Image: AOBiome
Image: AOBiome

David Whitlock ’77, SM ’78, says the secret to healthier skin is to get it a little dirty. The founding scientist of Kendall Square–based startup AOBiome has eschewed showers for more than a decade and believes that society’s obsession with cleanliness is destroying skin bacteria that is actually helpful to the human body. This week, his company unveiled a plant-based shower gel and shampoo that won’t interfere with the skin’s natural ecosystem.

The new line of shower products, called Mother Dirt, is “bacteria-friendly.” It is compatible with, but does not contain the key ingredient of, AOBiome’s debut product, a spray solution called AO+ that contains the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) N. eutropha. A New York Times profile attracted attention around the time of that product’s release in May 2014, and early adopters of the spray have reported that they have been able to reduce their use of commercial soaps and deodorants.

Although AOBiome markets its products as cosmetics and makes no specific health claims, it is researching the dermatological effects of bacteria. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a Stage II clinical trial to investigate the use of AOB as a treatment for mild to moderate acne. The company is also gathering data to investigate the use of more concentrated forms of AOB for the treatment of diabetic ulcers.

Read more about AOBiome and see photos of its labs at Beta Boston.

Previously on Continuum: Bacteria is the New Black

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