Antiseptics for cuts and skin irritations are often associated with some kind of man-made chemical product.
But recently, partly due to concerns about the growing resistance of bacteria, scientists and manufacturers have been developing antiseptics with more natural ways to fight germs.
Man-made disinfectants work by targeting and killing an individual part of the bacteria – but this part can grow over time, rendering the disinfectant ineffective.
The suggestion is that natural antiseptics are more complex, containing a mixture of active compounds that are thought to work together to target different parts of the bacteria, making resistance less likely.
This has led to an explosion of traditional antiseptic ingredients, such as tea tree oil and manuka honey. Research last year found that seven out of ten people prefer to buy products labeled ‘natural’.
But are natural disinfectants effective? Good Health asked experts to review some of its newest products, from lotions to toothpaste. We then ranked them.
Tea tree ice cream
Nelson Tea Tree Cream, 30ml, £4, amazon.co.uk
Nelson’s Tea Tree Ice Cream
Claim: A ‘soothing’ cream using Australian tea tree oil (extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca tree), which is noted for its ‘excellent antiseptic properties’, says the manufacturer.
Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist at Tarrant Street Clinic in Arundel, West Sussex, said: ‘There is limited evidence for the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects of tea tree oil on the skin. ‘But there haven’t been any strong studies done on real people: most have only looked at its effects in test tubes.
‘Pure tea tree oil should contain at least 30% of the main antibacterial ingredient, terpinen-4-ol, but tea tree oil-based formulations can vary in concentration – there is no accepted level of effectiveness.
‘It’s not clear how much this cream contains. However, it is not harmful and can help cure minor scrapes or rashes. ‘
Avena Lip Oil, 10ml, £7.99, avena.co.uk
Avena Lip Oil
Claim: An ‘antifungal and antiseptic essential oil’ blend, which includes tea tree and lavender, ‘treats cold sores on the lips’.
Dr Hextall said: ‘About 65% of adults have been exposed to the common herpes virus, which causes cold sores around the mouth.
‘Once captured, it lies dormant in the nervous system but can be reactivated by stress, sunlight and physical trauma, causing injury.
‘Antiviral drugs that stop the virus from multiplying are first-line therapy, with acyclovir being the most commonly used. But the virus seems to be increasingly resistant to acyclovir – some clinical studies show it to be inactive in a third of cases.
‘Small laboratory studies suggest that tea tree oil may help fight the herpes virus, but clinical trials comparing it to acyclovir are needed.
‘Lavender oil has some proven benefits but can irritate sensitive skin. It may be a good idea to try this product if topical acyclovir doesn’t relieve flare-ups. Oral acyclovir, a stronger type, may be prescribed for severe infections. ‘
Gel made from honey
Comvita Medihoney Antibacterial Wound Gel, 25g, £10.43, amazon.co.uk
Comvita Medihoney antibacterial wound gel
Claim: A gel made from ‘sterilized medical grade’ manuka honey to help promote wound healing and reduce the risk of infection for damaged skin’.
Expert Verdict: ‘Manuka Honey Graded According to Its UMF [unique manuka factor]reflects the amount of naturally occurring antibacterial methylglyoxal, which is produced when bees turn nectar from manuka bushes into honey,’ said Dr Hextall.
‘A score of ten (out of 25) – as in this product – is required for the product to be classified as ‘medical grade’.
‘Medical grade manuka honey is used in some NHS hospitals to help heal leg ulcers and prevent infection in cesarean section scars. A 2012 review by Cardiff Metropolitan University concluded that bandages made from medical-grade honey could be useful in combating supernatant MRSA.
‘People who are allergic to bees should avoid it, but it is generally safe and effective.’
Noah Black Pepper & Peppermint Shampoo Fortifying Shampoo, 250ml, £6.99, hollandandbarrett.com
Noah Black Pepper & Peppermint . Soothing Shampoo
Claim: This product contains black pepper and menthol, which have ‘sterilizing and antibacterial properties that improve scalp health’.
Expert verdict: ‘There is some evidence for the antiseptic effects of black pepper oil and the antibacterial and antifungal effects of peppermint oil,’ Dr Hextall said.
‘Both contain active compounds [aldehydes and phenolics] can kill bacteria in test tubes. The most common scalp problem I see is caused by malassezia, a yeast that can cause seborrheic dermatitis – red, flaky areas of skin around the eyebrows and nose – and dandruff on the scalp.
‘The most successful treatments are zinc pyrithione, which inhibits yeast growth, and ketoconazole, which kills yeast. For severe flaking, I recommend an anti-inflammatory lotion like betnovate and a shampoo with ketoconazole.
‘This shampoo can help soothe yeast infections, but it also contains essential oils that can irritate some skin.’
Weleda Calendula Calendula Spray & Grazes Spray, 20ml, £7.25, Weleda.co.uk
Weleda Calendula Calendula Spray & Grazes Spray
Claim: A cleansing spray with ‘calendula’s natural antiseptic properties [a flower also known as marigold] extract’.
Dr Thivi Maruthappu, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic in London, said: “The packaging says this product is ‘based solely on traditional usage’.
‘Studies comparing calendula extract with antibacterial agents such as chlorhexidine [found in products such as Savlon] found it kills less bacteria.
‘I recommend cleaning cuts and papules with water and fragrance-free soap and drying before applying antiseptic cream.’
Myrrh . Mouthwash
Neal’s Yard Remedies Lavender & Myrrh Mouthwash, 100ml, £8.50, nealsyardremedies.com
Neal’s Yard Remedies Lavender & Myrrh . Mouthwash
Claim: A mouthwash containing lavender oil and myrr tree extract with ‘antiseptic properties to care for gums and keep breath fresh’.
Bill Schaeffer, a dental surgeon at the Implant Center in Hove, East Sussex, said: ‘Myrrh is a well-studied antiseptic, although I’m not aware of any data studying long-term use. its length in the mouth.
‘Similarly, I am not aware of any studies on the effectiveness of lavender alone, so it is difficult to assess the benefits of this product.
‘It also contains alcohol – and some studies have linked long-term use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes with an increased risk of oral cancer.
‘However, a 2020 review of all data by the University of Barcelona found that the link was only held if the users were also smokers, as alcohol makes the cell walls of the mouth more permeable to harmful substances. more carcinogens in cigarette smoke.’
Bitter orange soap
Kear Herbal Soap, 100g, £3.60, amazon.co.uk
Claim: This product contains bitter orange extract, which the manufacturer says has ‘sterilizing properties’, plus glycerin to ‘moisturize the skin’.
Dr Maruthappu said: ‘There is no solid evidence that bitter orange extract has a strong antiseptic effect.
‘Although soaps contain the natural humectant glycerin, naturally derived ingredients such as linalool, geraniol and citronellol, which are also used here, increasingly cause contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction. in the form of an itchy, red rash.
‘I love Ecover Zero Hand Soap (250ml, £2.50, ocado.co.uk) for sensitive skin – it’s fragrance free and colourless.’
Kear Herbal Soap
Thyme & sage
Saugella Natural Disinfectant Intimate Wipes
Saugella Natural Disinfectant Intimate Wipes, pack of 15, £3.83, onebioshop.com
Claim: The wipes contain thyme and sage extracts ‘with antibacterial and deodorizing properties’, to ‘soothe irritation in the vaginal area’.
Expert conclusion: ‘Studies show that thyme and sage extracts have antiseptic properties, so it could be an effective cleanser,’ said Dr Nisa Aslam, a East London-based NHS GP said.
‘But I should be cautious when using them in the vaginal area, as disturbing the pH of this very delicate skin can cause irritation, inflammation or infection. Vaginal irritation is common, but it’s important to get it checked out by your GP. Clean water is best for cleaning this area. ‘
Tea tree flavor
Jason Healthy Mouth Anti Cavity & Tartar Control Gel, 170g, £6.49, jasonnaturalcare.co.uk
Claims: ‘Protect your teeth and gums from sugary acids, bacterial growth and cavities’ with tea tree oil, ‘a well-known antiseptic’ and fluoride, ‘while CoQ10 soothes irritation gums’.
Expert conclusion: ‘There is one small study showing that taking the antioxidant CoQ10 as an oral supplement may benefit gum health – but it’s better to brush your teeth and gums for two minutes a day’, says Bill Schaeffer.
‘There’s no telling how much CoQ10 it contains or the mildly antiseptic tea tree oil. Fluoride is the most important ingredient – research shows it can reduce rotting by at least 25%.
‘Dentists recommend toothpaste that contains 1,000 to 1,500 ppm of fluoride. The gel claims to contain the equivalent of 1,000 ppm of fluoride. I use the cheapest fluoride toothpaste I can find: currently Sainsbury’s own brand. It is 44p for 100ml, containing 1,450 ppm of fluoride. ‘
Jason Healthy Mouth Gel against tooth decay & tartar control
Echinaforce Sore Throat Spray, 30ml, £11.35, avogel.co.uk
Claim: Spray ‘for sore throat’ based on echinacea and sage herbal remedies.
Dr Aslam says: ‘Sage has a well-studied natural antiseptic effect and is a good inclusion. ‘But reputable studies have found that echinacea, extracted from a type of chrysanthemum, has less antiviral benefits than a placebo.
‘This product also contains menthol, which can soothe inflamed throat tissue – menthol binds to cold receptors in the throat, sending signals to the brain to produce a feeling of coolness – and approximately 40% alcohol [to help preserve the herbal extracts]so avoid it if you have any problem with alcohol.
‘Overall, a good product to help soothe a sore throat.’
Source: | This article originally belonged to Dailymail.co.uk