When it comes to the next hot new thing in beauty, our heads always turn to the East. In particular to South Korea – where everything from sheet masks to cleansing balms and beautifying essences hail from. But the latest innovation in beauty to stem from the shores of SoKo might not be quite what you expected, as it’s all about using fermented ingredients on your face.
Before you panic, we’re not talking about slathering kimchi all over your skin. This trend is all about powerful fermented ingredients that literally feed your face with nourishing goodness. From sauerkraut to kefir, fermented foods have long been known for their gut-health promoting properties and immune-boosting abilities, so it’s hardly surprising that it only took a matter of time before the Korean beauty industry used this knowledge and applied it to skincare.
So, what exactly are fermented ingredients? Simply put, “Fermented skincare uses ingredients made using fermentation. The process of fermentation is one in which a substance is broken down into a simpler substance by microorganisms like yeast or bacteria,” explains Barbara Paldus, founder of Codex Beauty. “Fermentation occurs in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic conditions), and in the presence of beneﬁcial microorganisms (yeasts, molds, and bacteria) that obtain their energy through fermentation. During the fermentation process, these beneﬁcial microbes break down sugars and starches into alcohols and acids.”
These processes create some major players in the skincare ingredients game, including lactic acid (a gentle AHA great for sensitive skin) and probiotics, which pack a serious nutrient-rich punch.
Now for even better news – fermented ingredients can mean more bang for your buck, as experts argue ingredients are at the most powerful post-fermentation, and that they can penetrate deeper into the skin. “When you ferment ingredients, they become bio-available, meaning the skin can absorb and put them to use more easily,” agrees George Cleeve, founder of Oskia skincare.
Other benefits of fermented ingredients? “Lactic acid is known to be a gentle exfoliator, while probiotics support the skin microbiome,” says Paldus. “In fact, fermentation of plant-based ingredients can produce other natural postbiotics that are rich in vitamins, amino acids, lactic acid, and polysaccharides. These are beneficial for nourishing the skin and preserving the microbiome.” In a nutshell – fermented skincare can help tackle everything from signs of aging to dullness, dryness, and inflammation – and faster and more effectively than their non-fermented counterparts.
Need to Know
Like with any new product you introduce into your routine, always make sure you check the label for any harmful ingredients or additives that might stress out your skin. “Fermented skincare can be used on most types of healthy skin. If someone has a pre-existing skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, they should consult their dermatologist first,” Paldus advises. “Companies in fermented skincare claim that it is best for sensitive skin. However, that depends on the use of other ingredients such as essential oils that are included in the formulation. Always make sure to check the INCI list on the product before making these assumptions!”
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If you’re looking to up your skincare game with the addition of hardworking and effective fermented ingredients, then below is a good place to start. Discover Savoir Flair’s edit of the top five fermented beauty boosters, guaranteed to transform your skin from within.
Codex Beauty 'Bia Skin Superfood'
Not only does this daily moisturizer deliver an intense hit of hydration for the face, body, and hands, but it also harnesses the brand’s revolutionary ‘PreservX system’, which uses three fermented ingredients and two organic acids to support skin barrier function and its delicate microbiome. There’s softening and moisturizing fermented corn, lactobacillus ferment to provide probiotic protection, and coconut oil ferment to boost elasticity and bring antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties to every tube.
Codex Beauty ‘Bia Skin Superfood’
Missha 'Time Revolution Night Repair Probio Ampoule'
Cult-favorite K-beauty brand Missha is all for fermented ingredients in its powerhouse products, and this nighttime treat for skin is no exception. Containing more than 50 percent bifida ferment lysate – a fermented yeast hailed for its anti-aging and wrinkle-fighting abilities – it works whilst you slumber to visibly reduce signs of aging, improve elasticity, and protect the skin. It also uses Missha’s unique ‘Hot & Cold Double Fermentation Process’, an advanced absorption method that ensures maximum penetration.
Missha ‘Time Revolution Night Repair Probio Ampoule’
Oskia 'Renaissance Hand & Body Cream'
Oskia’s luxurious, vitamin-rich ‘Renaissance Hand and Body Cream’ helps to smooth and nourish the skin, as well as treat keratosis pilaris, thanks to nurturing rose and chamomile and a mineral mix of zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron. Because the minerals have been fermented, they can penetrate deeper and more effectively into the skin for better results, ensuring all those good-for-you nutrients and bio-actives can work their nourishing and moisturizing magic.
Oskia ‘Renaissance Hand and Body Cream’
SK-II 'Facial Treatment Essence'
SK-II’s signature ingredient Pitera helped launch fermented ingredients into mainstream skincare, and with good reason. A fermented yeast blend inspired by the seemingly ageless skin of Japanese sake brewers, it was created after five years of fermentation research and is at the core of the brand’s best-selling ‘Facial Treatment Essence’. Made of 90 percent Pitera, this lightweight yet powerful essence boosts cell metabolism, intensely regenerates, replenishes moisture, and evens tone. In fact, it’s so good that one is sold around the world every two seconds.
SK-II ‘Facial Treatment Essence’
Benton 'Fermentation Mask Pack'
Not only is this sheet mask saturated in not one, not two, but three high-grade fermented ingredients, but it also contains plant-derived ceramides and two types of peptides to smooth, soften, and plump skin to perfection. Even better? It checks the cruelty-free and eco-friendly boxes and is derived from cotton and cellulose to keep your face – and the planet – happy. Leave it on for just 10 to 20 minutes, allow those fabulous ferments to work deep into skin, and you’ll have your glow back in no time.
Benton ‘Fermentation Mask Pack’