Many hand soaps contain allergenic substances

21. aug 2015

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has examined the list of ingredients on 76 hand soaps on the Danish market. One in three contains either allergenic preservatives or substances which have shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal studies.


Hand soap test
Photo: Anne Beck Christensen

We use soap frequently

How many times a day do you wash your hands with hand soap? Every time you push the dispenser and get hand soap in your palms, you expose your skin to substances.

Consequently, the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals recommends that you choose a hand soap without allergenic or endocrine disrupting substances. 

“Even though we wash away the soap immediately after use, we are in contact with the substances in the hand soap very frequently. We use it many times during the day, and that goes for children as well as adults. Furthermore the soap is washed out in the sink. Therefore we risk that the problematic substances end up in the environment. One example is triclosan, which can have unwanted effects in nature and therefore shouldn’t be in hand soap,” says Stine Müller, project manager in the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

One in three fails test

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals examined the ingredient lists of 76 hand soaps on the Danish market, many of them international brands. 25 failed the test because they contain allergenic preservatives or substances suspected to be endocrine disrupting.

Among them were two disinfecting hand soaps of the brand Certex from the Danish discount retailer ‘Normal’. The soaps contain the substance triclosan which is suspected to be endocrine disrupting as well as toxic to the environment.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals are suspected to cause several ailments such as declining semen quality in boys and too early puberty in girls.

“We have to realize that it is through legislation on EU level that these substances should be prohibited. With the amount of products we have in our stores, we simply cannot assess all the substances in all of our products. However we do have a contractual agreement with our suppliers that both EU and Danish legislation has to be followed,” says Bo Kristensen, Purchasing Manager at ‘Normal’.

One in four hand soaps – 19 of 75 – contains the two preservatives (MCI and MI). These preservatives are allergenic and they are among the most frequent causes of allergy regarding preservatives. Soaps containing these preservatives also fail the test.

Many hand soaps contain perfume

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ review also shows, that perfume, fragrances and plant extract is common in hand soaps.

56 of the hand soaps contained these substances, which are common causes of allergy.

Hand soaps, which contain perfume or fragrance but no other unwanted substances, receive an average marking in the test.

19 hand soaps received a ‘A-rating’ which is the best choice in the test. All of these products do not contain unwanted substances.