Editor's Note: Jasmina Aganovic is still a friend of Mother Dirt, and will always be part of our history as a founder, but is no longer with us as president.
There’s an important dynamic at play between consumers and scientists right now. This is especially evident in the field of the microbiome, which is about the natural microorganisms and microbes present in the human body. Never before has a topic been spoken about so publicly and marketed ahead of extensive clinical and scientific validation.
The microbiome is the ultimate underdog story — most of us grew up having been told that bacteria cause bad things: breakouts, illness, bad smells, etc. Bacteria was simply something to get rid of to ensure we’re our cleanest, healthiest selves.
And so, we cleaned and scrubbed our way to health, or so we thought. Statistics relating to skin health (and health in general) present compelling evidence that our skin is less healthy than it was a generation ago. 80 million Americans suffer from acne, and 1 in 6 children have eczema. Over 50% of adults claim to have sensitive skin, and it’s the fastest-growing category in skincare. We’re cleaner than ever and have more products than ever, yet we also have more skin issues than ever. What were we missing that made our body react so poorly? The answer lies in your skin microbiome, but it wasn’t an easy subject to approach.
In 2014, even though we thought the concept of our skin needing bacteria was going to be a stretch for most people. Our minds were changed when Julia Scott wrote a provocative article for the NY Times called, “My No-Soap, No-Shampoo, Bacteria-Rich Experiment.” It detailed her experience in our early cosmetic clinical study, where she abandoned all modern personal care products, took water-only showers, and applied a live culture of the bacteria found in our AO+ Restorative Mist live probiotic spray to her skin twice a day. She shared what she had noticed about the change in her skin, hair, and body odor (lovely!). Her firsthand, unfiltered review was forwarded and shared with millions of people. It created a wave of unanticipated interest and discussion in live probiotics for the skin.
That’s when we took a step back to understand why we had underestimated public interest in the microbiome of people’s skin and why the article generated the response it did. The skincare article challenged many norms we’ve believed our entire lives — hygiene norms we’ve followed dutifully and continued despite not getting the health and beauty results we expected or hoped for. That article by Julia Scott introduced our research as an entirely new belief system that could also explain why their previous one was not working.
It’s one thing to read words on a page, and another thing to actually experience the results yourself as Julia Scott did. This is the genesis of Mother Dirt. Starting a customer-facing aspect of our research was not part of our original plan, but the review article showed us that a physical product gives people something to interact directly with. It is their personal journey that can challenge cultural bias. The result is our skincare products creating a powerful vehicle for driving this conversation in public health.
And the public interest in skin microbiome-friendly formulas with live probiotics for the skin has helped push the gas pedal on the scientific progress. As we continue making progress in new discoveries in the field, it will be increasingly important that the science remains rigorous and we temper expectations — giving you the results you expect where previous routines to maintain your skin haven’t.
Keep asking questions, keep challenging the norm, and keep pushing for more. Together, we’ll create a world where clean comes with healthy.
President, Mother Dirt