I recently came across some information from a company called Mother Dirt that I thought was interesting enough to share. The company has developed a line of skin care products, one of which is to deliver bacteria to the skin. Essentially it is probiotics for the skin and the reasoning behind it is based in some interesting science. We commonly see results with the use of probiotics for our gastrointestinal system, so it would make sense that probiotics for our external environment is important too.
The external microbiota
It is a subject that doesn’t get too much attention, but there exists on our skin a “skin microbiome” or “cutaneous microbiome” that protects us. Our skin is our bodies largest organ and modern man’s skin biome has become sterile rather than clean due to our near obsessive use of anti-microbial soaps, deodorants, shampoos and daily showers. All skin and hair products have preservatives in them and this keeps them free of bacteria and gives them a long shelf life but kills the beneficial bacteria on our skin. They also have surfactants which help remove dirt but at the same time change the ph of the skin resulting in damaging sequela. When we examine indigenous cultures, they don’t have the skin problems that modern society has. Acne (even in teenagers), rosacea. psoriasis, eczema and diaper rash don’t exist in their societies. Previously it was thought that it was a dietary reason for this and it might be partly true. However, newer conclusions are showing that it may also be the skin biome that they have on their skin that is protecting them.
Meet the Innovator
David Whitlock is a M.I.T. trained chemical engineer and is the founder of AOBiome, the parent company of Mother Dirt. The letters AO signify ammonia oxidizing. The history of his company came about in 2001 when he was asked by a girlfriend, why her horse liked to roll around in dirt? His hypothesis was that there must be bacteria in the dirt that fed off perspiration. He knew there were bacteria that fed off ammonia so he took samples home and grew the bacteria in an ammonia solution (to
simulate sweat) and found the bacteria that was most prevalent was indeed an ammonia oxidizer. This bacteria, is Nitrosomonas Eutropha, or N. Eutropha. The research is also showing is that not only does N. Eutropha and other “Nitrifying Bacteria” oxidize ammonia, they then convert it into Nitrite and Nitric Oxide. These nitrifying bacteria are found in abundance in soil, rivers, and lakes and help keep a normal ph for the skin. Nitrite helps keep bad bacteria in check and Nitric Oxide is an antioxidant that helps calm and soothe the skin. It is believed that we also may absorb that Nitric Oxide though the skin adding additional benefit but that is still being researched. Having sufficient amounts of N. Eutropha can reduce our dependence on soaps, moisturizers, and deodorants. Increasing the Nitrite and Nitric Oxide on our skin keeps in check potentially problematic bacteria that normally exist on our skin like P. Acne, and Staphylococcus, and may protect against MRSA infections and diabetic skin ulcers.
David Whitlock started AOBiome and Mother Dirt to provide products to people with a newer way to protect our skin by applying these ammonia oxidizing bacteria externally to our skin. There is no danger to it. N. Eutropha applied to an area, even where there is an open cut, or in your eye will not cause an infection. Development of their products is in its early phase and their products do have a short shelf life, but the idea of what they are doing is a novel approach to treating dermatological problems. The product AO+ Mist has N. Eutropha in a topical spray to be applied twice a day to areas that tend to sweat more such as the scalp, face, underarms, groin and feet. It would also be beneficial to apply after swimming in a chlorine pool.
Too much information?
The scientists behind Mother Dirt products practice what they preach. While they do agree that hand washing is a vitally important daily function, here is how some of the principals of the company approach the use of their products. David Whitlock is a bit eccentric and outside of some washing of private areas, has not showered in 12 years! He claims and people who have interviewed him claim that his applying AO+ mist to his skin has not resulted in any body odor. Larry Weiss MD, along with Jasmina Aganovic President of Mother Dirt who is a biological and chemical engineer from M.I.T., do shower but have used the products on a daily basis in lieu of commercial cleansers. While not everyone who uses their products totally go without soaps, the company claims that 60% of their customers stop using deodorants and a good portion of them drastically reduce their use of soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, and deodorants while seeing improvements with their skin. Julia Scott in a May 2014 article for the NY Times detailed her experience with the products from Mother Dirt and was pleasantly surprised by the results.
Check out the NY Times Article
Presently the company has three products. There is a shampoo, a face and body cleanser, and then there is AO mist which contains the N. Eutropha. The company claims that people usually see a change within two weeks of use!
The mist should be refrigerated to enhance its shelf life from 4 weeks unrefrigerated to 8 weeks refrigerated. I just became a wholesale distributor so if any patient wants to try the products let me know, and through the month of September I will have them available to patients at cost which is 35% off the price online. My cost for the shampoo is $6.00, the face and body cleanser is $10.00, and AO+ mist is $32.00.
If anyone has a skin problem and sees an improvement with their products, I would be interested in hearing about it!