What first arrived was our collective concern over gut flora and fauna that saw us downing bottles of Actamel like they were shots of tequila on a Friday night. Then, the health police came for our beloved antibacterial gel, prising it from our hands with news that it could be the reason we're becoming resistant to certain medications, thus making us more susceptible to disease. And now you can barely turn on the TV without it harping on about saying no to antibiotics during every advert break. Yep, word on the street is that bacteria is, in fact, good for you, and it's a theory that is finally reaching our bathroom cabinets.
You'll have heard a fair bit about the rise of probiotic skincare, aimed to regulate the 'good' bacteria on the skin's surface in order to better it's defences to ageing and the like. But now, those crazy skincare scientists have taken it one step further and captured an actual live bacteria and bottled it up for us to spritz on to our faces. The exact bottle I'm talking about here is the brainchild of new-to-UK skincare brand Mother Dirt and its hero product, the AO+ Mist (£50). Keep scrolling to find out why this brand wants us to spray bacteria all over our bodies and why I, for one, am kinda digging it.
Okay, so let's take it from the top. Why do we need more bacteria? Isn't the stuff we already harbor enough? The answer, as I found out in possibly one of the most fascinating conversations of my life, is no. "If you think about how we human beings used to live, we were much more immersed in the natural world. We would walk barefoot and probably swim in lakes and streams. We hadn’t separated the outdoors to the degree we have today," explains Jasmina Aganovic. "Fast-forward to today, two to three generations later, and we don't spend anywhere near as much time outdoors, plus we've become obsessed with sterility and the whole lather-rinse-repeat mechanism."
Meet the Expert
Jasmina Aganovic is a chemical and biological engineer and co-founder of Mother Dirt bacteria-based skincare. She is also an entrepreneur in residence at Ginkgo Bioworks, Inc. and is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Doesn't really sound like a big deal, does it? Well, turns out, the absence of this bacteria is throwing our skin off balance and leaving our microbiome (the ecosystem living on its surface) vulnerable to aggressors.
But it's not just our skin's radiance at stake here, as Aganovic notes, research is throwing up a correlation between a jeopardized skin microbiome and a weakened immune system. "The ecosystem on your skin is your body's eyes and ears to the external environment," she explains. "As we try to get rid of that bacteria, effectively what we are doing is potentially deafening and blinding that line of communication. It doesn’t really know what’s going on so has no option but to go into fight mode. And that, we believe, is why we have so many inflammatory issues."
Nitrosomonas eutropha is a bacterium that, when applied topically to skin, is believed to improve its clarity, smoothness, and appearance.
So what's the deal with this mist? Your Caudalie Beauty Elixir needn't worry, this won't take up the place of a traditional toner-style face mist in your regimen. "This spray is the very last step after your normal skincare and makeup routine, and you can use it all over the body," recommends Aganovic.
It's just like a super-fine mist and is a pretty anticlimactic experience when you think that you're applying living cultures to your face. But that makes it fit even more seamlessly into your routine. It doesn't feel like anything out of the ordinary at all.
Once applied, the live bacteria within the mist gets to work rebalancing the skin's microbiome. "Sweating is a detoxification mechanism for your body during which some irritating components in your skin raise the PH level of your skin, causing things like odor," explains Aganovic. "This bacteria removes those things by eating them and converting them back into very good compounds for the skin. It's like a recycling process on the skin. In doing that it's doing the pH down to a much better level for the skin and has a rebalancing effect."
And it's this effect on sweat that has 60% of the brand's customers already ditching the deodorant. "This mist is more in line with the body's natural biology than traditional deodorant and antiperspirant because it simply removes the components that the odor bacteria feed off of, rather than killing all (good and bad) bacteria." I wouldn't go as far as to say I'll be giving up my beloved deodorant, but as for the face, I do think my skin is much clearer and rarely gets blotchy.
As for the rest of your beauty regimen, Aganovic understands it isn't exactly realistic to expect us to ditch all our favorite products and stop cleansing entirely, but she does recommend cutting back on products containing harsh surfactants, preservatives and completely forgoing the antibacterial ingredients too. "We don't get that dirty on a day-to-day basis, and water is remarkable at rinsing, so I recommend that when you take a shower, you focus on the key areas that actually need cleansing and simply rinse the rest." And for those bits that do need a bit of love and attention, Mother Dirt has developed a set of three products (shampoo, cleanser and moisturizer) which don't contain the same live bacteria but work in harmony with it and won't strip the skin sterile of all other types of bacteria too. Genius.