The most intriguing new anti-ager may be lurking under your bathroom sink rather than on it. A study out of Stanford University sure to thrill the thriftiest beauty consumer suggests that ordinary bleach may hold the secret to young, healthy skin.
Yep, you read that right. Diluted bleach baths have been used for many years to treat eczema, but researchers didn't really know exactly how it worked. The original hypothesis was that the strong-smelling sanitizer has antimicrobial properties, “but the concentrations used in clinic are not high enough for this to be the sole reason,” study author Thomas Leung said in a Stanford School of Medicine article. He and his colleagues discovered that daily 30-minute bleach baths lessen the severity of radiation dermatitis—a painful, sunburn-like effect of cancer radiation—not by killing topical bacteria or viruses, but by blocking a cell (NF-kB) that’s part of the inflammatory skin response. And there was another unexpected benefit to the NF-kB-inhibiting bleach solution: It made old, delicate skin thicker and younger looking when applied regularly.
But please, please don’t go reaching for the nearest bottle of Clorox quite yet. Although this is incredibly promising research, the study was conducted on mice, not humans. Plus, it was only a .005 percent sodium hypochlorite solution (standard household bleach has about a 5 to 6 percent concentration). With further research, scientists do anticipate a successful treatment in the future. But until that glorious day when something as simple as bleach can thwart aging, stick to products like sunscreen and retinol, which have been tested for their efficacy and safety.