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Bring back the dirt: Interview with Mother Dirt

LCC: Tell me about Mother Dirt and why we should care about what you do:

Mother Dirt is a brand focused on challenging our idea of clean and whether it needs to mean sterile. We created a line of skincare products formulated to be compatible for the skin microbiome. These products help restore and maintain the ecosystem of the skin. Our core tech is using the Ammonia Oxidizing (AO) bacteria that lives in the dirt, but used to be on the skin, to make us healthier.

AO Bacteria is critical in the nitrogen cycle to help ecosystems thrive. It’s a keystone species and it needs to be present in small amounts to have a large impact.

LCC: How did we become too clean? And what is the right amount of clean?

We became too clean when we adopted a more modern lifestyle. Spending more time indoors, sanitizing and less time out in nature. We don’t know yet what the right amount of clean is. Some researchers believe that the more diverse your microbiome is the cleaner you are. Others say that it’s the literal presence or absence of physical pieces of dirt. Part of being clean is a desire to be healthy. The right amount of clean is one that optimizes our health and that’s why Mother Dirt is investigating this.

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LCC: How do you define balance on the skin?

I think a lot of people are trying to answer that question. A group of researchers swabbed the microbiome of the Yanomami tribe based in the Amazon and found many bacteria on them that are not found on modern humans. These tribe members also don’t exhibit a lot of the common issue that we see in our society. They are probably close to being balanced because they’re furthest from modern living. Their lifestyles are very different and they deal with issue we don’t suffer from. It’s not a far cry to say there are some things we can change about our lifestyles to get better balance.

LCC: What products/ingredients/types should we look out for that aren’t “microbiome safe”?

The best thing we can do is to question how much, how often and where you use certain products. Do we need to lather up head to toe every day? The reality is we don’t need to do that on every part of our skin. Just focus on areas that got very sweaty or dirty from the day. Water is just fine for your forearm or the top of your thigh. For most of your body, just rinse.

Harsh surfactants have a negative effect: SLS and SDS. I point those out because there has been a lot of information out there that they’re not good for our moisture barrier. So the fact that this is harmful to the microbiome is just better evidence. It tells us that maybe the microbiome is where some of these issues start and why this is where we need to begin in order to solve our issues.

Preservatives: they’re meant to kill bacteria. That doesn’t make them bad in and of themselves, but small amounts of constant exposure over a lifetime is where the issue is. However, avoiding them is hard because they’re in so many of the products we use, eat and live with.

Antibacterial products. Many people have developed these routines of over sanitizing, particularly on their hands. Hand washing with antibacterial soap has not been shown to be more effective than regular soap. 💬Click to tweet this. Just go back to regular soap. For those people who are skeptical, that’s okay. And starting our brand we knew we would have to meet people where they are in their own journey. Our long term view is to create products that look familiar but are compatible with our skin ecosystem. If you’re not ready, that’s okay.

LCC: What is your advice for someone who wants to take care of their skin microbiome but doesn’t know where to start?

Easiest place to start: question volume and frequency. Can you try to tone it down just a little bit? How does your skin respond to less exposure to the products you use today. When your skin is exposed to lots of products in a short period of time, and you think about that ecosystem on the skin being destabilized, all the time it will impact how your skin looks and feels.

If you take two showers a day, make one of them mostly water. Showers aren’t harmful, it’s the products that come along with them. 💬Click to tweet this.

At Mother Dirt, we think less is more. We inherently believe that our skin was made to look and feel normal and healthy-- the balanced normal state of the skin. Unhealthy happens when there is an aberration in our lifestyle or our environment. We don’t need all of these products to have good looking skin.

LCC: What can we expect next from Mother Dirt?

We’re focusing on building out our basic daily essentials. We’ve gotten so many requests for other basic products including SPF and hair conditioners so we’re researching how to formulate those products. Our hope is to release something new early next year.

LCC: Tell us about your skincare routine.

Before working at Mother Dirt:

I struggled with my skin when I was a teenager and into college. It was a blessing disguised as a curse because these hard and difficult times got me interested in the space and now I have a career in it. As a result, because I was so ingrained in the industry and solving my own problem, I tried so many products and was convinced that I needed an elaborate routine.

I realized it was so vastly different from what the industry was saying. I knew that deep down inside my skin wasn’t meant to be that way. There is a sense of urgency and frustration with skin and skin issues.

My average routine was 4-7 steps depending on on the latest trend. Now when I think back, I cringe a bit. I would use masks everyday at night. My skin ended up experiencing sensitivity for the first time in my life even though I was always focused on natural products. Now knowing what I know about the skin microbiome I can’t believe I ever did that.

After working at Mother Dirt:

My routine is so simple, and my skin is the most balanced and better looking it has ever been. Liberating to not feel like I need to keep looking for new products.

Mother Dirt cleanser, moisturizer, mist, and a general SPF.

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