Tags: Health Topics | antibacterial | soap | hand washing | viruses | germs | bacteria

The Dangers of Staying Too Clean

a person washes their hands which an excess of soap, holding the soap bar under the faucet
(Patrick Pleul/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 20 June 2019 10:00 PM

We are a society obsessed with hand sanitizers, eliminating germs and pathogens with wipes, and even covering our faces when traveling to prevent contact with viruses and bacteria. But research shows, while being cautious can certainly prevent you from catching a serious contagious disease, sometimes we go overboard and might be lowering our natural defenses by stripping away the healthy bacteria that can be beneficial to our health.

In fact, research shows too much washing can actually increase your risk of potentially deadly skin cancers.

"Skin cancers can be caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun," says Dr. Gabe Mirkin, sports medicine doctor, fitness guru, and long-time radio host. "However healthy bacteria on your skin can help prevent this from occurring."

He points to research showing mice injected with 6-Hap, a chemical made by Staph epidermis, a bacterium found on the skin, had a dramatic reduction in the growth of melanoma cancer cells. The chemical appears to block the growth of cancer cells without blocking the growth and production of normal cells.

"This study does send a message that perhaps a person can wash too often and lose the protection of beneficial bacteria," Mirkin says.

According to The Alternative Daily and other sources, a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found babies who were exposed to common allergens before the age of one were three times less likely to develop asthma and allergies, compared to children who were not exposed to these substances.

Experts add washing your hands and body too often also might be harmful because it strips the skin's natural layer of healthy oils, which protect the body against bacteria. And if you wash your hands too often and they begin to crack, you have created an open invitation for germs to invade.

Even the products we use to disinfect can be dangerous. Antibacterial soaps might contain triclosan, which is linked to estrogen disruption and many experts believe it might be a contributing cause to the current wave of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Studies have shown washing with plain soap and water is just as effective as using the antibacterial soaps and a lot healthier for the environment.

Dr. Richard Gallo, M.D., professor and founding chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, says if you keep your environment too clean — by using too many bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers — your immune system becomes all the more sensitive to irritants.

"So, my advice is some hygiene is good, too much is bad," he tells NBC News. "In many cases you have to use common sense. You're in a situation where you're likely to be exposed to pathogens — germs that could cause disease — it's a better idea to use hand sanitizers to remove them.

"But indiscriminate use — overusing hand sanitizers, antimicrobial soaps, and so forth — is also going to be doing harm. So, you have to balance the two."

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We are a society obsessed with hand sanitizers, eliminating germs and pathogens with wipes, and even covering our faces when traveling to prevent contact with viruses and bacteria.
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Thursday, 20 June 2019 10:00 PM
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