We have an interesting relationship to bacteria—we kill it in the bathroom, but we eat it in yogurt, we're awash in microorganisms 24/7, but we're uncomfortable with the idea of "bacteria" on our skin. Essentially, probiotics (whether internal or external) trick the body into focusing on good bacteria and not the harmful ones that increase inflammation (aka acne, psoriasis, and rosacea).
For most of my germaphobe adult life, when I think about bacteria living on my skin, it's sent me into waves of panic/vigorous scrubbing/preventive measures (a minefield, let me tell you). Recently, though, I've been spraying and rubbing them in with a vengeance. Mother Dirt, Tula, and Aurelia (to name a few) certainly make the whole argument hard to ignore. Take Mother Dirt; The company's clinical division, AOBiome knows that we have become too clean, and by extension, every type of skin issue has shot up as a result. Plus, a growing body of research suggests that blasting bacteria (like I did in my uneducated early days) off our bodies is totally the wrong approach!
Studies have linked bacteria to immune system function and to combating various inflammatory diseases, and recent research around the human microbiome indicates that people are better off letting their "good" bacteria, which support the body's systems, fight their "bad" bacteria, which can cause illness and infection. The Mother Dirt AO+ Mist ($49) I've been playing with looks, feels and tastes like water, but each bottle contains billions of cultivated Nitrosomonas eutropha, an ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) that is most commonly found in dirt and untreated water.
AOBiome scientists say that it once lived happily on us too—before we started over cleaning ourselves—acting as the body's 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. Fact: The MIT-trained chemical engineer who invented AO+ has not showered for the past 12 years!
While most microbiome studies have focused on the health implications of what's found in the gut, these companies are interested in how we can manipulate the hidden universe of organisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) throughout our glands, hair follicles, and epidermis. They see long-term possibilities in the idea of adding skin bacteria instead of vanquishing them with antibacterials, and the vast potential to change how common skin ailments are diagnosed.
I can tell you this: My dependence on soap and deodorants has greatly lessened recently, and I'm still complimented every single day on "smelling" so good in our office...