Fermented Skincare Ingredients: What Are the Benefits?


If you follow K-beauty brands and trends closely, chances are you’ve seen — and maybe even used — fermented skincare products. More and more beauty products are using fermented ingredients, but you might be wondering: what’s the point? really mean?

Understanding the ingredients and terminology on your beauty products may seem like it takes a degree in cosmetic chemistry, but with the right resources, you can begin to decode what each one means.

We’ve brought in a panel of experts to walk you through everything you need to know about fermented skincare, including how it works, its benefits, and more. Keep reading to get the scoop.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a metabolic process commonly associated with foods and beverages, such as kombucha and kimchi. “Generally, the fermentation process converts sugars into bacteria, yeast, or other microorganisms and produces different types of ingredients,” Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and Ferver brand partner, tells POPSUGAR.

Fermentation originated in Korea, but Brian Oh, Founder and CEO of Venn Skincare, says, “Historically, fermentation in Korea was more limited to food, with kimchi (fermented cabbage) and doenjang (fermented soy) being the two most popular traditional foods.

The practice of using fermented ingredients in skin care, however, seems to date back to Cleopatra in Egypt. “There’s a legend that Cleopatra bathed in sour (fermented) milk, and we now know that sour milk contains lactic acid, a natural AHA for skin exfoliation,” Oh says. .

The benefits of fermentation in skin care

As mentioned above, fermentation is used in a variety of ways, but in beauty in particular, it makes ingredients more effective. “Fermentation breaks down natural molecules and makes them smaller, so it’s easier for them to be absorbed deeper into your skin’s surface,” says Dr. Zubritsky. This means that the ingredients are more effective and give better results, but that’s not all.

“The fermentation process also enhances an ingredient’s potency by producing chemical by-products such as vitamins, essential minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and peptides, and thereby increasing the ingredient’s nutrient density. “, explains Oh. As a result, the new fermented ingredient is more effective and potent than the unfermented ingredient.

Fermented skincare also has skin microbiome balancing benefits, leading to “a healthier, more intact skin barrier with less inflammation,” says Dr. Zubritsky.

Beauty products using fermentation

Fermentation is used in more beauty products than you might think. For example, Clinique has been using aloe bio-ferment in its Moisture Surge 100H Self-Replenishing Moisturizer ($41) and has been doing so for over 30 years.

“The process of creating an aloe vera bio-ferment involves mixing aloe vera powder with lactobacillus, the host organism, and allowing it to grow for 24 to 48 hours,” says Steven. Schnittger, vice president of global microbiology and fermentation research and development for The Estée Lauder Societies. The aloe vera bio-ferment is then extracted in a way that ensures no bacteria or contamination is included and then used in the moisturizer.

At Venn, on the other hand, the Advanced Multi-Perfecting Red Oil Serum ($115) “uses two foundational root extracts that are fermented for 150 hours at low temperatures to enhance the absorption of the formulation,” Oh says. .

Popular Fermented Ingredients in Skin Care

A variety of ingredients can be fermented and used in beauty products. Clinique uses aloe vera; Venn uses saponin from ginseng and other plant roots, but it doesn’t stop there. Another popular ingredient is skincare superstar hyaluronic acid.

“Many types of hyaluronic acid are too bulky to penetrate the surface of the skin and just sit on the skin,” says Dr. Zubritsky. “Using the fermentation process, a fermented hyaluronic acid like Ferver’s Ferver Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($19) contains fermented hyaluronic acid that penetrates the skin’s surface 10 times. [more] than regular hyaluronic acid.” And that’s only scratching the surface – if you take a look at the products in your medicine cabinet, chances are some of your favorite products contain fermented ingredients. in the wording.

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