My Topical Probiotic and Acne Experiment

I have struggled with adult acne since my early 20s. Before discovering ancestral health, I tried a lot of different over-the-counter, natural, and prescription treatments: Antibiotics (My gut bugs are screaming in agony!), hormonal birth control (Ouch, ouch, ouch!) benzoyl-peroxide, Retina-A, Pro-Activ, Clearasil, Neutrogena, coating my face with toothpaste, honey and cinnamon masks, baking soda masks, clay masks, egg whites, tea tree oil, and on and on. Some treatments worked better than others, but my acne would always return. Once I started the Autoimmune Protocol and I identified my individual food sensitivities, I initially noticed my skin clearing quite a bit. After a few months, however, the acne returned, albeit less than what it once was. My acne had a strong hormonal component and I knew that it was an indication that I needed more gut healing. And so I worked on it. I put myself on specific supplement protocols for gut healing, liver support, and hormone balancing. I did all of the natural, topical things that Paleo people do for acne (oil cleansing, Paleo/Primal skin care lines, manuka honey, essential oils, etc.). But still, I had acne.

There is a strong link between gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of the gut bacteria) and acne. It had taken me a couple of decades to completely destroy my gut health and it was likely going to take a few more years to continue to rebuild my gut flora. (That is, to the best of my ability. Studies have demonstrated that the gut flora may never return to baseline following antibiotic administration.) When I turned 30, I lost my patience in favor of vanity and I decided to try a non-Paleo (but safe and effective when done by a qualified health professional) laser treatment called Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) with Levulan. Suffice it to say that I am very happy that I had this laser treatment done, but that is not what this post is about. The effects of any topical treatment, including lasers, are not permanent. The laser treatment allowed me to get a handle on the inflammatory process and fine-tune my supplementation and skin care regimen. When the mild acne started to slowly creep back a year later, the dermatologist told me that it wasn’t severe enough to require another IPL treatment. Yet, I still wasn’t satisfied with my skin.

One day while I was perusing Facebook, I discovered a company called Mother Dirt and their product AO+ Mist, a topical probiotic spray. The spray contains a live probiotic strain called Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB). Before the modern-day obsession with daily showers and toxic skin care products, AOB colonized our ancestors’ skin, helping to keep bad bacteria in check. AOB turns the ammonia and urea components of sweat into byproducts that are beneficial to the skin and serve to eliminate or reduce dependence on conventional hygiene products.  Mother Dirt’s research arm, AO Biome, is currently conducting research on therapeutic applications of their probiotic spray and they have a study undergoing for its use in patients with acne.

I’ve been using AO+ Mist for two months now. I am impressed with the reduction in my acne and I have no plans to discontinue use of the spray. At times, the spray will calm a breakout literally overnight. My skin is still not 100% clear and perfect all of the time, but it’s significantly better than it was prior to starting use.   The quality and texture of my skin has changed for the better as well. I do not use moisturizer on my skin, yet it is soft and dewy with using this spray.

Many people also use AO+ Mist to reduce or eliminate their need for deodorants and conventional soap. Although I am still showering and using a natural soap and deodorant, I am using less deodorant, which is saying a LOT since I sweat heavily.  This fascinating article details the experience of a journalist that completely discontinued soap and shampoo in lieu of AO+ Mist.

AOB are extremely fragile organisms and you have to reapply this spray daily, as every encounter with conventional soap or hygiene products will destroy the bacteria. I use it on my face twice a day, in the morning and the evening. My one criticism of the product is surrounding the packaging. The bottle is designed to protect the bacteria by maintaining a closed system and you can't change the spray level. I find the spray a bit too forceful, which needlessly wastes  more of the product than I would otherwise use. On the second bottle that I received, the spray doesn’t work unless the bottle is turned upside down.  When I emailed the company to ask for a replacement, I was promptly sent one without any questions.  The customer service was excellent.

The science behind why and how this probiotic spray works makes a lot sense.  Just as our modern lifestyles have impacted the gut microbiome, the skin microbiome has been negatively altered as well.  I suspect that there are many potential therapeutic uses for this product beyond acne.

**Please note that I did not receive any free samples of Mother Dirt's products in exchange for this review.  I am not affiliated with Mother Dirt and I was not asked to write this review.  It is simply a great product that I believe in.**

Have you used AO+ Mist?  I'd love to hear about your experiences with this product!