Antibacterial soaps are used by many people every day as a preventative health measure. However, the active ingredient in most of these soaps, triclosan, has been under investigation for causing antibacterial resistance and affecting hormones. While some people want to continue to use these soaps to ward off disease, others are beginning to question whether these soaps do more harm than good.
— Lea Thali, Nia Creator
The fact that antimicrobial soap produces "consistently statistically greater reductions" in microbes after washing sells me on antibacterial soap. As an individual who works in a hospital and is exposed regularly to various microbes, the benefit of fewer microbes on my hands and body outweighs the costs of using antibacterial soap.
I don't really see much of a difference between antibacterial soap and regular soap and water. As the CDC quote stated above, it's more about the vigorous motion of washing your hands with soap rather than washing your hands with antibacterial soap that removes dirt, pathogens, etc.
I do see the flip side, though: if you're in an environment or a profession where you're getting your hands dirty a lot and want to stop the spread of germs, for example a hospital, and you need something stronger and more effective than plain soap and water, which is where the antibacterial part comes in. It has been shown that antibacterial soap gives consistently better results than regular soap, which allows for the certain peace of mind that if you use antibacterial soap, you will be germ-free.
However, there's no harm in using just plain soap and water, so ultimately, it comes down to you and what your needs are: if you want to wash your hands after a long day or before dinner, regular soap will do the job. However, if you're in a hospital or need something stronger to ensure that your hands are clean, antibacterial soap will do the trick.
It seems pretty clear that there's no good reason to ever use antibacterial soap. It's of questionable benefit at best in killing any more bacteria than regular soap (which seems to work just fine by simply mechanically removing bacteria from scrubbing).
More concerning is the evidence of various negative consequences of its use: strengthening of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria (including superbugs), links to allergies, and evidence of hormone disruption.
Ultimately, it has been hard to find any redeeming quality of these products.
The evidence seems clear on this topic. While antibacterial soaps have been shown to sometimes be slightly more effective than regular soap and water at removing dirt and pathogens, the risk is too great to continue using these products. The main ingredient, triclosan, is linked to allergies and hormone disruption, and may be contributing to bacterial resistance. We need to find a better alternative without so many side effects.
I honestly thought at first that it was much better to use antibacterial soap, just because I thought it was more effective. However, after reading this Nia I feel like it may be just as same as regular soap, or even unhealthier. Although I believe that there is little evidence to support that antibacterial soaps encourage bacterial resistance to triclosan, there seems to be no clear difference in the efficacy of antibacterial soap and regular soap. Also, antibacterial soaps seem to create certain side effects including allergies and hormone changes in children. I wouldn't want to risk this when I know that the effects of antibacterial soap are not that great compared to regular soap.
I think ultimately one of the most important points this Nia makes is that there are absolutely suitable alternatives to antibacterial soaps. Why use antibacterial soaps, when they encourage superbugs, allergies, etc. when soap and water is an equally good alternative?
The only time I see a reason to use antibacterials soaps is when it is absolutely necessary to be overcautious and sterilized - such as in a hospital. However, I believe the Nia shows alcohols are not inferior to antibacterials - though possible consequences from alcohols are not discussed.
In this case, the cons outweigh the pros. The resulting triclosan resistance after use of antibacterial soap creates a dangerous self defeating cycle.
As effective cleansing is achieved by thorough scrubbing more so than soap choice, I would stick to regular soap. Antibacterial soap comes with a a bevy of undesirable consequences, so why bother?
According to this Nia, it has been shown clearly that there is no benefit to use antibacterial soap.
The reason that why people prefer to use antibacterial soap is that it might be more effective than regular soap and water.
However, this is not true. Further, the triclosan in antibacterial soap could encourage antibiotic resistance, cause allergies and even impact children’s hormones.
The evidence of these negative consequences has been solid enough. Therefore, there is no reason to continue using antibacterial soap.
Studies have repeatedly arrived at the same conclusion: antibacterial soap has yet to offer any significant difference in health benefit over regular soap and water. Given that physically removing bacteria with regular soap has historically been so successful in preventing the spread of major diseases, it seems silly to risk exposure to hormone-altering or allergy-inducing chemicals if plain old soap is doing the trick.
Furthermore, there are clearly effective alternatives to antibacterial soap if regular soap and water are unavailable, such as hand sanitizer, whose active ingredient is alcohol. Bacteria cannot develop resistance to alcohol, because alcohol kills bacteria of all kind, and they have next to no chance of survival in its presence; it is impossible for an alcohol-resistant strain to ever develop. Since research suggests that bacteria rapidly evolve into triclosan-resistant strands, it seems wise to halt the use of triclosan early on, before we enter a post-antibiotic era.
It is my opinion that the risks of antibacterial soap do not outweigh the (lack of) benefits. The support stories above provide a significant amount of evidence to the dangers of Triclosan. The story from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology definitely states an association between Triclosan, an antibacterial agent found in antibacterial soap products, and allergic sensitization. The National Center for Biotechnology revealed another negative affect of antibacterial soaps, in which Triclosan can negatively affect hormones and puberty in children. This coupled with the fact that there is no solid evidence declaring antibacterial soap more effective than plain soap makes me believe that there is no need to be using antibacterial soap.
Upon first glance, antibacterial soap seems like a positive choice; however, this happens to be a common misconception. Antibacterial soap, although killing germs, impacts hormones and allows microorganisms in the body develop bacterial resistance. These factors should be enough to deter one from antibacterial soap, but many do not because they feel there is no adequate alternative. In reality, most soaps are essentially just as effective as antibacterial soap, and it is more important how often and thoroughly the hands are washed with these soaps than with what substance. Therefore, antibacterial soaps are useless, and more of a detriment than a solution.