteria, then think twice. A key ingredient, triclosan, has been linked to causing increased allergies in children.
Use of antibacterial soap can affect the development of a child’s immune system, making them more susceptible to certain allergies, especially hay fever.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reports that there is an increase in peanut allergy prevalence in children exposed to triclosan.
A 2011 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives reports that triclosan may negatively affect human immune function and cause allergies or hay fever.
6. Damages Fetal Development
Triclosan can also cause developmental problems in unborn children, which can lead to birth defects and delayed development after the baby is born.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports that triclosan may significantly slow the development of an unborn baby.
In this study, researchers tested the effects of triclosan on embryonic stem cells taken from human placentas following an uncomplicated term pregnancy delivered by caesarean section. It was found that triclosan greatly reduced the body’s ability to convert cortisol to cortisone, which is important for proper development of the fetus.
7. Causes Weight Gain
Whether you believe it or not, your antibacterial soap can be the reason behind weight gain.
It is the triclosan, an antibacterial agent, that can cause weight gain. This chemical is often used by farmers to increase the body weight of meat animals.
Plus, triclosan has endocrine-disrupting effects that can cause additional weight gain.
A 2013 study published in PLOS ONE found that individuals with higher amounts of triclosan in their urine were more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI). Increased levels of triclosan caused a 0.9-point increase in BMI in study participants.
8. Harms the Environment
Last, but certainly not least, use and overuse of antibacterial soaps laden with harmful chemicals has taken a toll on the environment.
The chemicals in these soaps get washed down into drains and ultimately into the water system.
A survey by the USGS Colorado Water Science Centre shows that small quantities of the harmful chemicals from antibacterial soap can persist after treatment at sewage plants, and are often detected in streams and other bodies of water.
These chemicals also appear to affect algae and marine life in dramatic ways.
A 2009 study published in Environmental Pollution surveyed bottlenose dolphins off the coast of South Carolina and Florida and found concerning levels of the chemical in their blood.
A 2010 study published in Aquatic Toxicology shows that once in the environment, triclosan can disrupt algae’s ability to perform photosynthesis.