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For centuries now, Louis Pasteur’s pathogenic theory of medicine, in which it is proposed that microorganisms are the cause of many diseases, made many of us afraid of germs and bacteria. “Anti-bacterial” was good, bacteria was bad, and cleanliness was a virtue. H. pylori, which is responsible for ulcers, M. furfur, which causes dandruff, and S. aureus, which causes MRSA and staph infections, often fill the news.
But science has started to question the value of bacteria in the past decade. With about 100 trillion microorganisms in the human body, most of them bacteria, it seemed unfathomable that all of these creatures are working against us. Health and wellness experts have begun to sing the praises of “healthy bacteria”, particularly within the gut, with the promotion of probiotics and prebiotics. And with certain ingredients in antibacterial soaps now being outlawed by the FDA, people are embracing bacteria more than ever.
Applying Healthy Bacteria to the Skin
As within the digestive tract, skin needs to have a healthy microbiome. But, as you might imagine, the strains of bacteria that are beneficial for the highly acidic, absorption-minded digestive tract are quite distinct from the strains needed for the mildly acidic, protection-minded skin.
With probiotic skin care, scientists have identified a few strains of bacteria that are able to improve the appearance of the skin by essentially strengthening it, a term in dermatology known as “improved barrier function” (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2011). The number of independent, peer-reviewed studies not affiliated with any company are still limited. But probiotic skincare has been around for a while, with brands such as Aurelia and Bioesse.
The limitations of existing brands is that these products contain extracts derived from bacteria, not actual live cultures. As probiotic fans know, delivering live cultures to the tissues are important because this is believed to be more valuable in restoring healthy microbiomes. Within the skin, this is believed to create softer, smoother, less dry, and less acne-prone skin.
Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria Appears to Hold Promise
Ammonia is naturally found in your skin, typically in sweat and sebum. More oily skin tends to contain more ammonia.
There is a species of bacteria, called ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, which gets rid of excess ammonia. Early studies have shown that oily and acne-prone skin tends to have too little ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and far too much ammonia.
The skin microbiome companyAOBiome recently partnered with the clinical research company Science 37 in a Phase 2B trial to acquire data on the efficacy of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and to track progress of patients. If you want to hold your own trial at home (joking, sort-of), AOBiome‘s consumer division Mother Dirt also launched the first ever biome-friendly moisturizer, the fourth product in its line, to complement its signature AO + Mist live probiotic spray. This may hold potential in improving the appearance of oily skin, acne, and rough skin.
While I’m not ready to jump on the probiotic skin care bandwagon entirely yet, I am excited at the promise of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in the Mother Dirt biome-friendly moisturizer. I’ll keep you posted as we learn more about this technology!