When was the last time you checked the ingredients of your skincare products?
Your body wash, soap, gel, and other skincare products are supposed to improve and clean your skin. But that wouldn’t be the case if these products contain triclosan.
But don’t chuck your products with triclosan on the trash just yet. First, let’s discuss what triclosan is and why it is bad.
Triclosan – What Is It?
Triclosan (or TCS) is an ingredient that reduces or prevents bacterial contamination in consumer products. Most antibacterial body washes, soaps, toothpaste, and even to cosmetics. Triclosan is also being used in furniture, kitchenware, clothing, and toys.
Before TCS was prohibited, it was widely used for different purposes.
Developed in the 1960s, TCS back then received a good press. In the 1970s, it was widely used as a hospital scrub. Since then, TCS is being used commercially. It has also become a common ingredient in soaps, deodorants, shampoos, mouthwashes, detergent, and pesticides.
TCS was an effective antimicrobial active ingredient added to a variety of products. With it, the growth of bacteria, fungi, and mildew in consumer products slows down or is even prevented. TCS was doing a great job at fighting bacteria that it was later used in institutional and industrial equipment. Conveyor belts, fire hoses, ice-making equipment, dye bath vats, and other machinery were incorporated with TCS.
Around the 2000s, triclosan and triclocarban (TCC) have become widely used, in fact, they could be found in 75% of liquid soaps and 29% of bar soaps. Came 2014, TCS was able to dominate over 2,000 consumer products.
TCS was also utilised in the healthcare sector. It is used in hand washes and surgical scrubs. It has also been found that showering 2% TCS in surgical units helps for the decolonisation of patients whose skin has methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that usually present as small red pustular skin infections.
Many doctors also use surgical sutures coated with TCS as it is believed to reduce the risk of surgical site infection. This fact was backed by some leading health organisations, including The World Health Organization, the Surgical Infection Society, and the American College of Surgeons.
Plus, TCS has been utilised as a selective agent in cloning molecules.
The Harm of Triclosan
We discussed the benefits of TCS in consumer products and surgeries. So, if TCS is effective, what could be the reason you need to avoid it now?
In December 2017, the Food and Drug Administration announced that consumer antiseptic washes with triclosan or 23 other ingredients advertised as antimicrobials were prohibited.
“Some short-term animal studies have shown that exposure to high doses of triclosan is associated with a decrease in the levels of some thyroid hormones,” says FDA in their official website.
It also stated that other studies have shown that exposure to TCS is associated with making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
More research is needed to determine the level of risk that TCS poses for the development of antibiotic resistance.
There are ongoing studies to examine the safety of TCS. There is one current study that evaluates the potential development of skin cancer in animals with long-term exposure to TCS.
Another study is being conducted to investigate the potential breakdown of TCS to other chemicals on human skin after exposure to TCS to UV rays. However, neither study has been completed and published.
At this time, there are a lot of potential health concerns revolving around TCS. Although unproven, TCS has been designated as a contaminant of emerging concern or CEC. That means it is under investigation for public health risk.
CEC could be any synthetic or natural chemicals or any microorganisms that are not usually monitored in the environment but can enter the environment and cause adverse both in human and ecology.
In the United States, the FDA has ruled that 16 active ingredients, TCS included, are not generally safe and effective.
Triclosan and Hormones
There have been concerns about TCS after it was detected in blood, urine, and even in human breast milk.
A study on rats shows that exposure to TCS modulates estrogen-dependent responses. Other studies were performed over the years both in male and female fish and rats, all have the same conclusion: TCS has anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic properties depending on species, tissues, and cell types.
Another study involving over 500 pregnant women in China proved that prenatal TCS exposure increased cord testosterone levels in the infants.
Triclosan and Allergy
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, exposure to TCS is a risk factor for food sensitisation in male.
Studies also support the fact that there is an increase in peanut allergy in children exposed to TCS.
Other studies link triclosan to allergic contact dermatitis in some people.
How to Tell If There Is Triclosan in a Product
Most over-the-counter consumer antiseptic products use triclosan. And sadly, FDA has not received evidence that TCS offers benefits to human health. For the meantime, FDA doesn’t have proof that TCS in OTC antibacterial soaps and body washes provide benefits compared to washing with regular soap and water.
Antibacterial body washes, soaps, and fluoride toothpaste are considered over-the-counter drugs. If an OTC drug has TCS, it must be listed as an ingredient on the label. The same with cosmetic products with TCS.
So, it’s not difficult to identify if your product has TCS or none. You simply have to check the label and ensure that TCS isn’t on the list. Otherwise, it’s best to put that thing away and use organic antiseptic products instead.
All it takes is a minute to check the label and ensure you use products that are TCS-free.
This is also the perfect time to check the ingredients list of the items you have right now — your makeup, hand sanitizer, body wash, soap, gel, etc.
What the FDA Is Doing Now?
The Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing the safety and effectiveness of TCS in the agency’s OTC antiseptic rulemakings. The agency has also been monitoring and following scientific studies available for the safety and efficacy of triclosan.