Is your skin too clean? Here’s why you should stop washing your face with soap


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Washing your (beautiful) mug with your fave milky gel/foaming cleanser/face bar bookends your day as much as your first cup of matcha and p.m. bowl of nice cream do.

But while you’re lathering and splashing off the day’s grime, oil, and dirt with soap, you might be taking something else with it: the good bacteria that make up your skin biome.

“Just like the gut relies on certain types of bacteria to keep it healthy, the same goes for our skin,” says Jasmina Aganovic, president of Mother Dirt, the biome-friendly skin care line that taps hot-off-the-presses clinical research from partner AOBiome.  “As weird as it is to say, our skin is covered in bacteria all the time.”

“Our skin was made to function perfectly normally without the help of all the products we use today.”

Research is starting to show that bacteria could have a big impact on your complexion—and your cleanser could be the culprit getting in the way. “When a living ecosystem is out of balance, it’s difficult for it to do the job it needs to,” says Aganovic. “Strong surfactants have a very disruptive effect on the skin microbiome.”

So is it time to rethink your skin-care routine? According to Aganovic, yes. “Our skin was made to function perfectly normally without the help of all the products we use today,” she says. “We believe the skin microbiome is the basis of beautiful skin.”

Keep reading to find out what happens when you use less soap—and the alternate way to naturally nourish your skin.

Mother Dirt

How your cleanser could be doing more harm than good

Your face-washing routine can deter do-gooder microbes that stave off skin issues including inflammation, sensitivities, and breakouts. Surfectants (like SLS and SDS, the lathering ingredients you’ll find on product labels) and preservatives can eliminate MVPs in swaths.

“It’s a pretty radical concept for the skin because much of hygiene and beauty is centered around the opposite: killing bacteria,” Aganovic says. Plus, knocking your skin out of its happy place could mean you have low bacterial diversity or a lack of the “right” bugs.

“Our lack of interaction with the outdoors, the natural vehicle to build our microbiome, along with modern chemistry have had a large negative impact on this ecosystem,” she says.

Mother Dirt

Why the key could be simplifying your routine

We have more products than ever and we are cleaner than ever, yet we also have more sensitivities and skin issues than ever,” Aganovic notes.

But if throwing away all of your skin-care products feels panic-inducing, Aganovic says that’s not what Mother Dirt is all about. “Instead we are trying to bring the microbiome into the fold of what the industry is already doing.”

We have more products than ever…yet we also have more sensitivities and skin issues than ever.”

To do that, the team built a suite of products including cleanser, shampoomoisturizer, and mist avoiding the ingredients that can strip the good stuff. “We formulate products that feel lovely, are efficacious, and are formulated to be friendly to this ecosystem.”

Making the swap to the full line is great, but Aganovic says there are simple steps you can take to boost your skin biome ASAP. “Nix anything that says ‘antibacterial’ and contains SLS and SDS,” she recommends. “Look for products that have an expiration period measured in months, not years.” Lastly, opt for a deodorant over an antiperspirant with aluminum.

Mother dirt

But if you want to make one change right now, this is it

Mother Dirt’s head-to-toe formulas are also designed to promote one bacteria in particular: Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB). Research shows AOB (super common in dirt and water) is a peacekeeper bacteria for skin, and can help regulate the toxic buildup of ammonia and urea from sweat.

“You can keep every existing part of your routine and simply add our AO+ Mist.” 

And you don’t need to change everything to score it. “You can keep every existing part of your routine and simply add our AO+ Mist,” Aganovic says. 

Spray onto your face after your makeup and SPF in the a.m., and once more onto clean skin before bed. Also: “The bacteria in the mist works better the more you sweat, so it’s great to use before or after a workout so you can double-down on the benefits,” she says. Even better.

In partnership with Mother Dirt

Top photo: Stocksy/ Leandro Crespi.  Photos: Mother Dirt.

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