If you’re one of those folks who cannot function without taking at least one super-thorough shower a day, this article is probably going to make you cringe.
Hopefully you haven’t reached your New York Times free-online-article quota for the month, because there is an intriguing new first-person essay from writer Julia Scott about her experience as a subject in a trial for a new skincare product called AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist.
This isn’t your typical beauty product review, though.
AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist, by AOBiome, is made up of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria called Nitrosomonas eutropha (or N. eutropha), which is typically found in dirt and untreated water. And just like you would instinctively do with dirt and untreated water, you spray it all over your body. Don’t wash it off, though. In fact, don’t wash yourself at all. Like, ever.
But why? WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THIS?
“AOBiome scientists hypothesize that it once lived happily on us too--before we started washing it away with soap and shampoo--acting as a built-in cleanser, deodorant, anti-inflammatory and immune booster by feeding on the ammonia in our sweat and converting it into nitrite and nitric oxide,” Scott writes.
Oh, so it’s an ancestor thing. It’s like a paleo diet for your skin! (OK, it’s not.)
Anyway, Scott didn’t use cleansers on her skin and hair for a month, allowing herself just three-minute water-only rinses in the mornings. That sounds pretty extreme until you hear that AOBiome’s founder hasn’t taken a traditional shower in 12 years.
Scott says that, at first, she was mortified by hair so greasy people asked if she’d dyed it and body odor that friends compared to onions and pot. But then, her skin changed for the better.
“It actually became softer and smoother, rather than dry and flaky, as though a sauna’s worth of humidity had penetrated my winter-hardened shell,” she said. “And my complexion, prone to hormone-related breakouts, was clear.”
As her test came to an end, she was reluctant to go back to “normal” cleansing products. She asked the AOBiome guys which products would be most likely to strip her skin of the bacterial Lilliput that had colonized there, and they told her antibacterial soap (duh), and pretty much anything with sulfates.
But even though she carefully picked new cleansing products, her final skin swab revealed that her new microbial friends had been washed away in just three showers.
“Billions of bacteria, and they had disappeared as invisibly as they arrived. I had come to think of them as ‘mine,’ and yet I had evicted them.”
AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist isn’t available for purchase yet, but you can sign up on the AOBiome website for pre-sale info if you’re into that kind of thing.