Mon, Aug 12, 2019 - Page 8 News List

‘I don’t smell!’ Meet the people who have stopped washing

A growing number of people are eschewing soap and trusting bacteria to do the job instead — and an entire industry has sprung up to accommodate them

By Amy Fleming  /  The Guardian

After co-founding the company AOBiome in 2013, Whitlock launched it as a spray: Mother Dirt AO+ Mist, billed as containing “ammonia-oxidising bacteria (AOB), a peacekeeper that once existed on our skin, but was cleaned away with modern hygiene and lifestyles.”

As most people still want to take showers and purchase nice products for their skin, the Mother Dirt range now includes hair, face and body washes free from preservatives and detergents.

Michelle Strutton, a global beauty analyst at the research firm Mintel, says that while probiotic skincare still has a low market share, it has increased more than 300 percent from 2015 to this year, “so it is definitely an area that’s worth watching.”

For example, the French brand Gallinee uses lactobacillus bacteria “deactivated by heat,” while LaFlore, a US brand soon to launch in the UK, suspends microbes in a “gel matrix.” What exactly makes a product “microbiome-friendly” or “probiotic”, however, can be hard to pin down.

“There isn’t a whole lot of definition for things like natural probiotics,” says Kit Wallen Russell, the co-founder of the British startup JooMo. “There’s no regulation in the cosmetics industry, which means it’s the wild west for companies saying their products do certain things.”

JooMo’s products don’t contain live cultures, but they are preservative-free and, Wallen Russell says, create the conditions for microbes to be attracted from the environment.

Hard evidence is lacking in this field. There are no studies demonstrating the negative effects of soap or overwashing.

“It sounds like something people just say and pass around like: ‘Well, that makes sense to me,’” says Julie Segre, a senior investigator in microbial genomics at the National Institute of Health in the US. She says there is limited medical evidence for the efficacy of skincare targeting the microbiome.

“My position is there’s a lot of promise in this field, but we need a lot more basic science.”

Even in her own clinical work with childhood eczema, she says, there is a long way to go before microbes could become part of medical intervention — although that is not to say there is no potential. Segre singles out the possibilities of prebiotic ingredients “where you put creams on your skin that can help the beneficial microbes grow.”

While Mother Dirt, as a cosmetic brand, makes no health claims, its owner, AOBiome, is a pharmaceutical company running clinical trials on a surprising array of treatments: not only acne, eczema and rosacea, but also allergic rhinitis, hypertension and migraine. Whitlock says that, after using AOB, he was able to stop taking a drug for his high blood pressure, a result that was replicated in AOBiome’s acne study.

“When we looked at the safety data, people’s blood pressure dropped,” says Jim Hoffman, one of the company’s directors. “Nobody’s blood pressure dropped dangerously. All of a sudden, you’re looking at hundreds of people and saying there’s really something here.”

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