As the world watches the Coronavirus continue to evolve, one thing we know for certain is that it’s imperative to enact proper handwashing. That simple act alone can play an important role in helping to protect us.
There are a few handwashing basics that everyone should be taking care to do right now:
1. Wash hands often. Washing can prevent 1 in 5 respiratory infections (such as a cold or the flu).
2. Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water (warm or cold water will work).
3. Get in between the fingers and in the creases of your palms.
4. Fully dry your hands with a towel when done, as wet hands transmit more germs than dry ones.
5. If you can’t wash, use sanitizer when possible.
While we may not be able to entirely stop the spread of the virus, a big goal is to “flatten the curve,” which means to stretch out the intense spread of this virus so our healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed. One major way we can contribute to this effort is by washing our hands thoroughly and properly.
WHY IS SOAP EFFECTIVE?
The pandemic recommendations have us all washing our hands a lot. You don’t need to have sensitive skin to know this: not all soaps are created equal. Some soaps may leave your hands drier than others. Some soaps may appeal with promises to kill all germs and bacteria. Are they all the same?
At first glance, soap seems basic but many soaps contain ingredients that are harmful for humans and the planet. Imagine all the added ingredients running down drains around the world and into our water table. We want to safely and effectively remove and rinse germs but do we need the antimicrobials or pesticides? What about powerful preservatives that may be skin sensitizers or skin irritants?
It turns out that the amphiphilic nature (the essential chemistry) of soap is extremely effective at destroying the Coronavirus (as well as many other viruses.) So what are the commonly found ingredients in soaps?
What’s inside conventional hand soaps
Hand soaps can host a number of chemicals of concern that are linked to significant hormone disruption, reproductive harm, developmental toxicity, and even cancer. The most common chemicals of concern found in hand soaps are:
Parabens: Parabens are often added to hand soaps as preservatives. They are hormone disruptors that mimic estrogen in the body, and have been associated with breast cancer and reproductive harm.
Phthalates: Phthalates are commonly used in hand soaps as one of the fragrance ingredients. They have been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity as well as cancer.
Triclosan & other antibacterials: Triclosan and other antibacterial ingredients were once widely used in hand soaps, but have since been banned by the FDA due to the inability to prove that antibacterial soaps are any more effective at preventing illness than plain soap and water, as well as a growing concern that the widespread use of antibacterial agents encourages the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s a good thing, too, as triclosan has been implicated in hormone disruption and increased risk of breast cancer, among other growing concerns. In their final ruling in 2016, the FDA established that “certain active ingredients used in over-the-counter consumer antiseptic products intended for use with water are not generally recognized as safe and effective.”
Polyethylene glycol compounds (PEGS): PEGs are used as thickeners, softeners, moisture-carrying agents, penetration enhancers, and surfactants. We should be concerned about PEGs because through them we are exposed to ethoxylated ingredients which can be contaminated with chemicals linked to cancer such as ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane.
Isothiazolinone preservatives: Commonly used isothiazolinone preservative formulations, such as methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone, are known irritants, sensitizers, and cause contact skin allergies.
IS STRONGER BETTER?
Although there is a temptation to want to pick up the soaps marketing the “strongest chemicals” in them, it is important to remember that they are more than what is required to get the job done and their overuse may do more harm than good.
The FDA has ruled that there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that antibacterial soaps are any more effective at preventing illness than just plain old soap and water.
The bottom line is washing with ANY soap is better than not washing at all. It is the preferred method for hand hygiene at this time. However, it’s useful to remember that when you can choose, some hand soaps can expose us to harmful and irritating chemicals that in many cases aren’t necessary.
Hand soaps made with safe ingredients
MADE SAFE® certified hand soaps (listed below) don’t contain any chemicals bad for the environment, harsh on the skin or harmful to aquatic life.
Here’s to healthy handwashing, as frequent and often as needed!
MADE SAFE Certified Hand Soaps:
- Foaming Hand Soap – in Botanical Bliss, Goody-Goody Grapefruit, Herbal Fresh, Lemon Lovers, and Orange Sweetness
- All-Purpose Soap Bar
- Bath and Body Soap – in Lavender, Lemongrass, Earl Grey Tea, Peppermint, and Unscented