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Fermentation, commonly associated with foods like yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut, as well as beverages like beer, sake, and wine, has long been valued for its positive effects on gut health. However, the advantages of fermentation extend beyond internal well-being. Emerging out of Korea as a rising trend in the beauty realm, fermented skincare ingredients are gaining prominence in the world of skincare. Through the natural process of fermentation, specific skincare ingredients’ properties are enhanced. Discover the world of fermented skincare to explore its process, benefits, various types of skincare ferments, and discover top product recommendations to begin incorporating fermented skincare into your daily routine.

Why Fermented Skincare?

Fermentation, a natural biological process driven by microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, or fungi, is harnessed in skincare to transform raw ingredients into more potent, skin-friendly compounds. This process typically involves the controlled breakdown of these ingredients, leading to the creation of bioactive components that can offer unique benefits to the skin.

Skincare manufacturers carefully select specific ingredients, such as botanical extracts or natural oils, and subject them to the fermentation process. During fermentation, the microorganisms metabolize the components in the ingredient, resulting in the creation of smaller molecules that are more easily absorbed by the skin. This breakdown can also generate beneficial byproducts like amino acids, peptides, and organic acids, which contribute to the overall effectiveness of the skincare product.

How Does Fermentation Benefit Skincare?

Natural fermentation amplifies the potency of skincare ingredients, making them more bioavailable and better suited for skin absorption. This enhanced bioavailability means that the skin can readily benefit from the nutrients, antioxidants, and other active compounds present in the fermented ingredient.

Additionally, the fermentation process can yield bioactive peptides and enzymes that contribute to the desired effects of the skincare product. These bioactive components can have moisturizing, soothing, and rejuvenating properties, ultimately leading to a more radiant and healthier complexion.

By harnessing the power of natural fermentation, skincare products can deliver a higher concentration of beneficial compounds to the skin, optimizing their effectiveness in addressing various skin concerns.

The Science Behind Fermented Skincare

The science of fermented skincare is rooted in the understanding of enzymatic reactions, molecular transformations, and the beneficial compounds produced during fermentation. Researchers have delved into the intricate mechanisms through which fermentation enhances the properties of skincare ingredients.

Studies have shown that fermentation can lead to the formation of peptides with skin-firming properties, antioxidants that protect against environmental stressors, and humectants that improve skin hydration. Additionally, the introduction of probiotics and prebiotics through fermentation can support a balanced skin microbiome, promoting a healthier complexion.

Types of Fermented Skincare Ingredients & Their Benefits

There are many different types of fermented skincare ingredients, each with their own properties and benefits. Below, we have listed different fermented skincare ingredients by their base, alongside the benefits of each ferment.

Yeast Ferments:

Yeast ferments are popular ingredients in skincare due to their potential benefits for the skin. They are often used to enhance skin texture, provide hydration, and promote overall skin vitality. Here are some common types of yeast ferments found in skincare and their associated benefits:

Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate: This yeast ferment is known for its skin-brightening effects. It may help improve uneven skin tone, reduce the appearance of dark spots, and promote a more radiant complexion. Galactomyces ferment also offers hydration and supports overall skin health.

Saccharomyces Ferment: Saccharomyces ferment is used in skincare for its potential exfoliating properties. It contains natural enzymes that can gently exfoliate the skin, leading to smoother texture and improved clarity. It can also support skin renewal and promote a youthful appearance.

Bifida Ferment Lysate: Bifida ferment lysate is often associated with its skin-barrier-strengthening effects. It may help improve the skin’s resilience against environmental stressors, maintain hydration, and contribute to a healthier complexion. It’s commonly found in products aimed at anti-aging and skin protection.

Pichia/Phytomyces Extract Ferment: This yeast-derived ferment is recognized for its moisturizing properties. It can help the skin retain moisture, making it a valuable ingredient for products designed to combat dryness, maintain hydration, and improve skin elasticity.

Rice and Sake Ferment:

Rice ferment filtrate, obtained by the fermentation of Oryza sativa (rice), is a popular ingredient in skincare products due to its potential benefits for the skin. This ingredient, often referred to as “sake ferment,” is rich in natural compounds that can contribute to healthier, more radiant skin. Here are some benefits associated with rice ferment filtrate in skincare:

Skin-Brightening: Rice ferment filtrate contains enzymes, amino acids, and vitamins that can help promote a brighter complexion. It may assist in reducing the appearance of dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone.

Hydration: This ferment has natural humectant properties, which means it can attract and retain moisture on the skin’s surface for long-lasting hydration.

Gentle Exfoliation: Rice ferment filtrate may contain natural enzymes that provide milder exfoliation compared to other chemical exfoliants.

Antioxidant Protection: Antioxidants found in rice ferment filtrate help defend the skin against oxidative stress caused by free radicals, preventing premature aging.

Soothing: Rice ferment filtrate can have soothing and calming effects on the skin. It may help reduce redness, irritation, and inflammation, while restoring the skin barrier.

Fruit Enzyme Ferments:

Fruit ferments are natural ingredients in skincare known for their potential to provide gentle exfoliation, antioxidant protection, and skin-brightening effects. Different types of fruit ferments offer unique benefits due to their natural properties. Here are some common fruit ferments found in skincare:

Papaya (Carica Papaya) Ferment: Papaya contains natural enzymes, such as papain, which offer gentle exfoliation. It helps remove dead skin cells, revealing a smoother and brighter complexion. Papaya ferment can also have soothing properties, making it suitable for sensitive skin.

Pineapple (Ananas Comosus) Ferment: Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that can gently exfoliate the skin. It can help improve skin texture, promote a more even skin tone, and provide antioxidant benefits due to its vitamin C content.

Pomegranate (Punica Granatum) Ferment: Pomegranate is rich in antioxidants, such as polyphenols. Pomegranate ferment can provide skin-brightening effects and contribute to a healthy complexion.

Cranberry (Vaccinium Macrocarpon) Ferment: Cranberry is another fruit rich in antioxidants, particularly vitamin C. Cranberry ferment helps promote a radiant complexion while offering potential anti-aging benefits.

Kiwi (Actinidia Chinensis) Ferment: Kiwi is a source of natural AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids). Kiwi ferment can help improve skin texture, promote cell turnover, and enhance the skin’s overall appearance.

Fig (Ficus Carica) Ferment: Fig ferment can provide mild exfoliation, contributing to smoother skin texture.

Apple (Malus Domestica) Ferment: Apple ferment can offer a combination of exfoliation and hydration. It can help improve the appearance of dull skin and promote a more youthful look.

Grape (Vitis Vinifera) Ferment: Grape ferment is rich in natural antioxidants, such as resveratrol, which can help protect the skin from environmental damage and provide anti-aging benefits.

Plant Ferments:

Plant ferments are popular ingredients in skincare because they can provide a range of benefits, including soothing properties, antioxidants, and natural exfoliating enzymes. Here are some popular plant ferments that you may find in skincare products:

Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis) Ferment: Green tea is known for its antioxidant properties, making it effective in protecting the skin from environmental stressors. Green tea ferment can help soothe the skin, reduce redness, and provide anti-aging benefits.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra) Ferment: Licorice root is often used for its skin-brightening properties. Licorice ferment can help even out skin tone, reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, and soothe sensitive or stressed out skin.

Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) Ferment: Ginseng is known for its potential to revitalize the skin. Ginseng ferment may help improve the appearance of tired or dull skin, promote circulation, and provide a rejuvenating effect.

Mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris) Ferment: Mugwort ferment soothes, protects, and rejuvenates sensitive skin while enhancing absorption and aiding in skin barrier strength.

Bacterial Ferments:

A balanced and diverse skin microbiome helps maintain skin health, protect against pathogens, and regulate immune responses. However, factors like harsh skincare products, environmental stressors, and lifestyle can disrupt the skin’s natural microbial balance. Bacterial ferments, also known as probiotic or microbial ferments, are skincare ingredients derived from beneficial bacteria. They can help balance the skin’s microbiome, support the skin barrier, soothe irritation, provide hydration, and offer anti-aging effects. Some common bacteria ferments include:

Lactobacillus Ferment: Known for its probiotic properties, Lactobacillus ferment can help support a healthy skin microbiome, potentially improving overall skin balance and vitality.

Bifida Ferment Lysate: Often found in anti-aging products, Bifida ferment lysate may help strengthen the skin barrier, promote resilience against environmental stressors, and offer potential anti-aging effects.

Lactococcus Ferment Lysate: This bacterial ferment is used in skincare for its soothing properties, making it suitable for sensitive or irritated skin, and it may also assist in maintaining skin hydration.

Fermented Oils:

Oil-based ferments are skincare ingredients created by fermenting oils with beneficial microorganisms. Although not as common as other ingredients, some recognized oil-based ferments blend the nourishment of botanical oils with fermentation benefits. Here are a few examples:

Fermented Argan Oil: Argan oil is rich in vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants. When it undergoes fermentation, it may become even more bioavailable to the skin, offering hydration, nourishment, and potential anti-aging effects.

Fermented Rosehip Oil: Rosehip oil is known for its high content of essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, as well as vitamins A and C. Fermentation may enhance its skin-rejuvenating properties, promoting a more youthful complexion and supporting skin elasticity.

Fermented Camellia Oil: Camellia oil, derived from the seeds of the Camellia plant, is a lightweight and non-comedogenic oil. Fermented camellia oil may provide deep hydration, improve skin texture, and protect against moisture loss.

Fermented Sea Buckthorn Oil: Sea buckthorn oil is prized for its omega fatty acids, vitamins, and skin-repairing properties. Fermentation can potentially enhance its skin-soothing and nourishing effects, making it valuable for overall skin health.

Fermented Evening Primrose Oil: Evening primrose oil is often used for its gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) content, which supports skin barrier function and can benefit dry or sensitive skin. Fermentation may further amplify these effects.

Fermented Skincare & Fungal Acne Precautions

If you’re dealing with fungal acne (also known as Malassezia folliculitis or pityrosporum folliculitis), a type of fungal infection that affects hair follicles, it’s essential to be cautious with certain fermented skincare ingredients. Fungal acne is triggered by an overgrowth of specific yeast (Malassezia) on the skin, and some fermented ingredients can potentially worsen this condition or exacerbate the symptoms. Here are some considerations for avoiding certain fermented ingredients when dealing with fungal acne:

Avoid Ferments High in Sugars: Fermented ingredients that contain high levels of sugars or carbohydrates can potentially feed the yeast responsible for fungal acne. It’s best to avoid ingredients like saccharides, malt extract, and other sugar-rich ferments.

Stay Away from Fermented Oils: Some fermented oils might not be suitable for fungal acne-prone skin, as they can provide a conducive environment for yeast growth.

Limit Yeast-Derived Ferments: While not all yeast-derived ferments are problematic, it’s a good idea to exercise caution. For example, fermented ingredients obtained from yeast strains like Saccharomyces cerevisiae might not be suitable for fungal acne-prone skin.

Focus on Fungal-Acne Safe Ingredients: Opt for skincare products that are explicitly labeled as “fungal acne-safe” or “yeast-sensitive skin-friendly.” Look for non-comedogenic ingredients like salicylic acid, niacinamide, sulfur, azelaic acid, and other anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory agents.

Recommended Fermented Skincare Products

The world of skincare is abuzz with the rise of fermented products as one of the latest skincare trends coming out of Korea. With an increasing availability of skincare items containing fermented ingredients, such as creams, serums, toners, and essences, integrating fermented skincare into your routine is now more accessible than ever. Below, you’ll find some recommended fermented skincare products you can try for yourself.

Missha Time Revolution Artemisia Treatment Essence

The Time Revolution Artemisia Treatment Essence by Missha is a concentrated essence containing 100% double fermented Artemisia Annua Extract (mugwort) from Ganghwa Island, renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich properties. Harvested in September for maximum potency, it undergoes a double fermentation process in both warm and cold environments, resulting in a highly effective Artemisia concentration. The essence soothes redness, heals stressed skin, and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal benefits, making it suitable for treating blemishes, irritations, and inflammatory skin conditions.

Buy Missha Time Revolution Artemisia Treatment Essence

Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Hydrating Spray

The Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Hydrating Spray is a pH-balanced face mist enriched with fermented ingredients like kombucha and fermented rice water, along with amino acids, fatty acids, electrolytes, and ceramides. It refreshes, hydrates, and supports a healthy microbiome while shielding against pollution, blue light, free radicals, and irritants. Galactomyces ferment filtrate, sodium PCA, and Saccharomyces/Xylinum/Black Tea Ferment nurture the skin’s barrier, soothe redness, and restore hydration. Coconut water, hops extract, and zinc, copper, and calcium gluconate provide antioxidants and soothing benefits. A 3-ceramide blend, vitamin F, and multi-amino-acid blend enhance elasticity, suppleness, and strength.

Buy Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Hydrating Spray

COSRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence

The COSRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence is a powerful skincare product featuring a 95% concentrate of galactomyces ferment filtrate, derived from fermented yeast, along with niacinamide, known to nourish and rejuvenate the skin. This essence effectively clears, brightens, and hydrates the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and refining the skin texture. Its key ingredient, galactomyces ferment filtrate, brings brightness, hydration, and antioxidants to tired and dull skin. The inclusion of hyaluronic acid and panthenol ensures optimal moisture retention, leaving the skin smooth and supple without a greasy residue, thanks to the lightweight texture that quickly absorbs into the skin.

Buy COSRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence

Neogen Real Ferment Micro Serum

The Neogen Real Ferment Micro Serum is a potent skincare product containing 61% fermented ingredients, including Bifida Ferment Lysate and Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, which rapidly penetrate the skin, providing deep moisture. This serum features three vital vitamins (C, E, and B5) that revitalize and nourish the skin, giving balanced nutrition for a healthy complexion. Infused with Niacinamide and Glutathione, it also promotes a transparent and clear skin tone while Centella Asiatica Extract soothes and strengthens the skin’s barrier, protecting it from the external environment. The serum’s lightweight gel texture is quickly absorbed, enhancing skin firmness and brightness.

Buy Neogen Real Ferment Micro Serum

Sunday Riley Pink Drink Skin Firming Resurfacing Essence Face Mist

Sunday Riley’s Pink Drink Skin Firming Resurfacing Essence Face Mist, a sought-after product from the cult-favorite brand, leverages the benefits of fermentation to create a delightful pink treatment essence. This potent formula features peptides, fermented honey, pink yeast filtrate, and kelp, working harmoniously to soothe, moisturize, restore, and protect the skin. Its firming peptides, prebiotics, antioxidants, and ceramides contribute to a renewed and soft complexion. With a focus on balancing the skin’s natural microbiome and combating signs of aging, this essence is enriched with nourishing ingredients like chlorella, sea water, and EGCG from green tea, making it a powerful ally in maintaining healthy, youthful skin.

Buy Sunday Riley Pink Drink Skin Firming Resurfacing Essence Face Mist