Microbiome Skincare: Is Bacteria the Key to Perfect Skin?

A primer on the science that could fix our skin woes once and for all

microbiome skincare

Mother Dirt AO+ Mist, $64 (Photo: Ivan Engler)

What it is: The 100 trillion micro-organisms—including bacteria, both friendly and not—living inside each of us. Everyone’s microbiome is unique, shaped by where we were born, what we eat, what products we use, and more.

Why it matters: Instead of seeing all bacteria as disease-causing, researchers now theorize that lots of health conditions may be caused by imbalances in our microbiome: not enough good bacteria keeping the bad guys in check. Blame antibacterial soaps, preservative-laden skincare and antibiotic overuse for indiscriminately wiping out our buggy guests. Scientists are now studying the links between our germy ecosystem and everything from diabetes to obesity. On our faces, an out-of-whack microbiome could be why some people develop eczema flare-ups or breakouts.

Where you’ll see it: Research is just getting started, but La Roche-Posay, Olay and Johnson & Johnson are joining in. So far, Boston’s Mother Dirt, maker of microbiome-rebalancing skincare, has developed a face mist that replenishes a crucial peacekeeping bacteria. The spray has been so buzzy that, before it launched last year, pre-orders were backlogged for months. “There’s some research on the skin microbiome of people in third-world countries and aboriginal tribes, all of whom have this type of bacteria in abundance,” says Jasmina Aganovic, MIT alum and Mother Dirt president. “And coincidentally— or maybe not—they have not one case of acne, eczema or skin sensitivity.” Mind blown.

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