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  • Writer's pictureJoan Rothchild Hardin

AO Biome: Clean vs Sterile

AO Biome, the brilliant skin microbiome company that’s bringing us the live, Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacterial spray AO+ Mist, is now beta-testing two new products especially formulated to be supportive to the live bacteria (Nitrosomonas) in their spray: A shampoo and a skin cleanser, both skin biome friendly. Having signed up to be an early user of AO+ Mist, I’m one of the lucky people to have received free samples of their new shampoo and cleanser. Both arrived yesterday so I’m looking forward to testing them out. As the printed material that came with the new products says: HUMAN: THE ECOSYSTEM To think of ourselves as only a body and a mind is to limit our understanding of what it means to be human. In reality, we’re much more than that. We’re a vibrant, diverse ecosystem. Invisible to the naked eye, our bodies play host to trillions of microorganisms. Each plays a different role, some more important than others. Just like our gut relies on good bacteria and probiotics to help us be healthy, our skin regularly relies on microorganisms to maintain its function and health. This elaborate ecosystem is called the skin biome. RETHINKING CLEAN Today, our skin biome faces many challenges. Our obsession with cleanliness & sterility has created a difficult environment for many beneficial organisms to survive. Furthermore, because much of our biomes are shaped by our natural environment, urban living has made it difficult for us to re-establish or maintain beneficial bacteria that we’d be regularly exposed to in nature. These modern chemistry and lifestyle shifts have undermined this ecosystem, making it less diverse and leaving us more susceptible to many challenges including sensitivity, irritation and other skin problems. WHAT WE DO: To reverse this, we need to embrace the skin for the living ecosystem it is and help it reconnect with the balanced state that it once had. That is why it’s our mission to create products that enhance and protect the skin biome. We believe restoring and maintaining beneficial bacteria is the answer to healthy skin and a great first step to a healthier lifestyle. BIOME-FRIENDLY PRODUCTS Part of a healthy biome is putting the good bacteria back on (as we do with the AO+ mist). The other piece of it is making sure that the products we do use do not hurt the good bacteria of the skin. This is where our next two products come in: The biome-friendly shampoo and cleanser. Our shampoo and cleanser have been formulated, tested and screened for their friendliness to the skin biome. This means that it will not harm the beneficial bacteria of the microbiome, specifically the AOB found in your mist. Both products are unpreserved. The reason for this is because all preservatives we’ve tested to date have been found to harm the AOB in the mist. HOW ARE THESE DIFFERENT FROM THE AO+ MIST? Both of these products are different from the AO+ Mist in that they do not contain a live bacterial culture. However, they’ve been formulated for their friendliness to the good bacteria of the skin (specifically the AOB in the AO+ Mist), making them the perfect complement to the mist. WAIT I THOUGHT YOU GUYS SAID SOAP IS BAD? Many people have perceived our story to be about “not showering” or “not using soap/shampoo.” Trust us, we’re definitely not saying that we shouldn’t bathe! We’re merely saying that we’ve confused “clean” with “sterile” and that this distinction is causing more harm than good. Why? Because our obsession with clean is all about removal of bacteria. In doing so, we’ve been removing the beneficial and necessary ecosystem that is our skin microbiome. (Emphasis added by me – they’re making a most important distinction and I don’t want you to miss it.) Instead, what we’re proposing is formulating products that take the biome into account. This way we can still create a routine for ourselves with little sacrifice. This is one of the many reasons we’re excited to launch these two products – it will help fix this narrative and create more flexibility for people to cultivate a healthy biome.

You can read more about how to nurture your own skin microbiome at the AO Biome website: 2/25/2016: In another brilliant move, AO Biome has renamed its skin-microbiome friendly spray mist, shampoo, and cleanser MOTHER DIRT.


REFERENCES AO Biome. (2014). See: © Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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