Monday, May 01, 2017

Overselling the microbiome award: Marie Claire for its "article" on Mother Dirt

Wow.  And not in a good way.  Marie Claire has bough in to the Mother Dirt sales pitch wholesale.  Here are some quotes form an article by Roxanne Adamiyatt published today in Marie Claire (see Probiotic Mist - Cleansing Body Mist)
"Like Febreze for your body, Mother Dirt's AO + Mist is a live probiotic spray that restores essential bacteria to our microbiomes. How? In short, the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria works to consume sweat on your body and turn it into a beneficial byproduct your skin can use."
Ugh.  No that is just not true.  This is what the people from Mother Dirt may claim.  But I have yet to see any evidence for this.

And then there is
"For example, if you were to use this formula on your face, the "good" bacteria in the mist would consume the ammonia (which raises pH) and restore balance to the skin i.e. it would become less sensitive, dry, or oily. And it's not just your face and body that can benefit from a reset spritz. You can use it in your hair too."
Ugh again.

And then the president of Mother Dirt is quoted
According to Jasmina Aganovic, president of Mother Dirt, it can help you go longer between washes. "The bacteria converts your sweat into byproducts your skin can use and with that, you're restoring a microorganism that once naturally existed on the scalp," she explains.
And there is more
You can also use AO+ as a quick post-workout fix as the good bacteria will consume the ammonia and urea in your sweat, AKA food for body odor. 
So whether it's balancing your skin, helping you prolong a blowout, or functioning as a deodorant, AO+ is working overtime to keep your hygiene in check...even if you're not. So we can't imagine something more useful to have on hand for summer.
I normally would not go the next step but I think it may be needed here - is it time to ask if Marie Claire is getting any money from Mother Dirt for this advertisement?

And for presenting the spray from Mother Dirt as proven to do things without presenting any evidence, I am giving Marie Claire a coveted Overselling the Microbiome Award.

Update: 5/1/2017 8:50 PM

But wait.  A little search of the Maria Claire web site pulled up another advertisement for Mother Dirt that is pretending to be an actual article:

Is Bacteria the Secret to Healthy Skin? by Renee Saleh in 2016.

In this article, the author basically reports on PR from Mother Dirt as though it is factual.  For example consider this:
Take acne, for example. Aganovic, who has a degree in chemical and biological engineering from MIT, has studied the presence of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (a key component of the Mother Dirt product line) in both Western and aboriginal communities. She found that there were almost no acne cases in the aboriginal communities of Paraguay and New Guinea. These communities also shared the universal presence ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in skin cultures. In Western communities, however, acne occurs in 80 percent of adolescents, and there is less than a one percent occurrence of detectable ammonia-oxidizing bacteria on the skin. The absence of this type of bacteria in the West can be traced to the ingredients found in common household soaps and cleansers—and the decrease in time we spend in the great outdoors.
I mean.  It is a nice story.  But what is the evidence for this? None as far as I can tell.  I searched Google Scholar for papers by Aganovic on acne or aboriginal communities and found nothing.  Again, I am left wondering if Mother Dirt has paid Marie Claire for this advertising.


  1. Good for you, Dr. Eisen, for speaking out about this travesty!

  2. I'm not going to argue that it's not overselling. It is. They're making claims with nothing to back it up. And the claims are straight from Mother Dirt PR. But, I've been using this spray since it was still called AO Biome, and in my personal n=1 experiment, I must say that it has had a positive effect on my skin. It's no longer dry and itchy (the past two winters I haven't had to moisturize daily liked I used to). I can go a few days without showering and not stink. I haven't shampooed my hair in over two years and it's not greasy (albeit in a man with short hair). So, it's an interesting product to say the least, and while it's unfortunate that the pr is so over the top, I've found some of the claims to be accurate (on my n=1 experiment).

    1. thanks --- I am not saying this does not work or cannot work. I am simply saying that I have yet to see any scientifically presented data supporting the claims made by people about these products. And thus I am disappointed in reporters to quote from PR pieces without looking into whether the claims have been validated.

    2. Totally understand. TBH, I'm torn about the fast-and-loose PR. On the one hand, it's not backed up by any peer-reviewed science, and the claims border on (or cross the line into) the fantastic. On the other... it's getting the public interested and aware of the microbiome and it's importance. But I guess it's also priming them to believe in whatever BS PR is thrown at them! Ugh.

    3. This is a dog bites man posting, Jonathan. Not a cheap shot at Marie Claire perhaps, just an obvious one if you're feigning shock that a fashion magazine tailors its editorial to advertisers (potential or real). That said, Mother Dirt is a pretty good product. Like "unsteadily" I've been using since 2016 with similar results. Diminished need to shower, less dermal dryness and itchiness (although that could be a function of only needing 90 seconds shower time). I ditched the shampoo (too astringent and the packaging design was not durable )and found the mist product to be pointless. (Isn't the point of a probiotic additive supposed to be microbial diversity? How does an unchanging mist provide diversity?) But the cleanser is an excellent product and not much of a price premium over some OTC soaps. I did all this when I went vegan and wanted my exterior biome to be as healthy as my gut biome.