Antibacterial lotion may refer to medicated lotions or hand or body lotions or creams that have bacteria fighting properties. These are generally not the same as antibiotic ointments that people would apply to cuts, though some of these may also come in cream or lotion form. Usually the term refers to leave on moisturizers of various types that aid in fighting some germs that come into contact with the skin.
Waterless handwash is constructed on some of the same principals as antibacterial lotion. Yet most versions of this handwash are high in levels of alcohol, and frequent use of this can cause skin drying. While many lotions don’t have an alcohol base, a number of them contain the ingredient triclosan, which has been shown effective in reducing some bacteria on the skin. Many antibacterial soaps also contain triclosan, and to confuse matters, some with high levels of moisturizers can be called antibacterial lotion soaps, meaning they may dry the skin less and feel creamier when applying.
Studies on most forms of antibacterial lotion do suggest that these are effective when they contain triclosan, and may be actually be helpful because lotion remains on the skin. Residue from the lotion may continue to fight more bacteria that gets on the skin after use, though it is hard to tell how long lasting this effect is. These lotions should not replace handwashing, but studies indicate that in between hand washing, using lotion may be most effective in fighting bacteria.
There are some concerns about antibacterial lotion, particularly those types that contain triclosan. Scientists worry that the substance may be contaminating water supply and they have yet to find a way to eliminate it. Another issue exists in the fact that constantly battling bacteria in environments where it is not medically necessary may help create stronger and more resistant bacteria. Though antibacterial lotion does have its uses in medical settings, some doctors have now advocated that people should not use it or antibacterial soap at home unless there is strong medical need for it. In general, regular handwashing with most forms of soap are effective in killing bacteria without making it stronger.
There are many natural ingredients that have antibacterial and antiseptic properties, and people looking for a germ fighting lotion without triclosan can find many other lotion types. Some ingredients to look for include ravensara, tea tree oil and most citrus oils. A number of companies specialize in creating natural lotions, which may be a good alternative to those containing triclosan. These are still usually no substitute for proper handwashing after exposure to germs.