Trending: Fermented Ingredients

Before writing this article, I thought fermentation was similar to pickling- oh my how I was wrong. Typically, when one thinks of things that are fermented a few things come to mind: kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and wine. All yummy things but nothing I would think to put on my face. Thankfully the skincare geniuses have found a way to “break it down” (all puns intended) into serums and creams that are more appealing to apply. First things first, a short lesson in what exactly fermentation is.

Fermentation is a metabolic process where the naturally found enzymes break down the particle into something smaller and new. For instance, grape juice into wine or milk into lactic acid. This process is used widely in the food industry but has now begun to find its way into our skincare- good news for those of us who can’t stomach kombucha or find kimchi too spicy. Think superfoods – ginseng, green tea, mushrooms- and more, all being reformulated to have the biggest impact with a smaller molecular size.

“Fermented ingredients tend to mimic cell functions so that they work symbiotically for better penetration and usability.”

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These skin-friendly elements like probiotics and lactic acid help create that slightly acidic and healthy microbiome and skin barrier. Probiotics and prebiotics boost the skin’s total health by creating and maintaining the ecosystem of micro-organisms living on the skin-aka the microbiome. By doing this you can encourage your skin into doing a lot of other natural functions like calming inflammation, helping acne, and eczema. Here’s how:

Fermented ingredients tend to mimic cell functions so that they work symbiotically for better penetration and usability. So, what you get is a smaller molecule that is more refined with greater absorbability and potency. Fermented ingredients can also help the skin’s natural microbiome in this way. Consuming fermented food is good for the gut’s microbiome as fermented ingredients are excellent for helping the skin heal itself.  The process of fermentation creates “postbiotics” as well as “probiotics” that help reduce inflammation, create a calmer more balanced environment on the skin that results in a more undamaged skin barrier.

Fermented ingredients can be used on any skin type but are more commonly marketed for sensitive skin. With the smaller molecular size, the powerhouse ingredients absorb better, meaning the product spends less time sitting on the skin potentially causing irritation. With the higher effectiveness of these ingredients, you also end up using less product. There is also a commonality of fermented skincare not using paraben-based preservatives on account the fermentation process has an antibacterial effect.

You may be wondering what fermented ingredients to look out for. There are so many, so it really comes down to the skin issues you want to treat. Fermented antioxidants like black tea are great for protecting the skin from environmental stressors like pollution and UV rays, providing more protection to the skin with the potency of fermented ingredients. Fermented amino acids reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and fermented fruit and sugar acids help brighten the skin. In fact, you may not have to look too far to find fermented skincare products. Many alpha-hydroxy acids are a byproduct of plant fermentation. For example, mandelic acid comes from almonds and lactic acid from milk.

So, if high potency, better absorbability, free radical fighting, and anti-aging benefits are on your dream list, fermented skincare could be for you…just don’t forget to patch test!