Last week in class we learned about the innate immune system. One component of this was the skin and its acidic environment which deters microbes such as bacteria from entering our body. Therefore, when we wash our hands with soap, which is typically basic, we are essentially buffering or neutralizing this natural defense that we have.
So why don't we use acidic soap? That's the question I asked myself as I pictured a row of neatly stacked, yellow, soapy lemon bars sitting enticingly upon a bathroom counter-top. However, this isn't the case in our everyday lives. Why?
Because it turns out that it doesn't really make a difference. A study done in 2013 in an intensive care unit recruited two groups of ICU patients -one group of patients which used an acidic hand wash and another group which used a normal hand soap. It was found that there was no significant difference in the micro-flora of the hands between these two groups, indicating that the basicity of soap doesn't have any long lasting effects on the bacterial levels or composition of the hands. However, it was found that the pH of the skin was consistently higher on those patients that used normal soaps than those who used the acidic cleanser. While this increased pH of the skin did not lead to an increase in bacterial colonization or an altered micro-flora, this pH increase may have other consequences.
If you want to read more about the study, here's a link to the paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0964339713000268