Coconut, Palm & Safflower Oils

The Fats in our Super-Fatted Natural Soap

2.0: Super-fatted Natural Soap – Safe & Natural Cleansing: Considering the damage, to such a large extent, caused by widely used surfactants and over the counter cleaning products, it becomes important to make mindful choices when it comes to the health of your skin. As already established, substandard products not only harm the aesthetic appearance but also lead to long-term skin conditions. 

The purpose of cleaning the skin is to remove dirt and excess oil. Since the skin getting dirty and oily is completely natural, it only makes sense that there must also be natural ways to clean it. Back in the day when commercial products were not being commonly used, people depended more on natural products (soap) and hence, there were less skin irritation complaints. With the emergence of inexpensive, increasingly harmful, and easily available cleansing products, the pathophysiology of skin diseases is becoming more complex. The doctors now advise ceasing the use of these unsafe (surfactants & detergents) products altogether. 16

While choosing a soap, it is important to be aware of the ingredients it is made of. Avoid all bars and body washes that do not identify themselves as “soap” and anything with sulfates (surfactants), parabens, alcohols and strong colors, and strong fragrances. Go for Soaps made from natural ingredients such as coconut oil, safflower oil, palm oil and more rather than synthetic chemicals. Soap made from these ingredients protect the integrity of epidermal barrier, helping preserve natural moisture of the skin.

In the USA, per the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) regulations, over the counter cleansing bars and gels cannot be referred to, sold as, branded as or marketed as “Soap”. In true sense, only a product made of natural fats and alkyl-water qualifies as a soap and cannot contain any type of surfactants or detergents. For example, the next time you are in your supermarket and visit the personal hygiene isle, try to find a cleansing bar or body wash that has the word “SOAP” on it. You can’t. Two reasons, SOAP is very expensive to make and 2nd, SOAP has a short shelf life before the natural glycerin in it begins to crystalize. 

Super-fatted Natural Base Soap: Super-Fatted means there are more fats left in the finished soap than the alkali can consume during the soap making process. Super-Fatted soap is more luxurious, far creamier and far more moisturizing than non-super-fatted soaps. Retail soaps are not known to be super-fatted because the fats in the soaps will go rancid far before the soap is sold. Retailers usually require a minimum of a 5 year shelf life. Super-fatted soaps have short shelf lives and are usually sold online from specialized skin care websites.

In addition, by using a super-fatted soap, the excess fats, in our case the excess coconut oil, palm oil and safflower oil do retain their vitamin and nutrient values and can be utilized by the skin.

These super-fatted soaps are significantly beneficial for the skin and highly recommended by dermatologists, not only for cleaning purposes but also for mitigating the symptoms of skin diseases. Some commonly used natural ingredients and their benefits from a scientific point of view are discussed below:

Coconut Oil: The unique biochemical composition of coconut oil makes it a safe and effective ingredient to be added into natural soap bars in order to preserve the natural balance of the skin. 

    • It contains medium-chain fatty acids in abundance, especially lauric acid. 34 Lauric acid has remarkable antimicrobial properties, known to be effective against at least 20 different strains of bacteria 35, including those that cause acne 36. Benzoyl peroxide is a synthetic compound used in many anti-acne products to decrease the growth of acne-causing bacteria. In a study, lauric acid was found to be more effective in reducing the growth of acne-causing bacteria than benzoyl peroxide. 37
    • Chronic inflammatory skin disorders such as psoriasis, contact dermatitis, and eczema cause substantial damage to the skin, sometimes to an irreversible extent. Studies conducted on animal models have demonstrated that coconut oil is effective against such hyperinflammatory states. 38
    • Oxidants are free radicals in the body that causes damage by interfering with various metabolic activities. They also destroy the skin structure. Coconut oil is an excellent anti-oxidant, it neutralizes free radicals preventing the potential damage. 39 
  • Moisturizers help restore the normal hydration level, especially for excessively dry and diseased skin. Coconut oil is a natural emollient that produces a moisturizing effect by incorporating into the lipids of the skin and thus can be utilized to treat skin conditions characterized by dry and scaly skin such as eczema 40 and xerosis 41.

 

Safflower Oil: Safflower products are used for many skin conditions, including hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, aging effects, acne, and several dermatological diseases. Safflower is a plant that produces bright orange-yellow, aesthetically appealing flowers. Its properties are not confined to its beautiful appearance only; rather, it is known to have many medically proven beneficial effects.

 

  • Extrinsic factors destroying the skin architecture include ionizing radiations, alcohol intakes, poor nutrition or overeating, environmental pollution, and, most importantly, exposure to UV radiations. The UV radiations inside the cell generate free radicals, increasing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress induces protein damage and promotes skin aging. 42 The skin has its protective mechanism against oxidative stress, which is called the anti-oxidant system. When the oxidative stress exceeds the regenerating capability of the anti-oxidant system, symptoms start to appear. To reduce this damage, it is essential to incorporate powerful anti-oxidants into the skincare routine. Safflower oil is a rich source of vitamin E – a powerful anti-oxidant. 43 Therefore, its anti-aging effects are owed to a rich supply of vitamin E.
  • Safflower oil is also rich in linoleic acid, an excellent acne-fighting agent. It has been demonstrated that decreased levels of linoleic acid in skin promote hyperkeratinization – an essential step in the initiation of acne. Keratin is a vital skin protein, but when it starts growing in excessive quantity, it blocks the skin pores and leads to the formation of micro comedones (tiny white and blackheads). In a study, continuous application of linoleic acid for a month decreased the size of plugged pores and microcomedones by 25%. 44
  • Linoleic acid also aids with hyperpigmentation. Melanin is a protein in the body, responsible for giving skin its characteristic color. They hyper-pigmented skin, for example, under the eye, depicts excessive abnormal accumulation of melanin. Researchers have shown that linoleic acid suppresses the production of melanin and thus, reduces abnormal hyper-pigmentation. It also increases the turnover of the uppermost layers of epidermis that takes melanin away when shedding. 45 Melasma, a common skin pigmentation disorder, causes brown or gray skin discoloration patches, primarily on the face. It can also be treated by linoleic acid 46.
  • Epidermal barrier dysfunction is a cause of many skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and xerosis etc.5, 6,9,11. The linoleic acid in safflower oil improves the epidermal barrier functioning and even restores the previously defected structure 47. It is also an essential fatty acid for the synthesis of ceramide. Ceramides are a crucial component of the lipid envelope – one of the two primary constituents of the epidermal barrier. 48
  • Because of its natural water restoring properties, linoleic acid has an essential role in moisturizing the skin and alleviating the symptoms of many diseases that cause dry and scaly skin. 48

 

Palm Oil: The main constituents of palm oil are palmitic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid, carotenoids, and vitamin E; all of these are beneficial for the skin.

  • The healthy functioning of skin depends on the stability and integrity of the epidermal barrier. Therefore, it is in a continuous cycle of renewal and shedding. It has been proven that a reduction in the levels of palmitic acid severely affects the shape and structure of epidermis 49, while linoleic acid deficiency leads to decreased synthesis of ceramides in the epidermis. 
  • The acne-fighting properties of linoleic acid are well established. 44 Additionally, being a component of essential free fatty acids, its deficiency is associated with increased transepidermal water loss. It also plays a crucial role in maintaining the selective permeability of the epidermal barrier. 52 
  • The vitamin E in palm oil is an excellent source for reducing the oxidative stress and keeping the skin from aging effects. 50
  • The moisturizing effects of palm oil can be utilized for the treatment of xerotic and dehydrated skin. It acts as a natural emollient, improving the overall appearance of the skin. Emollients are lipophilic (lipid loving) compounds that incorporate into liposomes and then administer their effects by merging with the epidermal barrier. 51

(Liposomes are tiny vesicles that have a similar membrane structure as that of the cell membrane. When the cell membrane swells due to any reason, it removes a portion of it in the form of a spherical ball. This ball is called a liposome, and it can be adjusted back into the cell membrane later.)

  • Palm oil as a natural emollient influences several pathological and physiological processes, because of its direct effects on many important skin survival activities. 52



Note: All the effects of natural oils discussed above are in relation to their individual components. The extraction of these components from natural oils requires the addition of many chemicals, resulting in contamination. The best results are seen when added as they are, in a skincare product, like a soap. Also, the presence of the same compound in two oils may produce different effects.

 

Properties of Natural Soap: The soap bars made from natural ingredients exert their effects by one or more of the following mechanisms. 53

  • Maintaining a healthy and functional epidermal barrier
  • Antioxidant effects
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Anti-microbial properties
  • Helping in wound healing
  • Anti-carcinogenic effects

 

Maintaining a healthy and functional epidermal barrier: A disrupted and dysfunctional epidermal barrier allows the entry of bacteria and chemical irritants into the skin, which exacerbates an ongoing pathological process or leads to the development of a new one. Plant oils in soap bars promote the integrity of the epidermal barrier by increasing the repair and regenerative procedures and reducing the inflammatory 40 and oxidative damage 41,45. They either directly replenish the diminishing quantities of essential lipids or increase in situ (in the skin) production. The overall functional outcome depends on the biochemical composition of the plant oil in the soap used and the disease state of the user’s skin. 

Antioxidant effects: Oxidants are harmful free radicals that destroy the skin and speed up the aging process. The signs of aging include thinning of the skin, roughness, dryness, wrinkling, and the impairment of the epidermal barrier. Aging caused by environmental factors such as UV light exposure is characterized by dyspigmentation, changes in the skin layers composition, and keratosis. Keratosis is the appearance of prominent, nodular dark spots on the skin. These effects start to appear when the skin antioxidant system becomes overwhelmed by the oxidative stress. The large concentration of vitamin E – a natural antioxidant, in plant oils 41, 45, 53, is an effective tool to fight the oxidative stress.

Anti-inflammatory effects: The skin is continuously exposed to noxious external stimuli that disturb its structure and allow the deeper penetrance of pathogens, ultimately causing inflammation. Inflammation is essential to clear out the irritating substances from the skin, but a chronic inflammatory state contributes further to structural and functional instability of the skin, causing conditions like atopic dermatitis 11 and psoriasis 8. This is because chronic inflammation is characterized by constant destruction and repairing of the affected site. The plant oils can be effectively used to reduce the inflammatory damage, slow down the excessive proliferative cycles (a key event in the pathogenesis of psoriasis 7) and even serve as either monotherapy or an adjunct to standard medical therapy for various inflammatory skin disorders55.

 

Anti-microbial properties: The normal flora of the skin comprises of bacteria at population levels that are not harmful and mutually beneficial. The disturbance of this symbiotic relationship by increased surface pH allows the flora to grow beyond the nonharmful range. The slightest insult to the epidermal barrier then facilitates their entry into the skin, eventually resulting in acne and skin infections. The skin can also be infected or infested by other pathogens. The plant oils have natural anti-microbial properties 37,38,53 that makes them an excellent choice for the treatment of skin infections. They can be more effective than synthetic agents in some cases. 39

Help in wound healing: Wound healing is a complex process that results in the restoration of damaged structures and functions of the skin. It occurs in four phases. 53

  • Hemostasis
  • Inflammation
  • Proliferation
  • Tissue remodeling

In the hemostasis phase, a temporary blood clot is made at the site of insult. This is then succeeded by the inflammatory phase in which immune cells clear up the pathogen and dead cells. The proliferation of cells following inflammatory destruction fills up the gapped area, and finally, tissue remodeling occurs, characterized by differentiated and functionally capable cells. The topical application of plant oils has been shown to fasten the wound healing by aiding in the final phases. 54

Anti-carcinogenic effects: The chronic inflammatory changes, excessive cell proliferation, and chronically disrupted epidermal barrier contribute significantly to the pathogenesis of many skin diseases. The role of natural plant oils in the dampening of these effects makes them anti-carcinogenic. 53

2.4 Why Should One opt for Soap Bars Made from Natural Products: There are several reasons why soap bars made from natural ingredients should be preferred over commonly available cleansing products. 

  • It is a common belief that whatever is applied on the skin remains there, however, the truth is, all products have the potential to be absorbed into the body. 57 After using a skincare product, one of the following occurs:
  • The product gets directly absorbed into the skin and from there, reaches the blood in intact form through the epidermal vasculature.
  • At the level of the epidermis, the cellular metabolism of the product occurs. It directs the by-products into the blood.

Sometimes, we even end up ingesting the product. For example, eating after the application hand creams can cause the chemicals to enter the body through the food. One way or the other, some amount of even topically used products ends up making its way into the body. One can be more confident with the use of natural products, as anything entering your body is organic and not synthetic. With the well-established harmful effects of synthetic and over the counter cleaning products, it is necessary to select a cleaning agent with caution.

There is sufficient evidence available in the literature to establish the harmful effects associated with synthetic products.

  • Some components of synthetic skincare products, after getting into the body, may interfere with the development of the baby in pregnant women. Of great significance are parabens, triclosan, and phthalates, that are estrogenic and particularly have an impact on the sexual development of the child. 58
  • The synthetic and over the counter skincare products are advertised to be safe for anyone. Now when an individual with no known history of allergy but a genetic predisposition uses such products, the probability of a pathogenic process getting triggered greatly increases. 
  • Any product that is bought usually comes with an ingredient list on it. This list has various chemicals names on it but an average person is usually not aware of the chemical composition of the ingredients, their mechanism of action and, the way they interact with the skin and the body. Therefore, they do not know how these chemicals will affect their skin’s physiology and pathology. In contrast, the ingredients in natural skincare products are usually familiar and easy to find. In fact, most of them are commonly used in the household.
  • The use of natural skincare products provides essential fatty acids, as discussed earlier. These fatty acids enhance the functioning of the epidermal barrier; leading to overall improved quality of the skin. They also help repair the damage, mitigating the disease process, if any. 
  • Synthetic skincare products mainly rely on the usage of cheap chemicals for economical purposes. When applied on the skin, they either go into the body or wash off. The environmental impact of such products is noteworthy. Opting for natural products can be a great way to reduce your carbon and water footprint. 

 

2.3 Role of Natural Soap Bars in the Improvement of Skin Diseases: Skin diseases are usually a consequence of an insult to the epidermal barrier. By removing the trigger and replacing it with a safe substitute, many skin diseases can be effectively managed. Lipids, in natural cleaning products, can supply the skin with essential fatty acids stripped off from the skin by harsh cleaning action of over the counter products. Hence, natural soap bars can be used safely as adjuvant therapy to alleviate the symptoms of many skin diseases. Some effects of the natural soap bars in the management of skin diseases are discussed below.

 

In the Improvement of Psoriasis: As described earlier, psoriasis is a disease of abnormal cellular proliferation. 7 The treatment therapies for psoriasis target the molecular mechanism and interfere with abnormal cell division. However, the disease is not completely cured, but symptoms do improve and flare-ups reduce. Natural soap bars work in a similar way. They stop cellular proliferation by: 59

  • Apoptosis
  • Anti-proliferative effect

Apoptosis: It is a medical term, which means auto cell death. In simpler terms, it is a cell committing suicide. During division, the cell, upon encountering any abnormality within itself, releases certain chemicals that are harmful to it and eventually kill it. It is a protective mechanism of the body, meant to stop the progression of many diseases (such as cancer and other proliferative disorders). Some natural ingredients in soap bars work similarly, causing the cells to die automatically.

Anti-proliferative effects: There are multiple phases of cell division. It can be arrested at any phase to prevent further growth. A number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors can affect the cell growth by either reducing the supply of essential components of cell division or by directly inhibiting the important enzymes. The natural-ingredients containing soap bars work similarly. They; after incorporating into the cell layer, prevent hyper-proliferation. They directly inhibit some enzymes and activate certain complex pathways within the cell, that stops its growth immediately.  

 

In the Improvement of Dermatitis: In dermatitis patients, it is essential to repair disrupted and dysfunctional epidermal barrier; in order to prevent the feasible entry of aeroallergens, microbes, and other pathogens into the skin, and also to reduce further insult and exacerbation of symptoms. The therapy is, therefore, directed towards maintaining the integrity and health of the epidermal barrier. 

The usual modes of treatment prescribed to dermatitis patients are emollients and anti-inflammatory medications in the form of soaps, lotions, shampoos, creams, and gels, etc. The topical use of anti-inflammatory steroids for a longer period, however, comes at the cost of serious skin complications such as hypertrichosis (increased hair growth), telangiectasia (prominent blood vessels on the skin), skin atrophy (thinning of the skin), and stria (appearance of skin marks). 58  Natural products, on the other hand, due to their epidermal barrier restorative capabilities and anti-inflammatory effects can efficiently reduce the symptoms of dermatitis without any adverse effects. 53 

Further, the dermatological advice to the patients of atopic dermatitis is to frequently wash and keep the skin clean.  The use of typical commercial products twice daily is shown to damage the stratum corneum layer as well as epidermal lipids in atopic dermatitis patients 59, which means if harsh, synthetic products are used, they can enhance the pathological process of the disease, leading towards more complications.  With the use of natural soaps not only cleaning action is achieved, but disease symptoms are also alleviated and progression of pathogenic process is halted.

The epidermal barrier repairing action of natural soap bars (because of the presence of natural ingredient and essential fatty acid in them) has been established scientifically. 40 While choosing a soap bar, it is recommended to look for plant constituents, some of which are discussed above.

 

In the Improvement of Xerosis and Ichthyosis: Moisturizers are the mainstay of treatment for dry skin. The dry skin can be a secondary symptom occurring in association with an underlying disorder or a primary manifestation of epidermal lipid depletion that is allowing increased water loss. The moisturizers are, therefore, classified to be used for different causes and each has a different mechanism of action. 52

  • Emollients – work by merging into the epidermal barrier and improving its overall texture.
  • Humectants – work by attracting and retaining water in the stratum corneum of the epidermis.
  • Occlusives – work by forming a thin protective layer over the surface of the skin, preventing transepidermal water evaporation.
  • Protein rejuvenators – work by replenishing essential proteins thus aiding in skin rejuvenation.

Emollients, humectants, and occlusives are typically used for the treatment of de novo xerosis i.e. dry skin occurring because of lipid disruption. Humectants are useful in the treatment of ichthyosis too.

Linoleic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, and lauric acid are naturally occurring emollients, that are abundant in palm oil, coconut oil, and wool fat. They are also component compounds of essential free fatty acids found in the epidermis. 60

When these fatty acids are topically applied to the skin, they become incorporated in the epidermis where they aid in restoring the structure and function of the epidermal barrier. Thus, these natural emollients can be effectively used to replenish depleted essential fatty acid levels and subsequently skin conditions characterized by dry, scaly skin such as xerosis and ichthyosis. 61

Squalene is another important lipid of the skin, present in human sebum. It is a precursor for cholesterol, which is a part of the epidermal lipid envelope. 60 Squalene plays a significant role in retaining the moisture of the skin as the symptoms of dry skin are commonly observed in elderly people who have depleted levels. It can also be derived from plant and animal sources and is used frequently to treat xerosis, dermatitis, psoriasis, and acne. 52

Humectants are hygroscopic compounds that moisturize the skin by attracting the water from the surrounding environment and increasing its migration from the deeper layers of the skin to the upper layers, hence, the water is derived from two sources. They are also found in natural products and have been successfully used to treat ichthyosis. 52

In the Improvement of Acne: The common belief is that acne-prone skin should be cleaned vigorously several times a day to remove excess oil. Truth, however, is that excessive cleaning with harsh products can further damage the skin, cause breakouts, and exacerbate the previous symptoms. 

An ideal cleaning agent for acne-prone skin would be:

  • Non-comedogenic
  • Non-acnegenic
  • Non- irritating
  • Non-allergenic

A cleansing product should be able to gently wash away dirt, sweat, and excess sebum without disrupting the surface lipids. The after-effects of a good cleaning product should never be irritation, inflammation, and drying.  

For acne-prone skin, gentle cleaning products formulated using natural oils are generally a good choice since they are non-comedogenic 44, anti-inflammatory 53, and hypoallergenic. They directly target acne by interfering with its pathophysiology, for example, killing acne-causing bacteria, decreasing inflammation, and regulating excess sebum production. pH regulated, surfactant-free cleaning products can, in fact, serve as the first-line treatment for acne. 

As discussed, acne has several types with varying pathogenesis. Nonetheless, skin injury and disruption of protective barriers is always a contributing factor. In rosacea patients, in particular, the skin is damaged and extremely sensitive. Even the slightest insult can exaggerate the irritation and on-going inflammatory process. Harsh over the counter cleaning products solubilize the epidermis 62, and facilitate the entry of many chemicals and irritants into the deeper skin cell layers, which is an important cause of inflammation.  Natural oils in mild soap bars lead to the mitigation of pathological activity by restoring the skin’s natural composition and subsequently its defense mechanisms.

 

2.4 Why are Soap Bars Better Than Sanitizers for Killing Virus: Following the outbreak of COVID-19, healthcare professionals are emphasizing the need for thorough and frequent hand washing in order to kill the virus and prevent its transmission. In the absence of effective treatment, precautionary measures remain to be the mainstay of coping strategy against the pandemic. The use of both handwashing products and sanitizers has been greatly promoted. While hand sanitizer is a great option if soap and water are not readily available, the use of soaps remains to be the single most effective option against the transmission of several infections.

The Composition of Soaps: Soap is made by combining fats with alkyd water. Its molecular structure comprises of many pin-shaped molecules, each having a polar, ionic, hydrophilic head that binds with water and a non-polar, hydrophobic tail that attaches with oils and fats. When dissolved in water, these soap molecules float as isolated units. With increasing concentration, they interact with each other and assemble themselves into a hydrophobic pocket. The hydrophobic pocket, a tiny spherical structure, is called a micelle. The pin-shaped molecules arrange themselves in this sphere in such a that the hydrophilic head points outwards while the hydrophobic tail inwards. 

The Composition of Hand Sanitizers: On the basis of active ingredients, two types of hand sanitizers are generally available. 63

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers – consist of 60-95% of alcohol usually in the form of ethanol, isopropanol or n-propanol
  • Alcohol-free sanitizers – contain chemical disinfectants or anti-microbial agents.

The Structure of Micro-organisms: Many bacteria and viruses have a lipid membrane that structurally resembles a micelle. This lipid membrane is a bi-layered structure having two bands of hydrophobic tails sandwiched between the hydrophilic heads. Within this layer, many proteins are embedded. The integrity of this lipid bi-layer membrane is crucial for the pathogenicity of many micro-organisms as it plays a significant role in the pathogen’s interaction with the host cell membrane, transport of important molecules, and many other vital survival activities. Some examples of micro-organisms, having a lipid bi-layer membrane, are SARS-CoV-2 (the causative agent of COVID-19), HIV, Hepatitis B, and C, Dengue, Ebola, and Zika virus as well as several respiratory tract and gut-infection causing bacteria.

How Does Soap Work on Viruses: Upon washing hands with soap and water, the micro-organisms on the skin become surrounded by the soap molecules. The hydrophobic tails, in an attempt to escape water molecules, tend to become embedded in the lipid bi-layer membrane of the micro-organism. It disturbs the membrane and destabilize and pry the lipid envelop apart. The embedded proteins scatter, and the micro-organism loses its pathogenicity. 

The soap molecules also break apart the chemical bonds that allow micro-organisms to stick to the host cells. For viruses that do not have an outer lipid coat, micelles simply lift them off the skin and ‘trap’ them in their hydrophobic core. Any remaining parts of bacteria, viruses, dirt, and grease are also captured in the hydrophobic pockets of micelles. Upon rinsing the hands, all damaged, trapped or killed micro-organisms are washed away.

Thus, the overall result is micro-organisms are either killed or destroyed and then completely removed away from the skin. As gentle as the soaps maybe for the skin, they are extremely destructive for micro-organisms. 

Are Anti-bacterial Soaps Better: No, anti-bacterial soaps are not any better than regular soaps at killing microorganisms. In addition to regular ingredients, anti-bacterial soaps contain components like triclosan or triclocarban. Being hydrophobic, these chemicals can penetrate microbial membranes causing their destruction. As impressive as it sounds, there is no evidence for the added effectiveness of anti-bacterial soaps. These, however, can be harsher on the skin leading to skin irritation, dryness, and eventually more serious disorders. Some data even suggest that anti-bacterial soaps can do more harm than good when used over the long term.  

Another important concept to understand is that both on the outside and the inside of the human body, reside many bacteria in harmony with the bodily cells. This natural flora, in fact, can be healthy for the body. Our skin is not meant to be sterile and it is perfectly natural for some number of harmless bacteria to be present on the skin. Frequent hand-washing with anti-bacterial soaps can disrupt this resident flora. In addition, dry, damaged, and cracked skin is a usual side effect of anti-bacterial cleaning products, which offers enough nooks and crannies for harmful bacteria to reside and thrive in. 

It has also been found that low levels of triclosan may be ineffective in killing the bacteria but end up providing them a reasonably hostile environment that acts as a stimulus for genetic mutation and subsequent adaptation. The result is, the next generations of these bacteria are well-adapted and resistant to triclosan and, eventually, to several anti-biotics as well. 

 

How do Hand Sanitizers Work: Hand sanitizers work in a similar way as soaps, by destabilizing the lipid bi-layer either in the form of an outer coat as in the case of viruses, or cell membrane as in the case of bacteria. These, however, do not eliminate all types of pathogens. The viruses that do not have an outer lipid core, in particular, are resistant to killing action of sanitizers. It has been shown that alcohol-based sanitizers are highly effective against enveloped viruses and moderately against the non-enveloped viruses. 63 Alcohol-based sanitizers are generally a good option compared to other types.

 

 

Why Should You Pick Soaps Over Hand Sanitizers: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that hand washing using soap and water, should be preferred, whenever possible, over hand sanitizers. 64 

There are several reasons for this recommendation some of which are mentioned below:

  • The hybrid structure of soap allows the removal of a wide spectrum of microbes along with dirt and grease. The mode of action of sanitizers, on the other hand, does not make them a reliable choice for all types of pathogens.
  • A study comparing the efficacy of soaps with sanitizers against non-enveloped viruses found that soaps are more efficient in inactivating non-enveloped viruses. 65
  • Bacterial resistance to low amounts of ethyl alcohol is also becoming a matter of concern.
  • Hand sanitizers can also harm natural flora.
  • Certain bacteria and parasites such as Clostridium difficle and cryptosporidium are not very susceptible to hand-sanitizers.
  • While sanitizers are safe when used as directed, alcohol poisoning, if swallowed, is a potential hazard, especially in households where there are young children.
  • Hand sanitizers are not able to remove and inactivate harmful chemicals. Following the exposure to chemicals, thorough handwashing with soap and water is recommended.
  • Hand sanitizers can be a good go-to option in settings where microbes are the main concern. In community settings, where hands could possibly be soiled with dirt and grease, sanitizers are not a practical solution.

However, frequent handwashing with over the counter cleaning products secondary to the disruption of the epidermal barrier can leave the skin dry and chapped. 63 The American Academy of Dermatology recommends moisturizing your hands right after washing. Since it is not always a practical solution and also hard to comply with, natural cleaning products with moisturizing oils provide a good alternative. As evident from their mode of action, soaps do not need to have harsh chemicals in order to provide effective protection against pathogens.

 

2.5 Conclusion – Soap is Better: Structural and functional integrity of the skin is crucial not only for the maintenance of cosmetic appearance but also for protection against numerous diseases, (both pathogenic and non-pathogenic in origin), dehydration, and environmental factors responsible for wear and tear and aging. 

The disruption of the epidermal barrier, (made up of corneocytes, lipids, and proteins), secondary to the harsh cleaning action of over the counter cleaning products and surfactants, allows for the feasible entry of pathogens and environmental irritants into the skin, resulting into chronic inflammation. In addition, the damage to the lipid layer by cleansing bars and body washes promotes increased water loss resulting in dehydrated, irritated, dry, and chapped skin. All these pathological events facilitate the initiation and progression of several skin disorders such as psoriasis, dermatitis, xerosis, ichthyosis, and acne.

Skin cleansing is a significant aspect of maintaining hygiene. The use of over the counter cleaning products with fancy fragrances and colors has seen a great rise during recent decades and so have skin disorders.  Many of these products contain abrasive chemicals, of particular interest are surfactants and detergents. Owing to their unique structure, which allows easy dirt and grease removal, surfactants are heavily used in the cleaning industry. These chemicals, however, are capable of not only removing dirt and grease from the skin but also its natural oils and surface lipids. They have the ability to ‘solubilize’ and damage the epidermal barrier when used over the long term. 

Surfactants have also been shown to play a crucial role in the pathophysiology of many skin diseases especially psoriasis, eczema and atopic dermatitis. Not only they can cause de novo pathogenic activity but also exacerbate a low-grade disease process, causing complications. Natural soap, devoid of harsh chemicals, offer an effective alternative without having to compromise on the cleaning action. Products with plant oils contain lipids that help replenish a damaged epidermal barrier, impeding the progression of many skin disorders. In addition, their anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-microbial effects further help the skin stay healthy.

All in all, it is extremely important to choose a cleaning product wisely. Especially for those who are genetically predisposed to skin pathologies or have suffered from a skin disorder in the past.



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