The Health (and Beauty) Dangers of Common Soaps & Antibacterial Ingredients
If you are like most people, you believe that bar soap - the oldest cleanser around - is harmless. So you may be quite surprised to learn that today's popular commercial soaps contain synthetic compounds that are loaded with health risks.
These are some of the most common health symptoms that studies have linked to ingredients found in common commercial soaps and commercial personal care products:
- Sinus Problems
- Exacerbated Asthma Conditions
- Migraine Headaches
- "Unexplained" Sore Throats & Cough
Rashes, Hives, Dermatitis, Eczema
irritations to mouth, eyes, skin, lungs
- Chest Tightness
- Shortness of Breath
You should know right away that the government does not regulate what "natural" means in soaps labeled natural, so commercial soaps can freely claim to be natural while still using the synthetic compounds discussed below - and they do. If you are already using a "natural" soap, or if you intend to seek a safe alternative, please keep this in mind.
Three Potentially Risky Synthetic Compounds
While there are a number of chemical concerns, there are three synthetic components in commercial soaps you need to be most concerned with:
2) Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Most of the commercial bar soaps (and liquid and other forms) on the market today are composed of these and other chemicals.
The first antibacterial liquid hand soap exploded onto the market in 1995, claiming to be ten times more effective at eliminating disease carrying germs than regular liquid soap. In the eleven years since, antibacterial soaps have become a 16 billion dollar a year industry, adding shampoo, dishwashing detergent, toothpaste and various household cleaners to the "antibacterial" list.
Today, 75% of liquid soaps and over 30% of bar soaps in the US are antibacterial, all containing the synthetic chemical triclosan. Triclosan is the main ingredient in antibacterial products. The intention of triclosan is to prevent bacteria from reproducing, limiting the amount of bacteria on your skin, thereby decreasing illnesses.
Yet a study published in March 2004 found that people who used antibacterial soaps and cleaners developed cold and allergy symptoms as often as those who used regular soaps and cleaners, offering little more protection than ordinary soap against the most common germs.
Current research is showing us that if the widespread use of anti-bacterial soap continues in such an overused frenzy, we could be faced with super germs we can't get rid of.
What the Antibacterial Soap Makers Don't Tell Us
The triclosan in antibacterial soaps does NOT discriminate between good and bad bacteria. But we need good bacteria to survive, to help defend us against bad, harmful bacteria. Our immune systems are being left increasingly vulnerable with the use of antibacterial soaps. Children especially should be exposed to some bacteria in early childhood in order to strengthen their immune systems, but the primary marketing target of the commercial antibacterial soaps is parents with young children. Children who are not exposed to these common bacteria -- because they are being wiped out by antibacterial soap -- may be more prone to allergies and asthma.
Numerous studies have also found that the ongoing use of triclosan:
- Has been shown to kill your skin cells
- Dries your skin
- Can aggravate skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis
- Does nothing to prevent most illnesses, since colds, flues and more are typically viral (and antibacterial only kills bacteria, not viruses)
- Dioxin, a highly carcinogenic may be formed during the manufacturing process of triclosan, making it a likely contaminant.
- Finally, triclosan has now been found in 3 out of 5 women's breast milk. It is also one of the most detected compounds in rivers, streams and other bodies of water, often in high concentrations, and is highly toxic to a number of different types of algae. This could have very destructive effects on aquatic ecosystems.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
One of the most dangerous chemicals being added to virtually every personal care product you can imagine, including soap, shampoo, conditioner, and cosmetics, is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate(SLS). SLS is an anionic surfactant and the most commonly used chemical in car soaps, garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers and personal care products.
SLS has been found to have many side effects:
- Eye, skin and mouth irritations
- Membrane alterations
- May be harmful for the brain, heart, spleen and liver
- Chronic irritant contact dermatitis
- Compromising the overall integrity of your skin barrier, rendering it open to exposure to bacteria
- May actually harm cell function
- Can corrode the hair follicle and cause hair loss
95% of the chemicals used in fragrances are petroleum-based synthetic compounds. Most of these chemicals are not tested for safety. Manufacturers are only required to print "fragrance" on the label, nothing more.
Additionally, a product labeled "unscented" may contain a masking fragrance. A product must be marked "without perfume" to indicate no fragrance has been added.