Why Showering With Bacteria Is The Future Of Hygiene

Warning: After reading this, you may stop bathing!

Ok, maybe that’s an overreaction.

But at the very least, we hope that this episode of the Optimal Performance Podcast forces you to pause, consider and maybe rethink your beliefs on personal hygiene.

As you’ll hear from industry leader Jasmina Aganovic, our modern personal care products are steeped in 100 year-old misinformation that the burgeoning chemical industry pushed onto the personal care industry in the late 1800’s.

Fortunately, modern-day scientists are conducting research that shines light on these missteps and provides answers for how we should be caring for our skin and addressing our personal hygiene.

And it turns out, more bacteria and less sterilization may be the answer…

Confusing Sterile and Clean Actually Leads To INCREASED Inflammation

“Virtually every modern skin condition is rooted in inflammation and if you look at how we’re treating our skin, we’ve confused clean and sterile and that has believed bacteria is a bad thing and that has dictated so much of the personal care industry.”

Like our gut, our skin has a microbiome of it’s own.

Our largest organ and first line of defense, our skin uses bacteria as a go-between to communicate with our environment and our immune system. The personal care industry is built on products that wipe out this microbiome and sterilize our skin – leaving our skin “blind” to it’s environment.

Without communication or sensory input from the outside world, our immune system goes on the offensive – living in a constant state of inflammation. This is the underlying cause of most of today’s skin issues.

There’s more.

Much more, including the elimination of toxic ammonia, using bacteria sprays to replace deodorant and moisturizers, and tips to care for your skin at every age.

MIT-trained Biological and Chemical Engineer Jasmina Aganovic of Mother Dirt is here to explain and entertain. Enjoy!

What you’ll hear from Jasmina Aganovic and Mother Dirt about our skin microbiome:

  • Similar to the gut, our skin has a microbiome that is crucial to our overall wellbeing future of hygiene
  • How modern hygiene has negatively impacted our skin microbiome – and what that means for your health and hygiene habits
  • Clean and sterile are not the same thing – why you need some bacteria in your life
  • How over-sterilization actually does more harm
  • Find out which personal care product ingredients you need to avoid
  • How the chemical industry determined the course of the personal care industry in the late 1800’s – and why it’s time for a change!
  • Ammonia Oxidizing Bacteria (AoB’s) and why you should be covering skin with this bacteria!
  • Science lesson: the nitrogen cycle and the toxic by product ammonia
  • No more deodorant? How an AoB spray can remove your need for deodorants.
  • Modern humans exist in a state of nitropenia – an unhealthy state of nitrogen deficiency. Learn how Mother Dirt is investigating possible solutions to this through the use of AoBs
  • Stripping our skin of it’s natural bacteria removes the communication between our skin cells, brain and the environment – causing our skin to go into an “offensive” and alarmed state – otherwise known as chronic inflammation. This mechanism is believed to contribute to most modern diseases of inflamed skin
  • Join the AoLabs program and be a part of Mother Dirt’s beta-testing team!
  • Get 25% OFF your first order + FREE Shipping with coupon code FREESHIP25 (link below)
  • Your skin care needs for each decade from your 20’s to your 50’s and beyond
  • Where you can get more of Jasmina and Mother Dirt
  • Jasmina’s Top 3 Tips to #LiveOptimal
  • BONUS: Jasmina’s 2 Book Recommendations

Links & Resources

Mother Dirt


Podcast with Paul Jaminet, author of The Perfect Health Diet

BiomeFriendly.com the screening platform for personal care products and ingredients

Skin Deep – The Environmental Working Group (EWG’s) recommendations for personal care products



Jasmina’s Book Suggestions:

  1. Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  2. Originals by Adam Grant

Post your questions below and we’ll answer them on a future podcast episode.


Why Showering With Bacteria is the Future of Hygiene

Ryan: You are listening to the Optimal Performance Podcast sponsored by Natural Stacks. If you’re into biohacking, performance or getting more out of life, this is the show for you! To learn more about building optimal performance into your life, check out naturalstacks.com.

Alright, happy Thursday all you optimal performers! I’m your host Ryan Munsey. Welcome to another episode of the Optimal Performance Podcast. I wanna offer a warm welcome to our guest this week, MIT trained biological and chemical engineer Jasmina Aganovic. So, Jasmina, thanks for hanging out with us today!

Jasmina: Yeah, thanks for having us!

Ryan: So, for our listeners, you are the president of Mother Dirt. You’ve got quite an extensive background in consumer products in the cosmetics industry. And, you know, as we just said you have – correct me if I’m wrong – you have both biological and chemical engineering degree from MIT.

Jasmina: Mhm, yes.

Ryan: Alright. So, we’re impressed by that. We like big brains around here. So, today we’re gonna talk about our skin biome, which is something that’s pretty interesting for biohackers. We hear a lot about gut biomes and we know that that’s very connected to our overall health, our brain performance. So, this is gonna be a really cool episode for you guys. Sit back and enjoy this one. Before we get to Jasmina’s expertise, a couple of housekeeping notes. As always, go to naturalstacks.com so you can see the video version of this and get any of the links and show notes for the resources that we talk about today. And also, if you have not done so, please head over to iTunes, leave us a 5* review and let us know how much you like the show. Alright, let’s get going. Jasmina, so, I guess, tell us, like I said already we’re familiar with gut biome. What is our skin biome?

Jasmina: So, similar to the gut, the skin microbiome is also an ecosystem. It’s a collection of micro-organisms that, similar to the gut, seem to play a really important role in the health of our skin.

Ryan: Okay, cool. So, what should it look like or – or what should that environment be and what is the reality of most people?

Jasmina: So, similar to the gut – and I hate to kinda keep, kind of restating that statement but science is early on as it is for the gut. Thankfully the skin microbiome is a little bit simpler. But to answer your question, we don’t know what the healthy or the perfect skin microbiome looks like. But what we do know it that modern hygiene has severely affected it. And the fact that we spend a lot of time indoors and very little time outdoors, modern lifestyles basically, has severely affected that. And we believe it’s the link to why so many inflammatory skin disorders exist similar to why we’re seeing a lot of inflammatory gut disorders. And so that’s really the area that our research is – is focusing on.

Ryan: Alright, cool. So, I guess, inflammatory skin conditions you’re talking about psoriasis, eczema, things like that?

Jasmina: Virtually every modern-day skin condition, believe it or not, is rooted in inflammation. And if you look at how we’ve been treating our skin, we’ve kind of confused clean and sterile along the way. We’ve always believed that bacteria’s a bad thing for the skin and that’s dictated so much about the personal care industry and so much of the products and their functionality that we use.

Ryan: Yeah, you guys have a saying called ‘rethink clean’. So, tell us what you mean by that.

Jasmina: Yeah, well we, as it says, we wanna rephrase and restate what clean is. For a really long time, we’ve believed that clean means killing 99.9% of bacteria. And if you ask anyone about what a clean countertop is or what, you know, clean hands are, that’s really what they’ll say. But we’re learning that that’s not true, that clean defined as sterile does not equal healthy. So, we want to go back to clean that comes with healthy and see how we can rephrase it that way. And then the comparison that I always like to draw to the gut is this idea of clean eating where we eat whole foods and we seek out certain foods for their bacterial content as part of clean eating and yet on the skin we’re still very far away from accepting that. So, the gut has definitely pioneered an acceptance of bacteria that, you know, we’re trying to get there with – with the skin.

Ryan: Okay. So, if we wanted to joke about it we could say that we want kinda like sauerkraut or probiotics for our skin.

Jasmina: That’s a good way of putting it, although sauerkraut on the skin doesn’t sound too fun. It sounds messy.

Ryan: It does, it does. So, I guess, then you’re saying that we should not be using hand sanitizers?

Jasmina: So, here’s what I will say. From a scientific perspective, the studies that have analyzed the effectiveness of hand sanitizers versus washing your hand with plain soap and water show a very negligible difference between the 2. But more importantly is the fact that we have integrated hand sanitizers and products that are meant to sanitize for not just our hands, which admittedly are touching a bunch of quote-unquote dirty things on a constant basis. So, if we were to be very meticulous about killing bacteria, the hands should be an okay place to do it. But we’ve applied that to our entire body’s hygiene and the reality of it is is, like, my shoulder doesn’t get nearly as dirty as my hand so why would I sanitize my shoulder as much as I do my hands? So it’s about recalibrating expectations on that and – and also recognizing that sanitizing is probably not necessary for most people unless you work in a hospital, for example.

Ryan: Okay, cool. So, you know, along those lines, you guys have – at Mother Dirt you guys make some really cool products and we’ll talk about some of them. The AoBs we’ll get into. But, since we’re talking about cleaning the shoulder, I guess, what’s the difference between the cleaner or the shampoo that you guys have versus what you might see in a supermarket with regular soaps and body washes?

Jasmina: Sure. So I’ll start off by saying that similar to the gut, the skin is an ecosystem. And what we’re learning about the different parts of the body as it relates to the skin is that they are all different ecosystems. So, if you think about what the ecosystem of your armpit is gonna be, it’s gonna be different from your face, it’s gonna be different from your hands. So, that’s an important statement to be able to – to make. Um, most products out there contain harsh surfactants, things like SLS and SDS, to which most bacteria are very sensitive, especially the good guys that tend to be pretty sensitive anyway. But more importantly, the whole industry is built around the idea that bacteria is bad. So, everything from the fact that they all include preservatives to the fact that the QA and the QC process is created to make sure that no bacteria can grow in the products. All of these products are formulated with these things in mind. So, if you think about any product that you use, even if you’re a low-maintenance person, they all contain preservatives and preservatives are formulated to prevent bacterial growth. So, imagine lathering and slathering that stuff on multiple times a day and what that’s going to do for the ecosystem of your skin. So, that’s a big one that we like to point out and it goes to show how deeply entrenched the industry has been since, really, the 1800’s on this idea that bacteria is bad.

Ryan: How did that philosophy come about? Where does that come from, do you know?

Jasmina: It was – it was largely a timing thing. Right around the time that the chemical and the personal care industry was starting to grow, this was like the 1880’s and the 1890’s, that was also – I think the year was 1879 that bacteria was officially linked to disease. And we learned more about bad bacteria than we did about good bacteria. We didn’t know this idea of good bacteria until fairly recently. So, the timing of it was very coincidental. We knew that bacteria caused disease a few years before this personal care and chemical industry started growing. So, it was a big influencer from the get-go.

Ryan: Okay, so we’ve just always had this thought process of just kill it all and –

Jasmina: Yes.

Ryan: – like you said, sterilize. Okay.

Jasmina: Yeah.

Ryan: So, you mentioned a couple of ingredients. Do you have maybe some kind of a resource or a list that we can put on our blog with the, you know, the video version of this so we can say: ‘Hey, click this link or look at this pdf and these are all the ingredients that you wanna try to avoid in your skin care products,’?

Jasmina: Great question. And we hope to one day. If – if your listeners are interested they can go to biomefriendly.com. This is kind of a landing site for this area of research that we’re focusing on. We started getting that question a lot, where people wanted to know what to go for and what to avoid. So, what we’ve developed is a screening platform for ingredients and raw materials so that we could create our own product but maybe perhaps one day also certify other people’s products. We’re really early on, so we aren’t at the point to be able to create a definitive list. But the other important thing that we realized along the way is that it’s not just singular ingredients, it’s interactions between ingredients. So, it really comes down to the formula.

Ryan: Right.

Jasmina: So, if you see that a formula doesn’t have SLS, which I definitely can say is a culprit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be biome-friendly. So, the biggest guidance that we can give people at this point of time is just anything that has a preservative in it is probably not going to have a great effect on the biome. But that’s a really wide net and it makes it a little bit difficult to maneuver in today’s era of personal care. So, we’re trying to develop that a little bit more before we can give people, kind of, specific insights that are truly accurate.

Ryan: Okay, alright. So, let’s talk about these ammonia oxidizing bacteria. What are they and how did you guys become, you know, so involved with them?

Jasmina: Sure, so we call these bacteria, we call them AoB for short because ammonia oxidizing bacteria is just way too long and hard to day. We call them the peace-keeper, the peace-keeper bacteria and there’s a very specific reason for it. This bacteria’s actually found everywhere in nature. You’ll find it in the ocean, you’ll find it in the dirt, kind of, hence where we get the name Mother Dirt from. They’re really a soil bacteria, so anywhere that the soil touches you will find this bacteria. And if you think about how we as humans used to live, we were way more immersed in the environment, we were way more immersed in nature. We were walking barefoot; we were swimming in lakes and rivers and streams. And we were constantly inoculating ourselves with this stuff. But this bacteria happens to be sensitive to preservatives, to SLS and SDS. So, if you look at how our modern hygiene has evolved and also the fact that we don’t spend time outdoors we’ve basically eradicated it from modern human skin in the last 50-75 years is what we approximate. So, the next question becomes: why is this bacteria really important for the skin? Um, I’ll put it this way: if we removed this bacteria from the soil in a potted plant, that plant would die. If we removed this bacteria from any ecosystem, let’s say a rainforest, that rainforest would die. The reason for that is because ammonia in and of itself is toxic. The – I don’t know if you guys know the nitrogen cycle, I don’t wanna get too technical but in basic biology they teach you about something called the nitrogen cycle. And ammonia is one of the waste products of it. And this bacteria consume that and convert it back into the cycle to that things can continue on happily. If ammonia builds up, then it becomes toxic and then eventually that ecosystem can’t function and the toxicity brings the ecosystem down. So this bacteria’s incredibly crucial in making sure that the cycle can continue. So, anywhere in nature where you will find ammonia, you’ll find this bacteria, which is virtually everywhere in nature. The only exception is modern human skin. Through our sweat, we are constantly producing ammonia. And so, it begs the question: why doesn’t human skin have it today? So that was a little bit of kind of the seed um, the seed for us.

Ryan: Okay, cool. So, the way our audience thinks is we have this problem, how do we fix it? So it sounds like the solution is to expose ourselves to dirt more or be outside more.

Jasmina: Be outside, yeah.

Ryan: Okay. And to stop stripping ourselves of those AoBs, you know, through the over-sterilization when we clean our self.

Jasmina: Yes. Our philosophy is less is more. So, if you already have a minimalistic routine, which I – I would believe that a lot of your listeners do, good for you. And we’re kind of pushing in that direction. And along that philosophy, what we’re finding with our users when they – when they – basically, it’s a spray, it’s a live bacterial spray – when they spray it back on their skin they actually find that they can use less. So, deodorant is a big one for us. We’re, like, 60% of our users are able to stop using deodorant. And the question is, like, how? How is that possible? Because we’ve become so pre-conditioned to believe that we need all of these products, especially things like deodorant.

Ryan: So, what’s going on – if we spray it in our armpit then, you know, for somebody who may be a skeptic will that, I guess, give them some reassurance. You spray it in your armpit and –

Jasmina: Sure. So, why don’t I talk about the mechanism of the bacteria? So, we talked about the fact that it consumes ammonia. And the fact that it does that is really important. Ammonia on the skin has a high pH and disease states are typically associated with high pH’s. The build-up of ammonia is what causes diaper rash in babies, just to give you a sense of really how toxic it is. So, the fact that it removes that is good in and of itself, it brings the pH down to a healthy level. But then where it gets really interesting is what the bacteria outputs. So, they consume the ammonia and then they turn it into something. So, there are 2 things that are produced as by-products. One is nitrite and the other is nitric oxide. So, they’re kind of big words in and of themselves. But nitrite functions as – in medical literature it’s called an anti-infective, although we don’t really push it as that. But the mechanism that we see happening there is that it helps keep the bad bacteria at bay, so it helps keep them in check. So, in the case of the armpit what we believe is happening is odor-causing bacteria – these are the things typically associated with BO – are diminished. Um, because our sweat in and of itself does not smell, it’s the interaction of it with these smelly bacteria. So, if we’re able to get rid of smelly bacteria and neutralize them then that is a good thing. So, our need for deodorant decreases. And this is, I’ll say, a radically different approach than how deodorants and antiperspirants are created. Antiperspirants are created so that you stop sweating, which I would argue is, like, why would you go against your biology? And secondly, they’re created to kill all bacteria and micro-organisms. And there’s an interesting conversation that we can have about what happens when you sterilize the skin, why that’s actually a bad thing, what it leaves your skin susceptible to. So, that’s the mechanism that’s happening with the nitrite. And with the nitric oxide, this is like a, it’s called, like an anti-inflammatory but effectively it’s a calming and a soothing agent that really is good for sensitive skin and helps restore balance in that realm. So, that’s kind of a specific example of the armpit. And it’s interesting what happens in other ecosystems as well.

Ryan: So, let’s talk about that nitric oxide for just a minute. We’ve had – Paul Jaminet was on a previous episode of the podcast and I’m not sure what his affiliation is with you guys but I know that there was something there and he brought it up. And that’s actually – that was our first introduction to Mother Dirt. And he mentioned that the AoB spray converted the ammonia into nitric oxide and that it was re-absorbed through the skin.

Jasmina: We don’t know that for sure. Paul seems to think that it is but we are doing studies to understand what the diffusion through the skin is if at all. So, yeah, we don’t – we don’t know.

Ryan: So, that – and that was gonna be my question is, you know, is that a bad thing if it’s reabsorbed or – ? Because, I mean, these are things that your body has tried to excrete through sweat.

Jasmina: So, I’ll be really specific. What your body is excreting is waste and that waste is ammonia. What the bacteria are doing are breaking down that ammonia and converting it into usable items for your skin. So, that’s that cycle that I talked about. So, I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t label nitrite or nitric oxide as waste by-products at all. If anything, I would called them being recycled and reused back into the system so that your skin can be healthy and function. That’s what I would view more of that – what I would view more of that as. Nitric oxide is a really interesting one for us and it was something that had triggered a lot of interest from the founding team here and certainly something that we’ll keep on looking at. Nitric oxide, or the discovery of nitric oxide, let do the Nobel Prize in 1998. Because it’s such a crucial signaling molecule for the body, there is this body – there is this body of belief that modern humans exist in a state of neutropenia, which is basically nitric oxide deficient. And that is believed to be not a healthy state and potentially linked to several issues. The big race has been, you know, how can we re-introduce nitric oxide back into the human body and it’s proven to be difficult because it’s a gas. So, gases are not stable so you can’t really deliver it. So, there was a lot of interest in what we’re doing because you potentially have bacteria that exist on the surface of your skin that are just constantly producing this gas bubble around you that is self-limited and potentially could be absorbed, although we really don’t know. Where we’ve chose to focus is on the skin microbiome as a whole and inflammatory skin disorders. And hopefully one day we can return to studying nitric oxide and potentially the effects of that on um, on the skin. So, that’s a really tricky one! A really interesting one for those who can crack it. And obviously why Paul was really interested in it. But we’ll see.

Ryan: Yeah, very cool. So, let’s go back. You said we could have an interesting discussion on, you know, what happens to the skin and what it’s susceptible to without those bacteria. So –

Jasmina: Yeah.

Ryan: – let’s hear a little more about that.

Jasmina: Sure. So, we know that our skin is the biggest organ, we’ve heard that before. And we’ve also heard that the skin is the first line of defense against the environment. We thought that that was just, like, skin cells. But recent studies – and the first one that comes to mind is one that came out recently from UPenn which is the role of bacteria on the skin and potentially their communication with your immune system. So, the idea is that the skin is the first barrier to the environment and specifically it’s the bacteria that live on your skin that end up playing the intermediaries. And they are the ones that communicate to your skin about what to do, how to function and if they should elicit an inflammatory response. So, that’s an interesting way to look at things. So, what happens if we get rid of all of the bacteria that are on the surface of your skin? You lose that communication pathway between your skin cells, potentially your immune system, and the environment. And what that does is it puts your body in, like, a hyper-inflammatory response state because it doesn’t know what’s happening on the outside. It has no way of hearing it. So, it goes on the offensive. So, it’s constantly trying to battle something because it’s trying to protect itself and it doesn’t know and it’s not hearing anything from the outside. Um, the other interesting avenue that we’ll add is that typically when we sterilize the good guys, who are a little bit more sensitive, are pretty much eradicated immediately. And the bad guys are a little bit more robust, this is what makes them bad guys. Part of being an ecosystem is that you have a balance. A healthy ecosystem is a balanced ecosystem and everyone is functioning and contributing as part of that society. When you get rid of a significant portion of them what that does is it creates an opportunity – it creates an imbalance that creates an opportunity for the potentially problematic ones to start to create issues. So, I’ll give 2 specific examples of this: acne and staph infections. So, all human beings, it is believed, have p-acne on their skin, the acne causing bacteria. If we were to swab you and if we were to swab me, we would both have p-acne on our skin. So, why don’t we have acne? I’m looking at your skin and your skin seems to look really great and I would hope that mine does, too. But, why is that? Why do we have acne-causing bacteria but no acne, right? We have that bad guy there. Well, something is happening in that ecosystem to keep them in check. So, they’re not actually causing a problem because all the checks and balances are in place. Staph is another great infection. All human beings have staph bacteria on their skin, but why do some of us have staph infections and others don’t? It’s because there’s an imbalance in their ecosystem that creates an opportunity for them to go from contributing member of that ecosystem to a problem-maker or a troublemaker in that ecosystem. So, more and more people are talking about bacteria not as the source of a problem, but the imbalance being the source and the root of the problem.

Ryan: Okay. And that’s what makes it so important that we protect that balance and don’t strip ourselves clean. So, I think the thing that stood out to me at the very beginning of what you just said was it’s almost like the more we sterilize our skin, the more we put ourselves in an inflammatory environment, which is – it’s very interesting. I mean, ’cause we think we’re doing the opposite.

Jasmina: Right, right. Well, that was the same thing for the gut, right? And I hate to, like, keep on bringing up these parallels but the human body is an ecosystem, that is fundamentally what we are learning and figuring out how to keep that ecosystem balanced and healthy is probably going to be one of the keys to overall and general health.

Ryan: Well, I don’t see any problem comparing it or bringing up the gut. I think that’s something that our listeners, really, at this point they understand and we can relate to. So, we know that the gut is connected to things like serotonin production and so many other different cognitive performance areas. It’s interesting that you said that our skin has that communication and the impact on the immune system and inflammation, which we know can affect performance and overall health. Is it connected to anything else that we may see manifest in performance or happiness? You know, I mean, obviously, like, you know, odor and cleanliness and appearance.

Jasmina: Yeah.

Ryan: But anything else?

Jasmina: So, right now we’re focusing on those more cosmetic areas. And there’s a very specific reason for that. We – we’re grounded in research and as excited as we are about all of the interest in the microbiome, both the gut and the skin, we do wanna be very measured with what is being mentioned and promised. It’s very exciting to hear about some of the research that’s coming out but at the same time the field is really early on and so we don’t wanna be, kind of, selling all sorts of craziness in terms of concepts. So, we’re focusing on the basics: body odor, cosmetics and, you know, reliance on personal care products. And you know what? That is – that is actually pretty profound in and of itself. If you look at how we’ve been programmed to use products and we’ll use that as a beginning step and hopefully as our research advances we can continue to share more. We certainly do hope to be the leader in the skin microbiome. There aren’t as many players in the skin microbiome as there is in the gut.

Ryan: Right.

Jasmina: And we want it to be a community effort which is why we have an AO Labs program where our users can kind of participate in our research. But little by little, I think, is our – is our perspective and our approach. Wouldn’t be surprised if we found out some more interesting and fascinating things at all. But just wanna be careful about claims and stuff that’s made.

Ryan: Yeah, of course. Tell us about the AO Labs.

Jasmina: Sure. Um, AO Labs is our way of holding on to our origin story and why we started. We – Mother Dirt was not part of the original plan. Selling products was not part of the original plan. What the original plan was to be a pharma company that focused on AoBs as a therapy. We started off focusing on wound healing and that was where we started analyzing the interaction of this bacteria with – with the skin. And that triggered a few – a few thoughts for us and intrigued us about what the impact of personal care is on the skin. And we did a study to better understand that. And that study was written about in the New York Times article by Julia Scott in 2014. Um, that article generated so much interest in our work that it – it kind of woke us up to the fact that we were working on something that was not only important to the academic and the medical community, but important to people period. Um, because so many people were looking at the world around us wondering why we were having more and more problems with our skin versus less and less. Parents who are raising kids with all sorts of issues that they didn’t grow up with. You know, a parent goes to the dermatologist and their kid has crazy eczema and the dermatologist says: ‘No big deal, it’s just a little bit of eczema. 1 in 6 kids has it today.’ And the parents think: no, that wasn’t that way when I was little. So, we struck a chord. A chord that wasn’t just about the science but it was about the idea of clean. So, we started selling the product as a beta – kind of a beta period. And we sold out immediately. And it started, basically, a 9-month backlog. And the most important thing that came out of all of that was the curiosity of our users and their openness about how they were using it and what they were noticing. That shaped what we did next. And it’s been – it’s been such a tremendously influential part of our company where we all of the sudden went from a biotech that had 30 data points to this consumer company that had thousands of data points. You know, typically companies work for years to be able to get there and we got there in a matter of months. So, we want to preserve that. We wanted to preserve the community effort around that, we wanted to meet our users where they were and we wanted them to participate in the learnings and the process. So, we created AO Labs, it launched a few months ago. It’s still kind of in its – in its inception. But what it is is it’s a member program. It’s, like, 20 dollars annually. It’s not about making money. It really is just about making sure that people know that they will actually be called on to participate in things. And there are new products that we look for feedback on there, new biome-friendly formulations. And also questions about things that we’re trying to troubleshoot and solve. Body odor is a big one. I mentioned that 60% of our users are able to give up deodorant. Well, we really want to know what’s happening in those other 40%. That was one of the first ones that we started and is still in progress. So, that’s – that’s basically the crux of AO Labs and the inspiration there.

Ryan: Alright, very cool. So, anybody listening that has an interest in participating can just go to your site and sign up and join that.

Jasmina: Yes! Absolutely.

Ryan: It’s not a physical thing where you have to live in Boston or be in a big city, right?

Jasmina: No. No, we have AO Labs members all across the U.S.

Ryan: Okay, cool. So, you mentioned earlier, like, a minimalist routine when it comes to hygiene. What would you guys recommend?

Jasmina: It’s highly personal, I have to say. There are some people who still would never give up their deodorant and that’s all to them. There are some people who can’t imagine a life without moisturizer and that’s all to them. And there are others that say: ‘I have to use an SPF all day,’ and that’s all to them. The main thing that we encourage with our products is experimentation, and that’s where people are surprised. So, where they can’t imagine stopping the use of their moisturizer, we encourage them after using the mist to start weaning themselves off and see how their skin responds. And that’s where the fascinating stuff starts to happen. So, I can’t recommend a one size fits all routine. We have 3 products that we offer and we don’t necessarily recommend that everyone use every single one of them because there are some people who find that they really don’t need to use the cleanser that much at all. They find that the mist is enough. Water-only showers and just the mist keeps them fresh and clean and they’re fine. So, personal experimentation is definitely, definitely the key.

Ryan: Okay, cool. And just to clarify for people, you know, I know we mentioned the cleaner and the shampoo earlier but the AoB is a mist that people spray all over their body.

Jasmina: Correct.

Ryan: And you can do it multiple times a day?

Jasmina: Yes. Because the bacteria feed off your sweat, you wanna spray it on after your shower and maybe before a workout or before going to bed or something along those lines.

Ryan: Okay. And you guys just won – at Expo West last week you guys won a NEXTY for –

Jasmina: Yes.

Ryan: – the whole line? Or the AoB spray?

Jasmina: It was our brand, our brand won the NEXTY award.

Ryan: Okay, that’s awesome! Congratulations!

Jasmina: Yeah, yeah I know. Thank you! We were psyched!

Ryan: Yeah.

Jasmina: The award is, like, breakthrough product of the year and for a conference like Expo West that was a really big deal for us, especially because we are still so young. We’re not even a year old, I think we’re on month 8 or 9. So, it – it just blew us away and it put us on the radar of so many people, which was really fantastic as well. So, it was just – it was just exposure and I think the continual acknowledgement that people are demanding a different approach and people are expecting a different approach and people are curious about this. Whether they’re curious in a negative way like this is crazy or curious about it in a positive way like I’ve been thinking about this and I’m so glad someone did it. So, yeah, it’s um, it’s very symbolic to us, I’ll say that.

Ryan: Okay, very cool. Well, congratulations.

Jasmina: Thank you!

Ryan: Alright, guys, we’ve got a special offer for you. Jasmina has offered a 25% off plus free shipping discount for Natural Stacks listeners. We will put that link on the video version – on the blog for this podcast. So, go to naturalstacks.com, you’ll be able to find it and we will get you a special discount code from Mother Dirt so that you get 25% off your first order plus free shipping, which Jasmina has told us is a big deal because you guys expedite shipping, right?

Jasmina: Yes, yes.

Ryan: Okay. And that’s because we have to get it – it’s temperature controlled.

Jasmina: Yeah, the bacteria just can’t be too hot or too cold, so we ship it all via 3-day or 2-day shipping in some cases.

Ryan: Okay. And the mist is stored in the refrigerator, correct?

Jasmina: Yes, although I’ll say if you’re gonna use it up within a month then you can keep it on your bathroom counter and it’s perfectly good. But if you wanna stretch it then the fridge is the best place for it to be.

Ryan: Okay. So, I wanna shift gears a little bit. I know you’ve previously been a part of a cosmetic company where you guys looked at what skin care needs were at different points of the aging process. Can you – I’d love to just get a couple of bullet points from you for each age. Like, if somebody’s in their 20s, their 30s, their 40s. What should we be thinking about? How should we be taking care of our skin at those different intervals?

Jasmina: Sure, so let me talk about the origin of all of that. This is back when I was at MIT. I was working at a – at a lab that was um, looking at a different treatment for ear infections. So, we were looking to create an ear drop that was liquid but then when it hit body temperature it would turn itself into a gel and then the gel would stay there and they slowly diffuse the medicine into the inner ear, which would be very attractive for little children that don’t like to sit still. But you can’t test on ears right away. So, you have to come up with – with models leading up to it. And so, the model that we used to test the passage of that medicine through was human skin. So, very not sexy. It would involve, literally picking up slabs of donated human skin from MGH and then what I would have to do is I would have to separate out the layers of the skin. And so, I know that this sounds gross but bear with me here. I – the only pieces of information that I had were whether or not the sample was coming from a male or a female and the age. And it was really frustrating for me in the beginning to deal with certain types of skin samples. And I realized that they were typically belonging to older people. It didn’t matter if it was a male or a female but I definitely noticed a difference in how the skin responded to the medicine and also how my handling of it was as I needed to separate out the different layers of it. And I thought: isn’t this fascinating that there is such an obvious difference between skin in its 20s and skin in its 40s, right? Still, like, generally young skin I would say. And there’s such a tremendous difference in what it is like to work with and how it responds to this medicine. So, that kind of triggered a little bit more research into what the differences are in the skin. And so, to give you a little bit of a breakdown of it, in your 20s the primary challenge that you deal with is, like, free radical damage. So, in your 20s you’re a little bit more [laughs] carefree, you don’t typically have issues. You might not be sleeping as much as you should because you can get away with it, you might not be eating the best diet that you should because you can get away with it. You know, lifestyle aspects. And you’re probably spending maybe a little bit more time out in the sun because you can get away with it. But it all, of course, catches up to you. So, the 20s is a little bit more about antioxidants and helping address some of that free radical damage. In your 30s the rate of cellular regeneration starts to slow. So, this is why some people say, like, they feel like their skin got a little bit duller and it’s not as dewy in its 30s, and that’s maybe terminology typically used by women. But stimulating that rate of cellular regeneration whether it be just through regular exfoliation or other topicals that you could use is one of the key ways to do that. And then getting up towards the 40s and the 50s. The 40s you start to see the earlier signs of sensitivity for the skin. And a lot of that has to do with um, the thinning of the skin layers. And then in the 50s you start to deal with more immune issues for the skin. So, it’s immune layer seems to be a little bit more compromised. And, of course, with what I’m working on now I wish I could kind of go revisit that and, like, sequence those skin samples to see how their microbiomes are different but it’s interesting to have all of these pieces fall into play.

Ryan: Okay, very cool. Very cool. So, when you mention that I can’t help but think things like collagen in the diet. At what point would that be something that people wanna say: ‘Hey, I need to start introducing this’?

Jasmina: Um, well that’s a really interesting point. I would say the earlier the better, but I think definitely the 30s is what – what makes sense. I have to put an asterisk here, I’m not actually that familiar with the studies associated with ingested collagen and how that affects your skin. I know that in general it’s really healthy for your bones and your joints and I’m a big proponent of bone broth and all of that. Um, and I guess I should also mentally think about maybe that’s helping the collagen in my skin but I’m not – I’m not too familiar, actually, with the effects on that. But if I had to make a recommendation it would be the 30s.

Ryan: Okay. Jasmina, where can our listeners get more of you and Mother Dirt?

Jasmina: They can go to motherdirt.com and find out all the information there. And if they’re actually interested in a little bit more of the nitty-gritty of the science and where we’re taking our clinical research, they can also visit aobiome.com, so A-O-B-I-O-M-E.com.

Ryan: So, what’s next? Can you give us any hints or – ?

Jasmina: Yeah, I could definitely give you hints! We’ve continued expanding our portfolio of biome-friendly ingredients. So, what that does is it helps us enhance existing formulas but also, and more excitingly, launch new products. So, we’re gonna be doing a product launch in the coming months and I think you might have sampled it at Expo West. I know that they did bring some. I don’t know if Robin gave you the sneak peek on it, but  –

Ryan: No.

Jasmina: Well, if you didn’t then I can’t say anything. So, we’re gonna be launching, yeah, a new product. And then one of the things we’re focusing a lot on is body odor and seeing if we can come up with a targeted treatment for the underarm area. So, kind of, maybe separating out the mist from, you know, all-over body use to maybe something that’s a little bit more specific as a deodorant as we start to understand through AO Labs, that other 40%. So, that’s a goal for us. We – it’s science so you can’t always put timelines on it.

Ryan: Right.

Jasmina: But it’s – it’s a goal of ours.

Ryan: I would be willing to guess that if you guys can solve the underarm odor issue that – that you might be able to rule the world. [laughs]

Jasmina: That’s a lofty goal but yeah, ruling the world, I’m totally fine with that.

Ryan: I mean, who’s not gonna be interested in that, right?

Jasmina: Hey, anyone who’s a germaphobe, I can tell you right now, would not be interested in that. I mean, I’m – I’m just kidding. I think that body odor is a fascinating thing and for the first time we’re talking about creating a product that doesn’t kill bacteria so I – yeah, I mean, that would be huge if we were to crack it. But not all human bodies are the same so therein is the challenge.

Ryan: It’s true. And I’m upset with Robin that I didn’t get to sample whatever this surprise is.

Jasmina: I know! Well, you can go complain to her [laughs].

Ryan: I’ll do that, I’ll do that. Alright, Jasmina, we ask every guest for their top 3 tips to live optimal. So, what would you say to our listeners?

Jasmina: The first one that comes to mind is meditation and this is something that I’ve started recently. Big recommendation on that. Continuing to read books.  I know that that sounds like a very basic one but I read so much when I was younger and into college and then as my career picked up I stopped reading and I really felt like that impacted me. So, now I’m back into that routine and I think that’s great for business and for pleasure. And spending time outdoors. I know that that’s part of our brand but that actually always has been really important to me. I come from south Florida, that’s where I grew up. So, Boston was a really big adjustment for me. And it’s snowing right now today and it’s supposed to be spring. So, yeah, never underestimate the power of just a simple walk outside. I think it does so much to change your mindset.

Ryan: Yes, I would agree with that completely. Alright, let’s push you for a couple more tidbits. What good books have you read recently?

Jasmina: Okay. Um, there are 2 books that I highly recommend. The first is called ‘Essentialism’ –

Ryan: Yeah.

Jasmina: So, it’s all about going – have you heard of it?

Ryan: I’ve read it. It was Greg McKeown or –

Jasmina: Yeah, yeah. So, I just finished that book and I really – I really like it. I think, especially for people who are really ambitious it’s difficult to get, kind of, spread out all over the place and honing in your focus and making meaningful strides is great. I like that book a lot. And then the second one that I just started a couple weeks ago is Adam Grant’s ‘Originals’.

Ryan: Okay.

Jasmina: I don’t know if you’ve read. It’s a fairly new book but I’m really enjoying this book, especially for people who enjoy creative work and are kind of tackling unique things in business. So, I’ve really enjoyed that book so far, too.

Ryan: Awesome, awesome. Thanks for the recommendations. I’m sure our listeners will enjoy that.

Jasmina: [laughs] I hope so!

Ryan: Alright, cool. Well, Jasmina, thanks for hanging out with us today. This has been great. And for our listeners, you guys make sure you check out naturalstacks.com to see the video version of this, we’ll have all kinds of links to the things that we talked about: AO Lab, AOBiome, motherdirt.com. All of the cool stuff that you guys can just click, go visit and continue to read, research and make your own decisions. And also, if you guys haven’t, make sure you head over to iTunes, leave us a 5* review, let us know how much you like the show and we will talk to you guys next Thursday! Thanks for listening!