Soap in the News
Bacteria are becoming ever more resistant to vaccines. This has real — and scary — consequences for us as a species. When antibiotics are no longer effective, even the most basic bacterial infections and illnesses could have dire and deadly consequences. It would be like living in the time before penicillin. A subset of this debate involves the use of antibacterial and antimicrobial soap. Scientists and public health officials are claiming that the continued use of these soaps could lead to the evolution of antibiotic.
How does soap clean
Soap is an effective cleaner because of the way that it emulsifies. Emulsification is the dispersion, or distibution, of oils so that one liquid can be combined with another liquid.
Take the example of washing your hands. If you rinse your hands with only water [liquid A], the oil [liquid B] that attracts dirt and other scum is not removed. This is because oil and water do not mix naturally, they repel one another. This is why scientists recommend that if you’re not going to use soap when you wash your hands, you may as well not wash your hands at all. However, when you wash your hands with soap and water, the soap allows the water and the oil to mix, or emulsify, and be washed down the drain leaving your hands clean and you healthy.
What’s the Problem with Antibacterial Soap?
One hypothesis asserts that bacteria are evolving to become resistant to antibacterials. Because of their short reproductive cycles, bacterium evolve at a rapid clip. Take for example the lifespan of streptococcus, the cause of strep throat. The streptococcus bacteria has a lifespan of only around 48 hours. These means that within the span of one month, the bacteria could have upwards of 15 generations! The tenants of evolution dictate that because of all those generations, bacteria that are resistant to antibacterials have a greater “fitness,” and will be more likely to pass on their genes.
Another hypothesis claims that there are elements in the soap, called triclosan, that are harming the environment and thus, us. The easiest way to think of these are tiny balls of plastic. While on a small scale they go unnoticed, on a global scale, they are getting into our water systems and polluting the environment.
What must be remembered and what is most important in this argument is that scientists are all in agreement when they say, for the average person, normal, non-antibacterial soap is just as good as antibacterial soap for everyday use. So if it’s really a wash [!…], then why not err on the side of caution.
What soap should I use?
If you take anything away from this article, it should be that you need to be using an non-antibacterial soap. With the exception of people who work in hospitals, schools, or other places where there are extreme levels of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses, everyone needs to get on the antibacterial soap train!
The first thing to look for is that the soap doesn’t say antimicrobial or antibacterial. The most common example of antibacterial soap is dial and the generics that are orange in color.
Another tell tale is an overly scientific name, take Cetaphil for example.
As for good soaps, almost anything that you’d find at your local health foods store will be antimicrobial. The soaps are all sorts of smells and colors and it can be really fun to shop for these products. I really like the chinese bee and flower soap. I recently found a company called Dr. Squatch Natural Soap. Technically, it’s men’s soap, but there are definitely scents that could work for both men and women. Their website claims that all the ingredients in their products can be pronounced. Like food products, this is a good feature.
However, for those on a tighter budget, or don’t have access to a natural foods store, many Dove products are good for the skin and can be found almost anywhere.
Let me know if you have any questions and make sure to shout out any good products you find! Thanks for reading.