I Tried It: I Bathed in Live Bacteria for a Month
The Mother Dirt AO+ Mist promises healthier skin and neutralized body odour. Our writer gives it a shot.
The Goal: Healthy Skin
According to the U.S.-based company Mother Dirt, a specific live-cultured bacterium is key to good skin health. Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOBs) live all over the body and are naturally found in sweat. Soaps, deodorants and other products strip AOBs from the colonies of microorganisms that live on skin, also known as the microbiome. The theory goes that when your skin has a strong arsenal of these friendly AOBs, you have less inflammation and reduced body odour. You won’t need skincare products and you won’t need to shower as often, or even at all-take it from the company’s co-founder, who claims to not have showered for over 12 years. 12 YEARS! (#dirtydozen)
The Product: Mother Dirt AO+ Mist
For years, I’ve relied on an aluminum-based antiperspirant, and I want to try using something more natural. Plus, I think the idea of a bacteria spray is super cool, so I’m testing out the AO+ Mist, which contains a strain of safe, live-cultured AOBs.
With the AO+ Mist, you swap soapy showers for bacteria baths. The Mist promises to neutralize body odour; other purported benefits include softer, smoother skin, less oiliness and fewer breakouts.
I ordered the Mother Dirt bundle from the U.S. website, which comes with the AO+ Mist, plus a “microbiome-friendly” shampoo and cleanser. The cost, including flat-rate shipping, came to $77.99 USD, or $103.85 CAD. Plus, the package was dinged with customs taxes, so I paid an additional $23. Ouch!
After my morning shower (water only, no soap), I take the AO+ Mist out of the fridge (refrigeration makes it last longer) and spray my face, scalp, and whole body. There’s no smell and no residue-it’s like spritzing myself with water.
I worked from home, and I only left the house to grab a coffee, meaning I didn’t exactly work up a sweat. By the end of the day, I lift my arms and do a sniff test: Not bad. Hey, maybe the spray’s working!
It’s not working. By afternoon, I catch a whiff of my underarms. It’s…not good. After years of using clinical-strength stuff on my pits day in and day out, I had forgotten what B.O. smelled like. I stink of cooked onions.
The product makes it clear that it takes time-usually weeks-to level out the skin’s microbiome. So I keep spraying myself several times throughout the day. Grow, good bugs, grow!
It doesn’t take long before I start using soap again. I figure I’m rinsing off some AOBs with water anyway, why not use a little soap in the areas that need it?
One day, the odour was so strong, I had to shower mid-day. Another time, I had an important meeting, and I didn’t want to face people reeking of braised Cipollinis, so I brought in back-up: an all-natural, clay-based deodorant cream. Good thing I did, because the mist was no match for stress sweat.
There were a couple of times when I didn’t mist: On a 4-day trip to San Francisco, I didn’t think I could take the spray in my carry-on (turns out the 3.4-ounce bottle would have been fine). Here’s another fail: Mother Dirt advises users to simply spray before and after a workout and skip the shower, but that routine just doesn’t cut it for me. I’m a sweaty beast at the gym and there’s no way I’m walking out of there without showering.
The underarm odour bugged me in the beginning, but by the end, it wasn’t that bad! None of my friends mentioned a ripe smell. I even met with my Best Health editor, who knew I was trying out the mist, and she didn’t say a word. Now I’m much less self-conscious about underarm sweat-that’s a good feeling. [Editor’s note: I wasn’t just being nice; I really didn’t notice a smell!]
I saw changes in my skin, too: My face and arms especially feel hydrated and super-soft. I don’t use many skincare products to begin with-just sunscreen in the a.m. (which Mother Dirt recommends you keep using)-so this hasn’t saved me a ton of money on beauty products. But I am showering and shampooing a bit less often.
My month of bacteria-spritzing was the jump-start I needed to finally make the switch to a natural deodorant. Now, on days where I work from home, I don’t apply deodorant at all, which would have been unimaginable to me a few weeks ago. The AO+ Mist is a bit pricey to buy regularly, but it was worth trying for that confidence alone.