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What chemicals are in your hand wash?

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Liquid hand washes have become more and more popular in the past 15 years, both in the home and in public places such as hospitals and toilet facilities. They are now firmly resident in kitchens and bathrooms up and down the country. And for good reason; they are less prone to bacterial growth than bar soap and are less messy too.

However, have you ever wondered what goes into the hand washes you so often use? Some people find them drying on the skin and experience skin irritation after using them. This is known as contact dermatitis and it is particularly common in those who use liquid hand washes regularly as part of their job; perhaps in a hospital or kitchen, where cleanliness is vital.

Green People’s organic hand washes are developed to be mild yet still effective at keeping your hands sanitised. They do not contain either of the ingredients discussed below and have been developed as an alternative for those who wish to use a liquid hand wash but want to avoid synthetic chemicals.

SLS and triclosan in hand wash

There are two chemicals often used in hand washes which are responsible for most cases of contact dermatitis. The first of these is sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), a foaming agent used in many personal care products. As well as hand wash, you’ll find it in shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste; potentially in pretty much anything that foams! Quite a few people are sensitive to SLS and may experience skin dryness or contact dermatitis after using products with it in.

"SLS and triclosan are two chemicals often used in hand washes which are responsible for most cases of contact dermatitis."

The second ingredient, which we will look at in a bit more detail, is triclosan. This is primarily an antibacterial agent but it also has some antifungal and antiviral properties. As well as being used in liquid soap, it is also commonly found in toothpastes, mouthwashes, shaving creams and deodorants. It is a very widely used ingredient, found to be present in over half of all commercial soaps by a study carried out in 2000.

As well as being used in personal care products, triclosan has a multitude of roles in other areas of life. It is known under a few different names depending on its purpose, such as Microban and Biofresh, but it can be found in some children’s toys, mattresses, bin bags and even escalator hand rails. It is present in many areas of our lives, whether or not we are aware of it.

What are the possible issues with triclosan?

There are a number of possible issues with such widespread use of triclosan, relating to both human health and the natural world. In 2009, the American Public Health Association (APHA) proposed that it would endorse the banning of triclosan for household and non-medical uses.

"In 2013 the APHA called for a safety review of triclosan."

In 2013 the APHA called for a safety review of the chemical, after stating "New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits. Because so many consumers use them, FDA believes that there should be clearly demonstrated benefits to balance any potential risks."

Aloe Vera

One reason for concern are the reports of both contact dermatitis and photo contact dermatitis linked with triclosan exposure. Photoallergic contact dermatitis occurs when a chemical, in this case triclosan, apparently causes a skin reaction when exposed to sunshine. It normally takes the form of a rash on sun-exposed areas of the body.

However, it is important to see the wider impact of Triclosan, as it does not seem confined to skin reactions. Large amounts of Triclosan leave our houses in our waste water every day and end up in rivers and other water courses as it is not removed by water treatment plants. It is highly toxic to some types of algae and, if chlorine is present in the water, has been found to form potentially harmful chemicals called dioxins when exposed to sunlight.

The environmental impact of triclosan has led the Swedish nature conservation body Naturskyddsföreningen to recommend a national ban on consumer products including the chemical. The Swedish Dental Medical Association is also calling for controlled sale of toothpastes controlling triclosan.

Unfortunately, UK organisations have not yet followed suit in proposing restrictions on triclosan in personal care products.

Triclosan-free natural and organic hand washes

Green People is one of the few companies offering SLS and triclosan-free hand washes. We do not use these harsh ingredients and instead prefer to use natural and organic plant actives that are gentle on your skin yet tough on bacteria.

The active ingredients in our Organic Antibacterial Hand Wash are natural active extracts from Tea Tree and Manuka – both plants which have been used as antiseptics and antibacterial agents for hundreds of years. There is clear evidence to show that bacteria do not develop resistance to their action.

We also have a Scent Free Hand Wash for those with the most sensitive skin or multiple allergies.


Have you got a question about our natural hand washes? Our customer care team is happy to help with any questions you may have about our organic hand washes. Please call us on 01403 740350 or leave a comment or question below.



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