Every office, hospital, grocery store, and school has them – that ginormous bottle of hand sanitizer that dispenses loads of miracle juice into your grimy hands and “saves you from the bacteria death-trap that is this world.”
Here’s the thing, though – antibacterial and antiseptic soaps, wipes, and sanitizers are not all they are cracked up to be. I know, I know, it’s unbelievable that a multi-billion dollar business which exploits the fears of millions of people would ever lie to you, but they have. And if this shocks you, man, are you about to get a rude awakening about how the consumer market works.
The concept of antibacterial agents is a complicated issue, so we’ll try to break down all the misconceptions about it (and things related to it) in this article.
In 2016, the FDA issued a rule prohibiting over-the-counter antiseptic washes to be able to refer to themselves as…. well… “Bacteria fighting.” Among the 19 ingredients listed, the most popular ones were triclosan and triclocarban. Now, these terms may mean nothing to you. However, you’ve probably heard of Noxzema, a face wash soap that was incredibly popular in the 80’s and 90’s because it was cheap, smelled all fresh and minty, and was one of the only facial washes at the time that campaigned heavily on the fact that they had a bacteria-killing chemical known as triclosan in it. The “miracle product” seemed like the perfect answer, as our understanding of acne was that it was a bacterial-causing issue. Problem solved!
But really, the problem was just beginning.
In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued concerns stemming from data that suggested the use of these antiseptic washes lead to bacterial resistance and hormonal issues. In conclusion, the overuse of these agents forced bacteria to come back stronger and more resilient, causing long-term blemish issues.
Now, to be fair, the FDA has said nothing regarding antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers; as they use a different agent (Ethyl Alcohol) to kill germs. Alcohol can be an incredibly effective disinfectant, which is why you see it at every doctor’s office. But just because it’s efficient doesn’t mean we should be using it every chance we get and here’s why:
Our digestive tract is coated with bacteria, also referred to as GI microbes that make up your microbiome. You have more bacteria in your digestive tract than you do DNA – and most of those bacteria are good. Microbes are the building blocks for hormones, neurological functioning, inflammation regulation, and pooping. Yep, I said it. These bad boys make sure you poop regularly, and that’s pretty damn important no matter how little you want to talk about it.
Antibacterial soaps and cleaners are great at killing bacteria – only they don’t discriminate when it comes to which kind of bacteria they kill. These products kill just as much of the necessary GI bacteria which helps regulate your body’s numerous systems as the bacteria that makes us feel yucky. Killing off the PROACTIVE microbes wreaks so much havoc on our bodies that many experts in the field attribute our compulsive need to use antibiotics and antibacterial products as possible contributors to the rapid increase in depression, anxiety, and hormonal issues over recent years.
Furthermore, continually subjecting bacteria (whether good or bad) to agents that kill it will likely lead to resistant strands. We’ve seen this happen numerous times throughout the years, which is why antibiotics keep changing and gaining potency to meet the antibiotic-resistant germs that lead to severe cases of flu and colds.
The Takeaway: Antibacterial agents and antibiotics are undeniably necessary when taken in moderation and in serious situations. However, you are doing yourself a great disservice by pumping your hands full of hand sanitizer every time you see that enticing bottle at a grocery store line or work cubicle. Washing your hands with regular soap will do the trick just fine and could potentially save you from many adverse side effects that come with the obsessive use of bacteria-killing agents.