Triclosan and triclocarban

Through their use in toothpastes, mouthwashes, soaps, deodorants and cleaning products, anti-bacterial ingredients help maintain healthy bodies and clean homes. 

washing hands with soap

“The use of triclosan at a maximum concentration of 0.3% in toothpastes, hand soaps, body soaps/shower gels and deodorant sticks is considered safe. Additional use of triclosan in face powders and blemish concealers at this concentration is also considered safe.”

European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety

Two frequently talked about anti-bacterial ingredients are triclosan and triclocarban. We have used them for many years for their health and hygiene benefits, and we are confident that they are safe. To respond to consumer preference however, we have identified alternative safe and effective ingredients. In 2015 we stopped manufacturing skin care and cleansing products with triclosan and by the end 2017 we intend to stop using triclosan and triclocarban altogether. We are replacing triclosan and triclocarban with a range of alternatives, including natural and nature-inspired antibacterial ingredients.

Your questions answered

What are triclosan and triclocarban?

Triclosan and triclocarban have been used in home and personal care products for many years. The two ingredients have very similar properties, although each performs better in different types of product. For example, triclosan is used more often in liquid soaps, while triclocarban is used mainly in soap bars. In toothpastes and mouthwashes triclosan helps fight plaque germs, which are the cause of many oral health problems.

Are triclosan and triclocarban safe?

Triclosan and triclocarban have been declared safe for consumer use by expert bodies around the world, including Europe's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) and the US Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel (CIR). In addition, with Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) continually reviewing the latest scientific data, we remain sure that both triclosan and triclocarban are used safely in our products. SEAC also reviews the levels of triclosan and triclocarban in the environment and we are confident that our use of these ingredients is environmentally safe.

If you think triclosan and triclocarban are safe, why are you phasing them out?

We recognise that some people are concerned about the potential impact of triclosan and triclocarban on individuals or the environment and would prefer us to use other ways of delivering hygiene benefits. As we have identified safe and efficient alternatives, we have been able to satisfy consumer preferences and phase out these two ingredients.

Do triclosan and triclocarban cause antibiotic resistance?

Some scientists have expressed concerns that products containing triclosan and triclocarban might cause antibiotic resistance. However, these concerns come from studies that do not reflect how people actually use products. In domestic settings, there is no evidence that our products compromise the effectiveness or increase the risk of cross-resistance to antibiotics. Expert bodies, including the European Union Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, have assessed the safety of triclosan and triclocarban and found no basis for people to stop using products that contain them.

How can I tell if a Unilever product contains triclosan or triclocarban?

Personal care products that include triclosan or triclocarban list it on the packaging. By 2017, none of our products will include triclosan or triclocarban, with our skin care and cleansing products already excluding triclosan since the end of 2015. We will replace them with a range of alternatives, including natural and nature-inspired antibacterial ingredients.

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