David Whitlock, AOBiome.
David Whitlock, AOBiome. (Photo credit:  AOBiome)

Yep, twelve years without taking a single shower.  Incredible.  All in the name of science, of course.  And the amazing thing is that evidently you’ll never know it if you meet him.

The scientist in question is David Whitlock (pictured at left), an MIT-trained chemical engineer and the inventor of AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist.  AO+ is a “living bacterial skin tonic” that contains billions of Nitrosomonas Eutropha bacteria—a bacteria we normally wash away with soap and shampoo.

I recently came across an article in the New York Times by the writer Julia Scott.  In this entertaining piece Scott describes her experience as a test subject in a study run by AOBiome, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech startup that produces AO+.

AO Biome posits that the bacteria contained in its product “acts as a built-in cleanser, deodorant, anti-inflammatory, and immune booster by feeding on the ammonia in our sweat and converting it into nitrite and nitric oxide.”

The company is betting that by returning bacteria to our skin instead of killing it off with anti-bacterials, new diagnostics and treatments for disease can be developed.  The FDA approval process is a long and expensive one, however; in the meantime AOBiome is going the cosmetic route and hopes to make consumers less reliant on soaps, deodorants and moisturizers.  The plan is to use proceeds from A0+ sales to fund the drug discovery process.

Company CEO Spiros Jamas, another MIT graduate with a doctorate in biotechnology, also uses AO+:  he now soaps up only twice a week.  Company chair Jamie Heywood approaches Whitlock’s zeal—he only uses soap once or twice a month, and shampoos a whopping three times a year.

According to Julia Scott:

“I met these men. I got close enough to shake their hands, engage in casual conversation and note that they in no way conveyed a sense of being “unclean” in either the visual or olfactory sense.”

I’m not sure if I’m ready to try this myself, but it’s definitely an interesting concept.  Take a moment to read the entire article in the New York Times here.  I think you’ll enjoy it.