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May 2019

Can bacteria on your hands make you healthier?

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Workplace Hygiene, Handwashing and Hand Hygiene

We believe it can… which is why Initial is excited to announce the launch of our Signature range of bio-soaps.

Since I started writing for the Initial Insights page (over two years ago now), I have found myself returning to the human microbiome, and the role of probiotics and “good bacteria” in hygiene again and again.

We’ve written about the most common bacteria found in the human body and the role they play in promoting good health in a previous fact or fiction blog post, and I’ve looked at whether “good” hygiene practices could actually be making us sick by damaging our skin’s microbiome. And at the start of the year, I revisited a post I had written about the future of hygiene, and whether it contains “friendly bacteria”.

In case you don't feel like doing all that reading, here’s a quick recap:

Researchers have defined the human microbiome as “the genes of the 10 - 100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harboured by each person, primarily in the gut” but also on the skin and in the mouth.  Dermatologists agree that the skin’s microbiome is vital not only for skin health but also for overall health. "A healthy microbiome can protect against skin infection by preventing the overgrowth of pathogenic organisms," says Dr Patel.

This is of course of huge interest to us here at Initial where we concentrate a lot of our efforts on preventing the spread of harmful bacteria by promoting good hand hygiene practices, and by extension, clean skin.

Supporting your skin’s microbiome:

Just like probiotics (“good” bacteria) are used to support gut health, it is thought that they can also be used to support the skin’s microbiome.  A post I wrote called The Future of Hygiene took a fairly in-depth look at the rising trend of using bacteria in the beauty industry; some big names in the cosmetics industry are doing their own research into the human microbiome and have patented several bacterial treatments for dry and sensitive skin.

There is also a living bacterial skin tonic which looks, feels and tastes like water, but which contains billions of cultivated ammonia-oxidizing bacteria as a treatment for mild-to-moderate acne. LiveScience mentions the development of topical probiotics which can be applied directly to the skin; and several manufacturers are currently experimenting with adding strains or extracts of probiotics to their skin care products, including moisturizers, cleansers, peels and lotions.  

These treatments all look at adding back beneficial bacteria after it has been stripped away. But what if you could have the confidence that by washing your hands you were not only killing harmful bacteria but - at the same time - adding back the beneficial bacteria that conventional sanitisers and anti-bacterial soaps strip away from our skin?

Probiotics for your hands

Something of which we are extremely proud here at Initial is our use of bio-enzyme products for surface cleaning. We’ve been using environmentally friendly products for several years now, and are very aware of the dangers of harsh cleaning chemicals (you can read more about why we clean with bacteria here).  

Our cleaning products utilise biodegradable bio-enzymes in place of traditional harsh chemical cleaning agents, which are safer for both the environment and our clients. The friendly “active” non-pathogenic bacteria contained in these products remain on surfaces and continue to work after the service is finished.

Now we are taking this a step further by introducing a soap range that not only cleans your hands immediately (like traditional soap) but also creates a long-lasting, protective bacterial layer at the same time (unlike traditional soap).  Now you can have the confidence that as you clean your hands, you’re supporting both your skin’s microbiome and your own general health and wellbeing.

So how do bio-enzyme soaps work?

With traditional soap, your hands are only clean for as long as it takes for you to touch a dirty surface. As soon as that happens, your hands are contaminated again.  Initial’s new bio-enzyme soap range uses “friendly” bacteria to colonise the hands and create an ongoing protective layer that prevents harmful bacteria, yeasts and moulds from multiplying and spreading.  This protective barrier lasts for up to 5 hours after hands have been washed.

A bit more about bio-enzyme soap:

  • Bio-enzyme soaps contain specific “good” bacteria from the  Bacillus consortium
  • These “good” bacteria are non-pathogenic (not harmful) to plants, animals and humans
  • “Good” bacteria produce enzymes. Enzymes are a type of protein that can break up complex molecules into smaller pieces. They are not living things, they cannot grow or reproduce on their own
  • The enzymes produced by the good bacteria compete for the same food source as other bacteria - literally “starving” the bad bacteria to death, and preventing pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and moulds from multiplying and spreading.

In addition to the long-lasting protective barrier they create on the hands, our bio-soaps are also better for the environment.  They contain no harmful chemicals, the surfactants are plant based and fully biodegradable, and the enzymes created by the bacteria are non-toxic, non-irritating, non-gaseous, non-flammable, non-pathogenic, non-hazardous, and completely biodegradable. The soaps are also Global Green Tag* certified.

So to answer the question posed in the title of this piece: can bacteria on your hands make you healthier?

We believe that they can due to their ongoing protective effect. Just like we should be supporting our gut health with a probiotic in the face of antibiotic treatment, we should be supporting the colonies of beneficial bacteria on our skin when we clean it by using bio-enzyme products that target harmful bacteria whilst leaving us with a long-lasting protective barrier and the confidence that our hygiene practices are really supporting optimal health and wellness.

Not sure if you are washing your hands correctly? These toddlers demonstrate the right way to wash your hands.

HubSpot Video


To find out more about Initial’s range of hand hygiene solutions for your workplace, contact us today.

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*Global GreenTag certification is a globally trusted, independently certified, certification standard recognised in over 70 countries.

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at blog.initial.co.za, and our Ambius blog - https://www.ambius.co.za/blog. Life outside of Rentokil Initial mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned twelve, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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