Did you shower today? Did you use soap, shower gel or face wash? If so, you may have been harming your skin's natural microbiome. And if you didn’t know that your skin even had its own microbiome, you wouldn’t be alone.
But fear not, Jasmina Aganovic, president of Mother Dirt, a biome-friendly range of skincare products, was on Tuesday’s Today with Miriam to explain what your microbiome is and how you should look after it.
"The skin microbiome is essentially the ecosystem of micro-organisms that exist on our skin… So we’re already familiar with this idea that our gut needs certain types of bacteria in order to function… On our skin, there’s a very analogous system called the skin microbiome, except for its different types of bacteria that exist for different types of reasons."
One of the scientists behind Mother Dirt’s research, David Whitlock, claims that he hasn’t showered in 15 years. Jasmina told Miriam that she’s not proposing that people follow her colleague’s example (he does at least wash his hands, apparently), but she says that our horror at the thought of someone never taking a shower is not backed up by science:
"There’s not much scientific evidence to indicate why showering once a day or twice a day actually helps improve how our skin looks and feels."
Still though, he hasn’t showered for 15 years… Wow.
Anyhow, one of Mother Dirt’s products, AO+ Mist, contains a live culture of soil bacteria which Jasmina claims is native to our skin but has been removed by our modern lifestyles and the chemicals we use in our washing routines.
The bacteria, according to Jasmina, helps keep the skin’s Ph in the normal range. This is where Miriam brought in Dr. Rosemary Coleman, a consultant dermatologist at Blackrock Clinic, who told her that, yes, some people will over-wash their skin.
However, although Rosemary also stressed the importance of not upsetting the skin’s Ph, she wasn’t so sure that we do destroy the bacteria on our skin when we wash:
"With regards to bacteria, we couldn’t wash them all off in an average, proper daily skincare regime even if we tried… Our skins are absolutely covered in healthy bacteria."
Miriam put it to Jasmina that people might be put off at the notion of promoting bacteria on their own skin. Jasmina, as seemed to be the case throughout the discussion, had that covered:
"We want to reframe and recalibrate how we define clean. So, up until recently, we have mostly defined cleanliness by killing bacteria and we’re not trying to completely remove that… So, yes, removing pollution, removing any other toxins we’re exposed to in the environment, but by no means are we trying to completely sterilise the skin."
When you start a new regime like this, Miriam suggested, it usually takes your skin time to adjust. And doesn’t that mean that you’d spend some time being, well… a bit smelly? Apparently not – the mist takes care of that as well: "One of the areas that our users of the AO+ Mist notice is for odours, so they’ll spray it on their underarms or their feet and they find that they are less smelly or that they can forgo deodorant."
So you can forgo deodorant, but keep taking those showers. That’s a relief (for everybody!)
You can hear the full discussion with Jasmina and Rosemary, as well as the rest of the Today programme, above.