No But Seriously: Replacing Soap With Bacteria Might Be the Secret to Perfect Skin


Soap and human decency, who needs it?

Science writer Julia Scott, gave up shampoo and soap for a clinical trial testing AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist, a living bacterial skin tonic that could make you less reliant on soap, deodorant and shampoo in a month. The sample came from AOBiome, a company that researches and develops applications to improve skin conditions and overall health without losing any Facebook friends in the process. (Side note for bacteria-wary product junkies: the good news is that the bacteria doesn’t have gluten.)

Her essay in the New York Times magazine today is an insightful study of the product comedown. Her revelation was that the bacteria we kill with products actually improved things for Scott. For the most part.

During this trial period, she gave herself a three-minute rinse without products. Getting cleaner by not showering and trusting bacteria to do the cleansing and beautifying naturally sounds like trying to recover from a fever in a fun house, but here are Scott’s encouraging results.

1. She asked her office mates to venture within grime-smelling distance of her, but they didn’t notice a difference after a few days except for her hair, which got greasy.

2. Her hair turned one shade darker, “for being coated in oil that my scalp wouldn’t stop producing.”

3. Further down the line, she had regrets, but she still didn’t go back to soaping and shampooing. “Mortified by my body odor, I kept my arms pinned to my sides, unless someone volunteered to smell my armpit,” she said.

4. But when she worked out, she misted herself with the tonic and reported that she smelled better. The odors she did have weren’t as bad as what they would be after a workout normally, and her feet didn’t smell the least bit.

5. Her skin, even in the polar vortex hell freeze, got smoother and softer.

6. Her breakout-prone skin was clear.

7. In the end, she trashed all her products and is going with a fragrance-free shampoo and a small collection of natural products.

She encountered living proof that this can work. Jamie Heywood, chairman of the AOBiome board, showers using soap on his body once or twice and month and shampoos only three times a year. No matter how effective his new hygiene regimen is, hopefully Valentine’s Day is one of those days. David Whitlock, the inventor AO+ had not showered in the past dozen years, but he takes a sponge bath every now and then. Scott said, “I met these men. I got close enough to shake their hands, engage in casual conversation and note that they in no way conveyed a sense of being “unclean” in either the visual or olfactory sense.”

Even the TSA couldn’t taze my Frederic Fekkai out of my hands, and the idea of this mist or baking soda and apple cider vinegar like some people are doing sounds questionable. In spite of all that, Scott’s eye-opening experience is still enormously readable for being stuffed with science.

[New York Times]

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