Interview

Mother Dirt

Run outside and rub your hands in the soil. That’s it. Take the mud and wipe it on your face, smear it on your arms, stain your white t-shirt. Kick off your shoes and splash into the river, soaking the pants you bought last week, leaving you soggy and laughing. When you’re satisfied, walk up onto the grass and plop down – no blanket, no hand-sanitizer – letting the ants crawl on your toes and the clovers tickle your ears. Feels good, right?

If not, it’s probably because the past century of living has taught us that dirty is bad, and clean is good. While that’s not all wrong, there’s an important part of our body’s ecosystem that we now lack: a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy beautifying bacteria, AOB. Scrubbed away with harsh alcohol and toxic soaps, this star ingredient that used to make our ancestors look so radiant has now been wiped from our systems.

Thankfully, Jasmina from Mother Dirt is here to re-introduce this natural skincare savior.

What is the philosophy behind Mother Dirt? What inspired you to start the company?

The basic principle behind Mother Dirt is about challenging common perceptions of what it means to be “clean” and “healthy.” Research is showing that being clean and healthy could mean the opposite of being sterile and this might just be one of the biggest shifts in public health of our generation.

It was always more about the conversation than it was about the products.

I’ve always loved putting together a story around a product, especially a story that’s grounded in science. I love teasing out the pieces that can connect with a broader audience and creating an experience around those. I met Jamie Heywood and David Whitlock, the co-founders of AOBiome in the summer of 2014.

I was eager for the challenge of building a brand around the bacteria and the idea of setting standards for biome-friendliness.

I was fascinated by the bacteria that they were working with and the implications on not only the cosmetics industry, but in the realm of public health as a whole. I knew that in order for the idea to reach large amounts of people, that the way the story was told would be critical to success. I was eager for the challenge of building a brand around the bacteria and the idea of setting standards for biome-friendliness. I spent time at the office before I even officially signed on. We just hit the ground running. A year later, we launched Mother Dirt with the goal of using the brand as a vehicle to have this conversation. It was always more about the conversation than it was about the products.

What is your “Star Ingredient” and how does it work?

It’s called Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria, but we refer to it as the “peacekeeper” bacteria.

We work with a type of bacteria previously existed on the skin, but was removed with modern hygiene. It’s called Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria, but we refer to it as the “peacekeeper” bacteria. It plays a critical role in balance in nature, and the same is true for it’s role on the skin.

The bacteria feed of your sweat and convert it into beneficial components for the skin. We think of it as being a critical part to a balanced ecosystem.

It is among the most sensitive microorganisms in the skin’s ecosystem that we know of today. It was likely removed in the last 50-100 years with the increased use of products with surfactants and preservatives.

The bacteria feed of your sweat and convert it into beneficial components for the skin. We think of it as being a critical part to a balanced ecosystem. Our studies and users confirm that it helps the skin look and feel better, with far less product. Users are able to cut down on products like moisturizers and deodorant, and find that their skin is more balanced, less oily or less dry, and even less sensitive.

Are there natural life habits that will reintroduce AOB to our skin, without the use of additional products?

Pre-modern living, the answer to this would be easy: spend more time outdoors, walk barefoot, swim in lakes, and don’t use products – but this is not feasible given the reality of living in the modern world. We live in concrete jungles and many are not as lucky as others to be able to spend time outdoors.

Because the bacteria is found in soil, when you think about how our ancestors lived: they were walking barefoot, swimming in lakes, rivers, streams – they were basically constantly inoculating themselves with this bacteria. The AO+ Mist is meant to mimic this once natural inoculation process.

Today, this is harder to do. Our environment has changed. Not all dirt is “good dirt” not all lakes are swimmable, sadly. However, spending time outdoors is never a bad idea. Gardening is a great hobby to have.

What are some easy tips for preserving your skin’s good bacteria?

Less is more.

Question what you are using, whether you really need it, and if you need as much as you are using. For example: Some people are so used to lathering up from head to toe, but typically, that’s not really necessary. Focus on the areas that need it.

Drop the anti-bacterial products.

Studies have shown that these are not necessarily more effective than plain soap and water and other basic products. There are environments where these products are absolutely necessary (e.g. hospitals), but in daily life and basic use, definitely not.

Spend time outdoors.

Echoing what was mentioned above, spending time outside and reconnecting with that time when we were kids and it was OK to play and get dirty is good for the spirit and turns out it might be good for your immune system too!

How has your work with the skin biome changed your everyday living habits?

My routine is so much simpler, and my skin is much more stable. It’s also just changed my view on much of the industry and opened my eyes to a whole new way to look at taking care of our skin.

What are some of your favorite skin biome-friendly beauty and wellness products (other than mother dirt; this can be makeup, deodorant, shaving cream, body wash)?

True Botanicals Vitamin C Booster: I put some in my Mother Dirt Moisturizer in the evenings.
May Lindstrom Clean Dirt: For when I feel I need a little extra exfoliation. I love mixing this with water and making it into a thick mask.
• I love these probiotic chocolate bars by Attune, especially the Mint Chocolate Crunch.
• I also love Kefir and drink it almost every day. I typically buy the whole fat option by Wallaby Organic.

Lani Allen

Lani Allen is a junior at Columbia University majoring in Creative Writing with a concentration in Spanish. Having served as Vice President of her class for two years, she has since contributed written pieces and illustrations to many on-campus publications. As a writer with an interest in the beauty industry, Lani intends to pursue a career in either journalism or fashion marketing.

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