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General Health

The Dirt on Anti-Bacterial Soap

How many anti-bacterial soaps or detergents do you have in your home? I used to have several. I assumed they were safe and better than ordinary soaps, especially as they are far easier to get than soaps without antimicrobial properties.

Now I know better, and can only agree with Oscar Wilde's words: "When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me."


Health Effects of Anti-Bacterial Soap

According to several studies, there is little difference in the number of bacteria killed by antibacterial soap over regular soap. Also, it seems that domestic chemical disinfectants may contribute to decreased health.

“Improvements in hand hygiene resulted in reductions in gastrointestinal illness of 31% and reductions in respiratory illness of 21% ....with use of nonantibacterial soap. Use of antibacterial soap showed little added benefit compared with use of nonantibacterial soap.”

JAMA reported a Pakistani study, where people who washed their hands with plain soap and water were able to reduce the incidence of childhood diarrhea by 53%. Those who used antibiotic soap containing 1.2 % triclocarban had a slightly higher incidence of illness.

In fact, according to The American Medical Association: “Until data emerge to show antimicrobials in consumer products are effective at preventing infection and have no detrimental effect on public health, they should be avoided."

Similarly, The United States Center for Disease Control says: “Currently, no evidence suggests that use of antibacterial soap (containing 0.2% triclosan) provides a benefit over plain soap in reducing bacterial counts and rate of infectious symptoms in generally healthy persons in the household setting.”

The use of the antibiotic Triclosan is particularly hazardous.

Toxic Triclosan

This is a synthetic, broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent used in a wide variety of household- and personal care products, including: antibiotic wipes, gels, creams, soaps, toothpaste, deodorant, cosmetics, lotions, plastics, mattresses, fabrics, and more.

Yet it is now known that Triclosan comes with frightening health consequences.

As Dr Angela McGhee Ph.D. comments: Triclosan is a chlorophenol and pesticide, a class of chemicals which is suspected of causing cancer in humans. Taken internally, even in small amounts, phenol can lead to cold sweats, circulatory collapse, convulsions, coma and death. Additionally, chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides can be stored in body fat, sometimes accumulating to toxic levels. Long term exposure to repeated use of many pesticide products can damage the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs, suppress the immune system, and cause hormonal disruption, paralysis, sterility and brain haemorrhages.”


Moreover, Triclosan comes with environmental hazards. It causes all kinds of problems when washed down the drain. Even when this drain water is treated at whitewater treatment plants, triclosan is not removed. It is highly toxic to algae and is thought to have detrimental endocrine effects on fish. It also encourages cross-resistant bacteria.

I could go on. But you get the picture I’m sure!

Dirt is OK!

Another important point to remember is that there is nothing wrong with a bit of dirt! In fact, as Dean said last year our obsession with ‘cleanliness’ actually weakens our immune system.

How come?

This was explained by researchers from the School of Medicine at University of California. They showed how the normal bacteria living on the skin surface help to prevent excessive inflammation after injury: “These germs are actually good for us,” says lead researcher Richard L. Gallo, MD, PhD.

He comments that the results provide “a molecular basis to understand the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ and has uncovered elements of the wound repair response that were previously unknown. This may help us devise new therapeutic approaches for inflammatory skin diseases.”

The ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’

The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ first introduced in the late 1980s, suggests that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents and microorganisms increases an individuals’ susceptibility to disease by changing how the immune system reacts to such ‘bacterial invaders’.

The hypothesis was first developed to explain why allergies like hay fever and eczema were less common in children from large families, who were presumably exposed to more infectious agents than others.  It is also used to explain the higher incidence of allergic diseases in industrialized countries.

Focus on Your Skin Health

The above studies remind us that your skin is actually your primary defence against bacteria - not the soap.

And your skin’s health depends first and foremost on how you nourish it from the inside. As you know, our Total Balance range provides excellent nutritional supplementation. Then our skincare feeds your skin from the outside.

For those of you who want to be clean, but not to the extent of compromising your health, what do you do?

Use a mild non-antibacterial soap for your hands and body. And our natural Foaming Facial Cleanser for your face.

You may also wish to consider other naturally occurring antibacterial agents.

Lemon juice, for example, changes the pH level in bacterial cells, creating an acidic environment in which microbes can't survive. Bleach and certain alcohols completely obliterate the cells of the bacteria. Unlike the targeted attack of antimicrobial agents, bleach and certain alcohols simply cause the cells to lyse, or rupture.

Why haven't bacteria adapted to the agents found in bleach, alcohol and lemon juice?

The reason why bacteria aren't resistant to these agents is because they do not leave a residue. There is no chance for surviving bacteria to adapt within the residual environment, so bacteria are just as susceptible to bleach and alcohol as they were 100 years ago.

The Good Old Days!


  • “Hello Murray Thank you for sharing your knowledge about these acids. I must admit I was not aware of tartaric acid as it’s not found in my kitchen cupboard! When i thought further I wondered if it’s similar to Cream of tartar (which I love)? This site explains the relationship: Thanks again Murray. Caramia”

    Xtend-Life Expert September 19 2011

  • “Hello Tess Thanks for sharing about your son. He has an enlightened doctor! Yes to lemon juice and alcohol, preferably the alcohol concentration should be between 65-95%. I’ve not tried it with a gelatin mix, so am curious how this helps? I prefer my alcohol neat! Thanks again Caramia”

    Xtend-Life Expert September 16 2011

  • “Thank you for this helpful information Kaytee Caramia”

    Xtend-Life Expert September 16 2011

  • “ My son got staff infection. We believe he was exposed to it at the gym he worked at. The doctor said if he had been using regular soap and not antibacterial soap there would have been a good change he would not have got it. The "good" bacteria would have over taken the staff. Lesson learned. A good on the go hand cleaner is some lemon juice in a small container. Just rub on (friction can remove and kill a lot) then wipe off any excess with a tissue or hanky. It even smells better and much safer if you are about to eat any finger foods. Another way is to mix alcohol with non flavored gelatin mix. Make sure you get under the fingernails. ”

    Tess September 16 2011

  • “The only liquid soaps I’ve found without "antibacterial" ingredients are the "organic" type. Here in the US— Dr. Bronner’s "Magic Soaps" is one brand that can be found in chain drug stores as well as stores which feature "organic" and "health foods". Dishsoap or a plain shampoo also can be used for hand soap, and easier to find without "antibacterial" ingredients (although some dishsoap has them).”

    kaytee September 16 2011

  • “Household chemicals. There are several that can be used as well as lemon juice. All sting like billy-oh – but they work and have no side-effects or residual problems. Like alcohol, these weak acids attack microbes through more than one physiological pathway (unlike most antibiotics), as well as having no residual  making it unlikely that the bacteria can form viable resistant colonies. There are other chemicals in lemon juice that enhance its effectiveness – but the major antiseptic agent is the citric acid. Washing a minor wound in a citric acid solution kills surface bacteria and in doing so promotes granulation of the wound. Put another way – minor cuts heal completely in a few days. Tartaric acid works similarly though not quite as effectively – and both are usually found in most kitchen cupboards. My mother treated my childhood grazes and cuts this way no doubt as hand-me-down knowledge. Vinegar(acetic acid) works too and was used by Roman Army surgeons for antisepsis – they in turn learnt this from the Greeks – a history of say 2,000+ years. P.S. Malts and Cognacs I find are better with just a splash of water, rather than straight.”

    Murray September 18 2011

  • “I have found that raw apple cider vinegar works very well to quickly help heal a number of bacterial problems. Dip a q-tip in the vinegar and apply to: small cuts, scratches, pimples, and canker sores. It not only fights infection, but if held to the area for several seconds, will help diminish pain. This is especially true for canker sores. Also, gargling with a teaspoon or two in a half glass of warm water helps with a sore throat. ”

    Xtend-Life Expert September 30 2011

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