Swapping showers for a daily spray of live bacteria

Signal of change / Swapping showers for a daily spray of live bacteria

By Juliette Aplin / 21 Sep 2015

Chemical engineer Dave Whitlock hasn’t showered in over 12 years. Instead, he has been spraying himself twice a day with a bacterial mist. According to those who have met him, he does not smell, and has great skin.

The mist he has been using reintroduces Ammonia Oxidising Bacteria (AOB) onto the skin. This bacteria is often removed by soaps and shower gels, but plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin by converting ammonia (produced by sweat) into nitrate – which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

AOBiome, the biotech start-up founded by Mr Whitlock, has now developed a AO+ mist, cleanser and shampoo publically available for purchase under a line of cosmetics called Mother’s Dirt. These bacteria-based products aim to ‘restore and nurture the skin’s biome’ and challenge us to rethink what it means to be clean and healthy.

So what?

Could this bacteria mist replace our need for soap or reduce our daily water consumption?

AOBiome claims that those using the AO+mist have found their skin to be more hydrated, balanced and less oily. It also notes that users have been able to reduce their use of other products such as moisturisers and deodrants.

The company is continuing to study the skin’s bacteria in the aim of potentially changing how we diagnose and treat serious skin ailments such as acne eczema, rosacea and other inflammatory skin diseases.

It begs the question, what do we mean by being clean? Many hygiene routines are laden with products, but are these actually making our bodies cleaner, or just sterile?

Trillions of bacteria live in and around our bodies, forming what scientists refer to as the human microbiome. Through projects such as the Human Microbiome Project, microbiologists are only beginning to understand the role bacteria plays in triggering fundamental changes in our health and wellbeing.

Although the full extent of its importance is yet to be fully understood, many refer to the microbiome of our bodies as the 'second genome' – responsible for influencing our immune responses, digestion, and possibly even our behaviour.

Could spray-on live bacteria products change our understanding of clean and healthy skin?

Image credit: martinak15 / Flickr

Sources

AOBiome Press Release (July 7, 2015) Mother Dirt Rethinks Clean with First-Ever Line of Biome-Friendly Products for the Skin

New York Times Magazine (May 22, 2014)  My No-Soap, No-Shampoo, Bacteria-Rich Hygiene Experiment

The Financial Times (June 12, 2015) The inside story of the microbiome

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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