Our compulsion for daily bathing is a relatively recent development. Only within the last 100 years has the daily bath or shower become a widespread practice. Now, there is concern that we’re washing away our microbiome, the beneficial bacteria on our skin. The solution would be to bathe less, as the surfactants and preservatives in most soaps are not microbiome-friendly. Changing this is the challenge and the opportunity for soap and shower brands.

Bring supplementary probiotics into the shower

Just as moisturizing soaps replenish moisture removed through bathing, probiotic soaps seek to restore good bacteria. The primary means of achieving this is through fermented probiotic ingredients like yogurt cultures. We’re seeing the emergence of products that add good bacteria to the skin. A startup called AOBiome, for example, leverages microbiome discoveries in topical products. At the heart of AOBiome’s Mother Dirt brand portfolio is its AO+ misting spray, which bathes the face and body in beneficial bacteria. The spray is claimed to improve skin’s appearance and reduce odour as a result of restoring the microbiome. Because AOBiome sells a cross-category range of products that also includes a cleanser and shampoo that don’t disrupt the microbiome, it serves as a template for how brands can reverse the effects of over-bathing without advocating a non-bathing lifestyle.

Probiotic soaps are rare

The problem with many probiotic soaps, however, is that most still use traditional surfactants and preservative ingredients, which neutralise the benefit of added bacteria. The few soaps positioned around preserving good bacteria are preservative-free, which of course isn’t feasible for most mass-market products. This may be one reason why there are so few probiotic soaps. Soap brands that can find a way to reformulate cleansers to more successfully deliver probiotics could start a category growth trend on par with moisturizing soaps. Most daily bathers will be hard-pressed to give up the practice, but many would pay more to counteract the loss of skin’s natural bacteria.

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Mother Dirt AO+ Mist, US: Formulated with a patented, live “peacekeeper” bacteria to restore essential bacteria that’s been removed by modern hygiene and lifestyles.
Barnängen Yoghurt Aloe Vera Shower Cream, Sweden: Suitable for dry skin, it features a light and mild formula enriched with probiotic yogurt cultures, protecting skin from drying out and keeping it soft and smooth.
Pure Beginnings Organic Baby Probiotic Baby Sensitive Cream Wash, South Africa: The product is formulated with prebiotic and probiotic ingredients in a pH balanced formula to protect skin’s microbiome during bathing.

Jamie Rosenberg is Global Household & Personal Care Analyst at Mintel, exploring trends and new business opportunities in household, beauty and personal care categories.

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