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Triclosan is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial used as an active ingredient in skin and oral care over-the-counter (OTC) drug products and as a preservative in water-based consumer products as well as in certain specialized applications, such as textiles and plastics.
In cosmetics and personal care products, triclosan is used as a preservative in water-based formulations for aftershave lotions, bath products, foot sprays, hair conditioners, makeup products, powders, shampoos, shaving products, skin care products, and suntan products.
As a bacteriostatic agent that minimizes body odor from bacteria, triclosan can be found in deodorants, foot sprays, body sprays, and personal cleanliness products. As an antibacterial agent, triclosan is found in over-the-counter (OTC) drug products such as toothpaste and topical antiseptic products for wound care.
As an antibacterial ingredient, triclosan combats gram-negative bacteria, as well as the odor-causing gram-positive bacteria. As a preservative, triclosan is extremely effective in slowing or halting bacterial growth, thereby controlling the growth of odor-causing bacteria and preventing bacterial degradation; this property helps extend the shelf life of everyday products.
View more information about how preservatives protect cosmetics and personal care products.
In addition to its use in cosmetics and personal care products, triclosan is sometimes added to consumer products often exposed to excessive bacteria including athletic wear, socks, and cutting boards, as well as in products that are difficult to wash, such as trash cans, plastic shower curtains, and other plastic items.
Based upon data demonstrating the safety and efficacy of triclosan in fighting gum disease, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of triclosan with fluoride in OTC toothpastes that help prevent tooth decay, plaque, and gingivitis. Additional FDA approvals permit the use of triclosan in antibacterial surgical sutures and in anti-bacterial pre-operative mouth cleansers used in preparation for dental work.
On September 6, 2016, the FDA issued a final rule on the ‘Safety and Effectiveness of Consumer Antiseptics; Topical Antimicrobial Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use,’ concluding that consumer OTC antiseptic products intended for use with water (including antibacterial soaps, hand washes, and body washes) that contain any of 19 specific active ingredients (including triclosan) can no longer be marketed. The FDA concluded that manufacturers had not adequately demonstrated products containing these ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. Prior to the FDA ruling, some manufacturers had already started removing these ingredients from their products.
The safety of triclosan as a preservative and deodorant agent in cosmetics was reviewed in 2010 by the U.S. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR). The CIR Expert Panel assessed an extensive amount of data available for triclosan, including data addressing endocrine disruption and the potential for triclosan to increase bacterial resistance. The Expert Panel concluded triclosan was safe as a cosmetic ingredient in the present practices of use and concentration, even if all products types that contain triclosan were used concurrently, on a daily basis.
European Union (EU)
The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS; formerly known as the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products – SCCP) has reviewed the safety of triclosan on several occasions. In its most recent opinion in 2011 (SCCS/1414/11), SCCS concluded that the use of triclosan as a preservative at a maximum concentration of 0.3% in toothpastes, hand soaps, body soaps/shower gels, and deodorant sticks ("common-use products") is considered safe (see Annex V). Additional uses of triclosan in face powders and blemish concealers at this concentration are also considered safe. The use of triclosan in mouthwashes at a concentration limit of 0.15 or 0.2 % is considered safe for the consumer, whereas higher concentrations (0.3%) are not. Consumer exposure from the use of triclosan in nail products at a concentration of 0.3 % is considered negligible (safe) under the provisions of the intended use. The use of triclosan in other leave-on products (e.g. body lotions) is not considered safe for the consumer due to the resulting high exposures.
Health Canada permits triclosan to be used at concentrations equal to or less than 0.03% in mouthwash and 0.3% in other cosmetic products.
In Japan, triclosan is on the positive list as a preservative for cosmetics up to a maximum concentration of 0.10%.
EU Cosmetics Inventory
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