Just like fine wine: What you need to know about fermented ingredients

What comes to mind when you hear “fermentation”? Kimchi? Wine?

Just like the various fermented foods and drinks we enjoy, fermentation also produces ingredients that are good for your skin.

Nowadays, we see a lot of beauty products with the word “fermented” in it. In fact, you might have already encountered fermented ingredients without even noticing it. For example, lactic acid, one of our favorite exfoliants, comes from fermented milk.

A wave of fermented products from foods we all know, such as mushrooms, green tea, propolis, are now being developed by the skincare industry. For instance, Whamisa is known for using the fermentation process in most, if not all, its products.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is the process in which good microbes, bacteria, or yeast are introduced to an ingredient to break it down into its basic building blocks. Fermentation results in skin-friendly ingredients like lactic acid, probiotics, and post-biotics (you can read more about prebiotics here).

Many whole foods and plant-based ingredients can be fermented to enhance their nutrients and yield probiotics.

What are the skincare benefits of fermented ingredients?

Simply put, fermentation increases an ingredient's potency, penetration power, and makes products last longer.

Fermentation breaks down ingredients into smaller molecules. Ingredients become more powerful and potent post-fermentation because the vitamins, essential minerals, and amino acids within them are in their purest form with smaller molecules. And the smaller the molecular size, the better it can be absorbed by the skin. 

This means that skincare products made with fermented ingredients contain a higher concentration of more potent antioxidants which help fight free-radical damage and protect against UV damage—and you'll be getting the most out of the product, giving you more bang for your buck!

Fermentation, depending on the specific process used, may also increase the shelf life of your skincare products, as it creates metabolites (like lactic acid, organic acids, acetic acids) which prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria. This is also why fermented ingredients are commonly used for their anti-inflammatory and skin-calming benefits, which are very useful for those with acne and irritation. 

Here are some fermented ingredients you can look into and try for some specific skin concerns.

Anti-aging benefits for fine lines and wrinkles

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which help firm the skin. Applying products with amino acids can help boost collagen production beneath the surface, while hydrating and calming inflammation. This results in a firmer and more even overall skin tone.

Some of the best amino acids for your skin are arginine, histidine, methionine, lysine, and proline. (Anything with 2 or more amino acids is called a peptide.)

Product recommendations:

  • PURITO Fermented Complex 94 Boosting Essence
    Made up of 94% Lactobacillus/rice ferment that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, which helps nourish the stressed skin, improves skin texture, and provides smooth, even skin tone. It also contains bifida fermentation solution that promotes skin firmness and cares for skin damage. 

  • Benton Fermentation Essence
    Packed with peptides and made with a fermented yeast called galactomyces ferment filtratewhich has brightening and plumping effects. It’s also got bifida ferment lysate, another yeast-derived ingredient that helps to balance the skin’s microbiome to protect it from environmental stressors.

  • Neogen Dermalogy Real Ferment Micro Essence
    Formulated with more than 93% of micro bio fermented complex including bifida ferment lysate and saccharomyces ferment filtrate that delivers instant moisture and skin-plumping benefits, combined with rice ferment filtrate and Aspergillus ferment to brighten the skin. It also contains a number of amino acids to firm the skin and even out skin tone.

  • Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence RX
    Contains over 90% fermented yeast extract from Himalayan purple barley to effectively plump skin, refine skin texture, and reduce pigmentation. It also delivers moisture to skin and helps maintain skin balance. 

Brightening properties for dull skin

Many of the chemical exfoliants we use come from fermented ingredients. AHAs are actually a byproduct of fermentation: Glycolic acid is fermented sugar, Mandelic acid from almonds, and Lactic acid from milk. If you want to revitalise and brighten your skin, you might want to look for products with fruit or sugar acids to exfoliate dead skin cells, improve cell turnover, and bring out new skin cells for a more radiant complexion.

Read more about chemical exfoliators here.
Click here to explore our range of chemical exfoliators.

Protection from free radicals

Antioxidants are usually part of the morning skincare routine as they protect and defend the skin from environmental stressors such as  UV rays and pollution, which cause free radical damage.

Antioxidants in any form are great for the skin, and fermentation only increases the benefits. One great example is kombucha, which is fermented black tea. Black tea is already an excellent antioxidant that contains phenols, and through fermentation, its antioxidizing power becomes more potent.

Product recommendations:

  • Atrue Black Tea Essence
    81% double-fermented black tea to help improve skin texture and even skin tone, brighten and moisturise the skin, purify pores and improve skin elasticity.

  • Haru Haru Wonder Black Rice Line
    Black rice is rich in antioxidants and is full of highly concentrated polyphenol and flavonoid pigments which protect skin against free radicals and encourage new cell growth. HaruHaru Wonder’s Black Rice line delivers fermented black rice extract to skin deeply and effectively with sphere-shaped liposomes infused in Panax Ginseng root extract.

There are many benefits to fermented skin care products, which make them a great innovation for k-beauty and skincare in general. They are also often sensitive skin-friendly, which is a plus! (But of course, if you have sensitive skin, we'd still recommend patch testing before introducing any fermented ingredient into your routine, just to be sure if it's right for you.) 

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