That's when a product called Mother Dirt AO+ Mist crosses my desk that promises to keep you clean and improve skin without the need for soap, beauty products or even showering. It's a probiotic spray that replenishes the good bacteria that once lived happily on our skin before soap and other modern hygiene products wiped it out. Just as good bacteria are essential for a healthy gut, they're the key to a better complexion, goes the thinking. These bacteria gobble up sweat and help skin self-regulate so you don't get greasy or stinky. Dry patches, acne and general skin freak-outs become a thing of the past. Some even say it's the secret to more youthful skin. Consider this no-soap regimen the Paleo diet of the beauty world -- a back-to-basics approach to hygiene and a clearer complexion. But would it work -- and at what cost?
To find out, I decided to turn in my towel, soap, deodorant and every other beauty product I own for an entire month.
The No-Soap, No-Showering Rules
But since I, and the rest of my team, have doubts that I can last 30 days without a shower, I convince our editorial assistant Jessica to give up her beloved hygiene products, too.
Here's what our hygiene routine will look like for the next 30 days:
• Spray Mother Dirt all over twice a day, or more frequently as needed
• No baths, showers, pools or hot tubs
• Rinse face, armpits and groin with water every three days, if necessary
• No soap*, deodorant, shampoo, dry shampoo, lotion, lip balm, baby wipes, makeup or any other product that touches the skin or scalp. Brushes, hair accessories and tools are OK
*Hand soap -- for the sake of health codes and everyone around us -- is allowed
The Problem With Soap
"We're so busy getting that squeaky-clean feeling and, as a result, we're not just getting rid of the bad bugs, we're getting rid of the good bugs too," explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center. These bacteria, she says, help maintain a normal skin environment. Each time we disrupt that ecosystem, via harsh cleansers or overscrubbing, we're putting our skin in a state of confusion and stress. The result: An inflammatory state that can cause acne, sensitive skin and conditions like eczema, rosacea and psoriasis. As someone with overly reactive skin, eczema and psoriasis, I wonder if this no-soap experiment will be my panacea.
The night before the big day, I take the longest shower of my life, box up all of my beauty products and stow them in my closet. I text Jessica to make sure she does the same. The rest of the Total Beauty team takes bets on how long we'll last.
Day 1: My No-Makeup Debut
Once awake, I retrieve my mist from the refrigerator, strip down, spritz myself with microbes, brush my teeth and get dressed. I'm ready in exactly five minutes. This, I think, is what it's like to be a guy. Lucky bastards.
At the office, no one bats an eye at my makeup-free face. All in all, it's a surprisingly normal day -- though my armpits are distractingly damp and clammy. I thought I would smell worse by the end of the day than I do. Or maybe, I panic, I'm the only one who doesn't detect my own stench.
Day 2: We Already Smell Bad
It's also significant to note that Jessica works out hardcore every day at lunch. It's a habit she refuses to give up, no matter how bad things may get.
Today, I can smell myself. The scent is skunky and oniony. Rubbing the mist into my armpits does nothing to alleviate it. I keep my arms pinned to my sides all day. At lunch, I put on a jacket so I can sit with the team without making them gag.
As soon as I get home, I put on a clean t-shirt. My husband agrees to spoon that night -- as long as I'm the big spoon.