62: Good Clean Dirt with Jasmina Aganovic of Mother Dirt

62: Good Clean Dirt with Jasmina Aganovic of Mother Dirt

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Good Clean Dirtwith Jasmina Aganovicof Mother Dirt

Today I’m spending time with Jasmina Aganovic, scientist, cosmetics expert, and president of Mother Dirt, a fascinating company founded on one simple premise:

Don’t be afraid of a little good, clean dirt.

You all know I’m a big fan of letting kids play outside as much as possible, and even better if they’re barefoot and digging in the mud! I’m happy to have an MIT-educated chemical and biological engineer like Jasmina on my side. In this podcast episode, she explains why playing in the dirt benefits kids (and all of us) so much, and why we don’t need to be as clean as we think we do.

Less cleaning? I’m listening!

In This Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • The deeper connection between our skin and our immune system
  • How our skin’s unique microbiome develops … and is threatened … from birth
  • Why an overemphasis on cleanliness might not be best for you or your kids
  • Common misconceptions behind antibacterial products and cleansers
  • What unique benefits soil has to offer your health
  • Practical ways to fight bad bacteria naturally … and why most bacteria isn’t bad at all
  • How to manage acne and other skin issues while simplifying your beauty routine
  • How Mother Dirt’s “living” products work with your natural sweat to restore your skin’s healthiest balance

Mother Dirt: Rethinking “Clean”

The connection between healthy gut flora and good health has gotten a lot of press in the natural health world in recent years. But more and more researchers like Jasmina suspect that just as a bacterial gut imbalance can lead to disease and poor health, a bacterial imbalance on your skin can also have deeper health effects.

While we still have a lot to learn about the complex bacteria found in our bodies, here’s what she and other researchers on the pioneering edge of microbiome research have found:

We as a society are keeping things too clean.

In fact, when we wash too frequently or with the wrong products, we can actually wipe away good, protective, necessary bacteria from our skin.

And this problem has gotten significantly worse in recent decades.

The Rise of Antibacterial Products

It all started out unintentionally enough, Jasmina explains, in hospitals—a fitting place for antibacterial products.

Companies soon caught on. Antibacterial cleaning products became available in homes and schools across the nation. And we as a society started to see killing “99.99% of bacteria” as a good thing, when in reality only a single-digit percentage of all bacteria is actually harmful.

Basically, outside of a hospital setting or a superbug epidemic, we need to leave well enough alone and let our skin do what it was meant to do. In most cases, plain old fashioned soap will do, as Jasmina, the Mother Dirt company, and recently even the FDA remind us.

The Decline of Dirt (Or, What’s Dirt Got to Do with It?)

Okay, so maybe we’re thinking about easing off the hand sanitizer, but do we really have to get … dirty?

Yes! Yes, the answer actually lies in dirt … as in soil.

Soil contains a unique good bacteria, one that’s actually necessary to all living things. It’s called Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria, or “AOB” for short.

The Mother Dirt website explains:

Ammonia-Oxidizing-Bacteria (AOB), also known as “Nitrifying Bacteria,” are microorganisms that consume ammonia for energy and are present wherever a nitrogen cycle is taking place….

AOBs are found everywhere in nature…. If you’ve ever walked barefoot on dirt, swam in a lake or the ocean, you probably emerged refreshed and covered with AOBs.

Modern living makes it too easy for us to be inside, away from the beneficial bacteria found in the great outdoors. We wake up in our houses, drive in our cars to work or school, and spend much of the day in semi-sterile environments treated with antibacterial products.

This has weakened our skin biomes, and according to experts like Jasmina, they need to be restored.

But how?

The “Living” Benefits of Mother Dirt Products

Mother Dirt products actually contain live AOBs and add them back onto your skin where they act as a kind of “peacemaker” between good and bad bacteria.

With the living power of AOBs (and the absence of preservatives and harsh cleansers), these products can:

  • naturally reduce body odor
  • restore your skin’s natural moisture barrier
  • decrease your need for products like deodorant, conditioner, and moisturizer
  • improve or resolve chronic skin conditions
  • simplify your beauty (okay, skin health) routine

All this leads to healthier skin, fewer breakouts, and a decrease in skin issues … all while using fewer products!

Simple Steps to a Healthy Skin Biome

While they’re extremely helpful, Mother Dirt products aren’t the only way to restore your skin’s natural balance.

Here are just some of Jasmina’s practical steps toward a healthy skin biome you can start putting into practice in your family today:

  • Use plain soap and water instead of antibacterial products
  • Skip the hand sanitizer and use a simple wet wipe when handwashing isn’t available
  • Only bathe when you’re really dirty, or just cleanse the offending areas
  • Dilute and use biome-friendly soaps when you can (such as Mother Dirt)
  • Avoid antibacterial products in the home (these really just belong in hospitals)
  • Spend as much time as possible in nature … even barefoot!
  • Open up a dialogue with your family and friends about these topics, reversing some of the typical assumptions
  • Avoid preservatives in personal care products … period.

But don’t take my word for it … tune in and hear what the expert has to say!

Resources We Mention:


Special Thanks to Today’s Sponsors:

This podcast is brought to you by Kettle and Fire Bone Broth. If you love the benefits of bone broth but want an easier way to make it, Kettle and Fire is for you! They have the first grass-fed (and grass-finished) non-perishable bone broth and it is ah-mazing! You can find them in many Whole Foods on the west coast and you can also order online from here.

I use their bone broth regularly these days and used it to create the recipes in my new bone broth e-book (releasing later this year).

This podcast is also brought to you by Thrive Market. If you live in a real food desert like I do, it can be difficult to find certain organic foods, speciality foods, or allergy-friendly foods. Thrive Market is my solution to this problem. They carry thousands of the non-perishable foods that I use most often at discount prices.

I think of them as a combination of Costco, Amazon, and Whole Foods. They are online like Amazon, have a yearly membership fee to unlock discounts like Costco, and carry high quality foods like Whole Foods!

I order from them regularly and highly recommend them. Check out all of their products and grab a free jar of coconut oil here.

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my affiliate policy.

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Reader Comments

  1. Hey Katie! I want to say thank you for all the time and research you put into your post and podcasts! I heard you say you’re a doula, I was wondering if you certified? And if you are what program you used?

  2. How about use of DIY sanitizer?

    • I would think judicious use would be fine. I keep a tiny bottle of essential oil, aloe, vodka, and vitamin E in my purse. We wipe down carts and our hands when we go to the store. Every time I don’t, we get sick. In my opinion, store germs are different than the dirt outside or around the house.

  3. I used to get terribly dry, itchy skin every winter. It would even start before the humidity dropped, which got me to wondering if it wasn’t just about the dry humidity levels.
    So, I decided to try a couple of things. This last summer I installed a whole house chlorine removal system. Since chlorine kills bacteria and I have a skin microbiome that is normally populated with thousands of mostly helpful bacteria, this seemed to be a very logical step.
    Also, from research I learned that people all over the world take mud baths from time to time, with no ill effects. Since good, clean dirt is loaded with bacteria, my theory was that they just might provide the missing/disrupted species leading to my dry itchy skin. So, I found some good, clean dirt from a pristine forest that has never seen pesticides, herbicides, etc. and put around four cups in a bath of luke warm water (don’t want to kill anything good here). I soaked for fifteen minutes and very lightly dried off (no rinsing). I went a week before I did a real shower. A few weeks later I did another mud bath.
    I have also switched to a new soap with few added chemicals; a hand made soap from the Amish. I also wash my clothing in Free & Gentle detergent.
    The results have been great. Something happened. There is an amazing difference from earlier winters. I hypothesize that our man made chemicals and additives are affecting our skin microbiomes, thus I’m trying to avoid them as much as I can. Until I can read good clinical studies showing that these chemicals or additives cause no harm to the skin microbiome, I will continue to assume there may be harm, and will avoid them.
    life is better !

    One and a half years ago, I reversed my IBS-D with a home FMT. After a great deal of research I figured out how to avoid the many common mistakes that affect results negatively (there are quite a few). Yes, FMTs work. Re-storing the health and diversity of our gut microbiome can indeed affect our health. One of the biggest challenges of doing a home FMT is finding a suitable donor as the average American has already lost 40% of the diversity of their microbiome, as compared to remote tribes that have never had antibiotics. Want more info, let me know.

    So much of our health gets back to one thing; a healthy microbiome.

    What’s on my list for 2017 ? My seasonal Hay Fever.

    • Hi Katie, I lived in a house with toxic mold, list my two beloved pets to it and every possession I owned. I left the house as soon as I realized it made me I’ll. I’ve been to 19 doctors that don’t believe in it and was on my own (still am) for a cure. I have known for 5 years that FMT’s work. The thing is, If you do it own your own , it must be done correctly or the consequences are huge. This has always been my fear. So, for 5 years, I’ve been homeless, off and on and lived on the edge of sepsis due to the infections it brings. I’d like to know how I can safely do an FMT on my own.

  4. I’m a big believer in building your immune system through dirt and plain soap and water, and I am a nurse. I only use vinegar to sanitize. The only time you have those nasty superbugs is when things are out of balance. Since I started making my own soap, I don’t need to use moisturizer! I don’t wash everything every time, and I LOVE to be outside when I can. My boys are the same, and they rarely get sick. My youngest is not as health conscious as his older brother, and he and his father do get sick more often than his brother and I, mostly because they insist on commercial products and foods more often., I think. I did use your recipe for elderberry syrup (yum!) and between that and some colloidal silver when symptoms start, we haven’t been sick all year!

  5. I love Mother Dirt! I started experimenting with it a couple of months ago, and now I don’t need to use my homemade deodorant any more! I dint ever use it as much as the label states to, and the results are great.

  6. This is one of the most intelligent conversations on personal health that I have listened to. No pretense, or preaching, and oddly enough is in agreement with my own personal experience. Our bodies are designed to work just fine, if, in balance. All of my children grew up eating dirt, paying in the dirt, being dirty, and healthy.

    Thank You

  7. Has anyone used this on Rosacea? I’d like to find help of this awful facial skin problem that Ive been having since March 2018.

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