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  • Writer's pictureJoan Rothchild Hardin

Follow Up on AO+ Living Bacterial Skin Tonic

I first wrote about AOBiome’s brilliant new approach to skin health and cleanliness in Living Bacterial Skin Tonic – Instead of Soap?! (June 7, 2014). AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist is a liquid developed by a biotech start up company in Cambridge MA to spray on our bodies in lieu of – or as an adjunct to – taking showers. Showering with most soaps and shampoos kills all the healthy elements of our skin’s microbiome. AOBiome’s new living bacterial skin tonic, made of safe live-cultured Nitrosomonas bacteria, replenishes the biome of microscopic organisms that should live on our skin.

(Source: AOBiome)

From the AO Biome website:

THE SCIENCE Skin has a Broad Systemic Impact A healthy microbiome is necessary for skin to do its work optimally. The human skin microbiome requires Ammonia Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB) to function well.

AOBs Are Everywhere in Nature In the wild, humans had this on their skin – a mutually beneficial working relationship! AOB in the natural environment regulate our nitrogen metabolism. Unfortunately, AOB on our bodies have been impaired by culture and behavior.

Why Does This Matter? Modern hygiene has selectively depleted the natural balance of the skin microbiome particularly affecting AOB. By restoring the appropriate AOB levels, we believe a range of human health conditions could be impacted. AOBiome is interested in exploring potential physiologic effects including:

Improving skin architecture Preventing infection Improving vascularization

AOBs: What I’m spraying on my skin daily to improve my skin microbiome MY EXPERIENCE WITH AO+ SPRAY After waiting a few months for the company to catch up to demand for their new bacterial spray, my first month’s supply arrived in early September 2014: Four spray bottles nestled inside an elegant box  – one bottle for each week – with clear use instructions. Each bottle contains over 100 sprays to least a week at about 15 sprays/day. The bacteria in the spray will survive about a month at room temperature so the bottle I’m using sits on the bathroom counter. The other bottles are stored in the fridge, where they’ll last for at least six months.


AO+ Refresjomg Cosmetic Mist – live cultured ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB). I began using the spray on September 7th immediately after toweling off from a shower – only on my arms, neck and chest at first – instead of my usual Jurlique Lavender Body Care Lotion. I showered using Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Soap (bar version) on my feet, crotch, armpits and lightly on my face. As I was doing before, I’ve continued using Jurlique’s Skin Balancing Face Oil on my face and Erbe’s Orange C Serum around my eyes where the skin is delicate and usually dry. I’ve also continued washing my hair with Jurlique’s Lavender Conditioner about once weekly. (I’ve got fine, curly hair so shampoo isn’t good for it – too drying. Conditioner does a fine job of cleaning out the dirt and excess oils.) BTW, all the products mentioned above contain only high-quality ingredients and no parabens, estrogen disrupters, carcinogens or other harsh, dangerous chemicals. I stopped using antiperspirants many years ago once I understood that the body needs to perspire but, not quite ready to retire my deodorant, I’ve continued using my favorite: Tom’s Long Lasting Deodorant (Unscented). What I noticed right away after that first application was that the skin where I’d applied the AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist smelled like a baby’s skin – a ‘this makes me smile and feel good all over’ scent, not the shitty diaper smell. And after just one application, my skin felt and looked soft, smooth and well-nourished.

After a few days, I started using the bacterial spray on my legs and the tops of my feet too. This skin is usually pretty dry but has become nicely hydrated with the spray. I tried the spray on my face but didn’t like the tight feeling it produced so returned to using face oil. Interestingly, I’ve never felt it at all on the rest of my body. This seemed to be unique to my face. Perhaps I’ll give it another try on my face. That first bottle, with the daily use described above, lasted for 20 days – so clearly I wasn’t using 15 sprays/day. Yesterday, with the second bottle, I started using the spray on my entire body – with the exception of my face, armpits, the parts of my back I can’t reach, and soles of my feet. That probably amounted to 12-15 sprays. I’m thinking I’ll start using it on my hair too starting tomorrow. One of the more interesting things that started happening after two weeks of using the spray on my arms is that some patches of seborrheic keratosis began to dry up. I expect they’ll eventually fall off! This is most welcome.


An example of a seborrheic keratosis. Seborrheic keratosis is a benign skin disorder characterized by rough, raised areas resulting from excessive growth of the top layer of skin cells. Mine are a light brown but they can range from light tan to black. They’re odd looking – like they’re just sitting on top of my skin. They’re sometimes referred to as “barnacles of old age.” How delightful. I’ll be glad to see them go. BACTERIA ARE YOUR FRIENDS


The bottom line is that I’m quite happy to be an early user of AO Biome’s AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist and greatly look forward to its being widely available. My hope is that the existence of this product will help educate people to differentiate between USEFUL bacteria and HARMFUL ones instead of viewing all bacteria as dangerous and in need of being destroyed. I quote Michael Pollan from his wonderful article Some of My Best Friends Are Germs (Pollan, 2013): As a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota.


There’s a difference between good bacteria and bad bacteria. Nurture your good bacteria instead of trying to kill them off. I highly recommend perusing AOBiome’s website, facebook and FAQ for more fascinating information on the needs of the skin microbiome and the science behind their product.

GUT/BRAIN/SKIN AXIS (Bowe & Logan, 2011) (Kresser, 2014) I’ve been writing mostly on the gut microbiome on this site. Here’s information on how the skin flora microbiome fits in:


The trillions of microbes in and on our bodies are key to understanding our health. 70 years ago, dermatologists John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury proposed a gastrointestinal mechanism for the observed overlap between depression, anxiety and skin conditions, such as acne. They hypothesized that emotional states might alter intestinal microflora, increase intestinal permeability and contribute to systemic inflammation. Among the acne remedies they suggested were Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures. Imbalances in the gut microbiota and oral probiotics produce systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, upset glycemic control and tissue lipid content, influence mood and cause skin conditions such as acne. EVIDENCE OF A  CONNECTION BETWEEN GUT PROBLEMS AND SKIN DISORDERS

  • People with acne are also at higher risk for suffering from GI distress, such as constipation, halitosis and gastric reflux.

  • A recent study found that teens with acne and other seborrheic conditions were 37% more likely to have abdominal bloating.

  • People with acne rosacea have been found to be 10 times more likely than healthy controls to have small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition involving inappropriate growth of bacteria in the small intestine. Correcting their SIBO markedly improved their acne rosacea.

  • 14% of patients with ulcerative colitis and 24% of patients with Crohn’s disease also have skin disorders.

  • Celiac disease sufferers are also apt to have cutaneous manifestations, such as dermatitis herpetiformis (occurs in 1/4 of people with celiac). Celiacs also have increased frequency of oral mucosal lesions, alopecia and vitiligo.

  • A recent study showed that a drug used to treat psoriasis is also effective for Crohn’s.

  • In another study, 56 patients with acne who consumed a Lactobacillus fermented dairy beverage for 12 weeks saw clinical improvement.

  • Pasteurized, unfermented dairy is associated with acne but fermented dairy is not.

Scientists are now validating the existence of a gut-brain-skin axis – and recommending oral probiotics to cure and prevent acne and other skin conditions. Noted practitioner of functional and integrative medicine,  licensed acupuncturist, and health blogger Chris Kresser puts it simply:                               If you want to heal your skin, you have to heal your gut. And, as I’ve noted throughout this site, improving your gut flora will reduce chronic inflammation everywhere in the body and keep you from developing allergies, one or more of the many autoimmune conditions and possibly even cancers – or let your body heal if you already have one of these conditions – and also improve your mood.


Your skin is a direct reflection of your digestive tract. 2/25/2016: In another brilliant move, AO Biome has renamed its skin-microbiome friendly spray mist, shampoo, and cleanser MOTHER DIRT.


REFERENCES AOBiome. (2013-2014). facebook.  See: AOBiome. (2014). FAQ. See: AOBiome. (2014). Pioneering bacterial therapy for the skin. See: Bowe, W.P. & Logan, A.C.  (2011). Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis – back to the future? Gut Pathogens, 3: 1. See: Hardin, J.R. (2014). Living Bacterial Skin Tonic – Instead of Soap?! Allergies And Your Gut. See: Kresser, C. (2014). The gut-skin connection: how altered gut function affects the skin. See: Polan, M. (2013). Some of My Best Friends Are Germs. New York Times Magazine, May 15 2013. 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.

Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021

Two updates:

* I used some of the spray on my face last night before bed & didn’t feel any tightness on my skin so will continue using it this way.

* I sprayed my wet hair for the first time yesterday after washing & toweling it off, then let it air dry as usual. My hair was soft & nicely curly afterward so this technique is definitely a keeper.

Joan Hardin

More information on SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and the gut microbiome:

Medical Mysteries: What was causing a woman’s chronic digestive distress?

Sandra G. Boodman

The Washington Post


Joan Hardin

It’s a good idea to not use any soap, especially the Bronners, since castile soaps kill the biome.


In reply to Jenny.

Thanks, Jenny. I know you’re right about castile soaps’ killing the skin biome. One of these days I’ll feel confident enough to stop using the Dr Bronners on those bits and parts. Are you also using AO+ Mist? Do you clean your bits and parts with water only and then spray them?

Joan Hardin

Hi Joan,

I enjoyed reading your comments on the positive experience with Mother Dirt, and many other posts. You sound very informed about health remedies. I found out about the spray at the Boston Ferments Festival, and have been using it for two weeks. I’d like to write a report about it for an innovation class. Would it be possible to speak with you? It would be great to hear your insights.

Best regards,


In reply to Alexa.


I’m very glad you’ve discovered Mother Dirt and have begun using it. It’s a wonderful product. You’ve explored the company’s informative website? Yes to speaking with me. Can it wait a week or so? I’m recently back from a 3 week tour of Iran which was both strenuous and quite

fascinating and still dealing with jet lag. There’s going to be a travelogue with photos posted here – eventually.

Joan Hardin

I’ve recently been suffering from hormone-related cystic acne on my face and Mother Dirt is the ONLY thing that has kept it at bay. I am so impressed with how calm it keeps my skin. And a nice thing to note is that the spray is still effective despite the fact that I use a traditional cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen (all by Vanicream) due to allergies to most plant-based ingredients. It”s wonderful to know I don’t have to radically change my routine and can still reap the benefits.

Mariel Shaw

In reply to Mariel Shaw.

That’s great, Mariel! Have you also posted this on Mother Dirt’s FORUM? I’m sure they’d be interested too.

Joan Hardin


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