Published by
Stanford Medicine

Aging, Cancer, Dermatology, Patient Care, Research, Science, Stanford News

Dilute bleach solution may combat skin damage and aging, according to Stanford study

Dilute bleach solution may combat skin damage and aging, according to Stanford study

3350877893_9d1db3abf3_zIs it time to put away your fancy skin creams and moisturizers? A study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation by Stanford pediatric dermatologist Thomas Leung, MD, PhD, and developmental biologist Seung Kim, MD, PhD, suggests that a dilute solution of sodium hypochlorite (you’ll know it better as the bleach you use for cleaning and disinfecting), inhibits an inflammatory pathway involved in skin damage and aging.

The researchers conducted their studies in mice, but it’s been known for decades that dilute bleach baths (roughly 0.005 percent, or one-fourth to one-half cup bleach in a bathtub of water) are an effective and inexpensive way to combat moderate to severe forms of eczema in human patients.

According to our release:

Leung and his colleagues knew that many skin disorders, including eczema and radiation dermatitis, have an inflammatory component. When the skin is damaged, immune cells rush to the site of the injury to protect against infection. Because inflammation itself can be harmful if it spirals out of control, the researchers wondered if the bleach (sodium hypochlorite) solution somehow played a role in blocking this response.

The researchers found that the bleach solution blocks the activation of a molecule called NF-kappaB, or NF-kB, that is involved in inflammation and aging. They collaborated with radiation oncologist Susan Knox, MD, to investigate potential clinical applications. From our release:

Radiation dermatitis is a common side effect of radiation therapy for cancer. While radiation therapy is directed at cancer cells inside the body, the normal skin in the radiation therapy field is also affected. Radiation therapy often causes a sunburn-like skin reaction. In some cases, these reactions can be quite painful and can require interrupting the radiation therapy course to allow the skin to heal before resuming treatment. However, prolonged treatment interruptions are undesirable.

“An effective way to prevent and treat radiation dermatitis would be of tremendous benefit to many patients receiving radiation therapy,” said Susan Knox, MD, PhD, associate professor of radiation oncology and study co-author.

The researchers tested the effect of daily, 30-minute bleach baths on laboratory mice with radiation dermatitis, and on healthy, but older mice. They found that animals bathed in the bleach experienced less severe skin damage and better healing and hair regrowth after radiation,  and the fragile skin of older animals grew thicker than control animals bathed in water. But don’t ditch the contents of your medicine cabinet just yet– mice aren’t exactly tiny people, and more research needs to be done.

The researchers are now considering clinical trials in humans, and they are also looking at other diseases that could be treated by dilute-bleach baths. “It’s possible that, in addition to being beneficial to radiation dermatitis, it could also aid in healing wounds like diabetic ulcers,” Leung said. “This is exciting because there are so few side effects to dilute bleach. We may have identified other ways to use hypochlorite to really help patients. It could be easy, safe and inexpensive.”

Previously: Master regulator for skin development identified by Stanford researchers
Photo by Shawn Campbell

8 Responses to “ Dilute bleach solution may combat skin damage and aging, according to Stanford study ”

  1. Susan Zanin Says:

    My father, who will be 101 in January 2014, has used bleach on his skin cancer for years. We always made fun of him, but maybe he was on to something! You could use him in a study!

  2. John Clancy Says:

    For many years I have suffered from Psoriasis and used Dovobet and Dovonex to control the condition.

    Would ‘bleach baths’ be more effective or just asking for trouble?

  3. Daniel Clatfelter Says:

    Tried a couple of baths this week after reading. Made my skin feel softer and was relaxing. I would gladly volunteer my time for such research when the time comes.

  4. Katie Magill Says:

    I came across this while doing research on Skin Bleaching of colored skin. I haven’t had a bleach bath in many years. I use to get them a lot when I was a kid when suffering from poison oak or ivy. Every summer was either take care of the rash with a bleach bath or go to the chlorinated pool. This is very interesting to me. I want to know could it be possible that the bleach I absorbed did damage to bones and joints as I often get stiff these days as I reach 60.

  5. Peter Attwood Says:

    Absorbed bleach won’t do anything long term. Sodium hypochlorite is very unstable stuff. It will throw off some chlorine, leaving a tiny amount of sodium hydroxide that will promptly be neutralized, or it will throw off its extra oxygen leaving sodium chloride, ordinary salt. The rime around the top of a bottle of bleach is plain sodium chloride as you can verify by tasting it.

    We need and use a lot of chlorine to keep our salt up in blood and other body fluids, and for hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

  6. neil Says:

    Katie, if your joins are stiff you could try a vitamin D supplement. glucosamine really helps some people too.

  7. Mike Says:

    One time about 4 years ago while slicing chilis I picked up what some called “Hunan Hand” or more medicall called, contact dermatitis associated with capsaicin. Among the various things I tried to remove the burning sensation was putting my hands into a dilute bleach solution, but not as weak as the article above suggested. Immediately after briefly doing this, I rinsed my hands with tap water to remove any of the bleach that might be on them. Unfortunately, it didn’t help my case of Hunan Hand, but, since that time, the texture of the skin on my hands has been softer, less rough.

    With regard to Hunan Hand, nothing seemed to work short of just leaving my hands in water. Water in a bleach solution, Milk, Orange Juice, Alcohol wipes (60%), etc. I ended up going to sleep that night with a bowl of tap water next to the bed, when the pain woke me up, I would put my hands into the bowl of water, the pain would immediately start to subside. After five minutes, the pain disappated, and I could go back to sleep until the pain would wake me up again. However, since then, it’s almost like the bleach smoothed out the skin.

  8. Sammy Says:

    The study discussed says that the rejuvenation effect on skin is short lived – once you stop the dilute bleach baths, the skin goes back to oribinal. So Mike, it is very unlikely that one bleach bath made your skin texture softer. This is a classical placebo …


Please read our comments policy before posting

Stanford Medicine Resources: