Some soaps and cleansers have a dirty little secret. It is called triclosan, an anti-bacterial that can be harmful to the environment and to humans. Public health and environmental groups have been lobbying for triclosan to be banned from non-medical products for years now. And so I was extremely surprised and disappointed to see it in the facial cleanser made by Oprah’s new favorite skin care line, Lancer RX.

Made by Dr Harry Lancer (a co-author with Oprah’s personal trainer, Bob Greene, of the new book 20 Years Younger), the Lancer RX range is based on three simple steps: “polish, cleanse and nourish”. Given that cleansing is so key, it is a big deal that Lancer RX Cleanse Extremely Pure ($50) should include such a controversial ingredient as triclosan – and at a relatively high concentration.

Triclosan is said to bioaccumulate in humans, rendering some antibiotics ineffective. Lobby groups have also pointed to the fact that studies have linked the chemical to endocrine system disruption, cancer and increased dermal sensitization. And it kills fish, according to estuary sediment samples that date back to the 1960s. In April 2010, the FDA announced that it would review triclosan for safety. Although it said that it "is not known to be hazardous to humans", it noted that animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. It is still under review by the FDA and its use is restricted in Japan and Canada.

Aside from triclosan, there are a few other things that render the name of this Lancer RX cleanser – “Extremely Pure” more than a little ironic.  The top ingredient is sodium laureth sulfate, a detergent that can cause irritation and drying. It should be noted that in Germany a product cannot be labeled ‘natural’ if it contains any members of the sulfate family (lauryl, laureth, or ammonium). I wonder if they’d bend the rules for ‘extremely pure’.

Then there is lauramide DEA, which is an ethoxylated detergent (gentler than a sulfate) that carries the risk of contamination with a probable human carcinogen. The preservatives, methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone are both irritants and the latter is also linked to Alzheimer’s with evidence that it is a neurotoxin.

As I concluded in my earlier post on Lancer RX, the AM/PM Nourishment ($100) cream looks worth consideration despite being on the pricey side. Cleanse Extremely Pure and the exfoliating Natural Sea Minerals Polish ($50) are, on the other hand, bad formulas that are way too expensive. I hope Oprah doesn’t actually use them.

Ingredients in Lancer RX Cleanse Extremely Pure

Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Water, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Lauramide DEA, Glycerin, Glycol Distearate, PEG-800, Disodium EDTA, Sodium PCA, Panthenol, Salicylic Acid, Triclosan, Bromelain, Papain, Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans, Sodium Babassuamphoacetate, Beta Glucan, Lavandula Intermedia Flower/Leaf/Stem Oil, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Methylchloroisothiazolinone/Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance.