Whenever you’re browsing the beauty stores, you may have noticed more and more products popping up with their description that mention the one or other fermented ingredient. The products with fermented ingredients seem to originate from Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan. It seems that Western brands are not offering skincare products containing fermented ingredients, except for the famous serum Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. But this is a high-end product and comes with a hefty price.
In short, western skincare products often don’t feature fermented ingredients, and if they do they come with eye-watering prices. Whereas in Asia, fermented skincare products are very sought after and also a lot more affordable. But as with sheet masks and other trends, we can expect the Western beauty industry to follow suit.
In the meantime, let’s look into why the Asian like to use fermented skincare products like since forever.
What is fermentation?
If you think of wine, sauerkraut, sake, or miso when you hear fermentation, you’re absolutely right. In the fermentation process, substances are broking down into smaller molecules. It’s the chemical reaction when microorganisms mostly yeast but also bacteria, convert carbohydrates, such as starch or sugar to other substances usually alcohol or acids.
For thousands of years, humans have used fermentation as a way to preserve foods, improve flavour, and eliminate food toxins. Vegetables or fruits like cabbage, radishes, or plums are soaked in saltwater. This allows a mixture of bacteria, yeast, or fungi like kojic to grow. These microorganisms feed on the starch and sugar while creating lactic acid. In the process, other valuable nutrients like omega-3s, enzymes, and b-vitamins are created as a byproduct and added to the soaking vegetables and fruits. These all contribute to our overall health when consumed.
In the Far East, it’s still normal to often eat food like Kimchi in Korea, Natto in Japan, or fermented tofu wherever the Chinese are. It’s not just a bit of Sauerkraut in autumn or wine and beer in the West. So it’s also not surprising, this is where fermented skincare came from.
In skincare, what is understood under “fermented ingredients” is one of the many beneficial byproducts.
Since the fermentation process breaks down the source material into smaller molecules, it removes irritating substances such as pesticides, the smaller particles make the nutrients to be more easily absorbed, and lastly making it more nutrient-dense. In the process, other valuable substances are produced such as antioxidants, peptides, and amino acids.
Just as fermentation helps preserve food longer, it also helps to prolong a product’s shelf life, so that synthetic preservatives are not added to the skincare product.
As explained, the fermenting process is, when the microbes feed on the carbohydrates and convert them into lactic acid. Other byproducts are hyaluronic acid and ceramides. You probably have read these names on skincare ingredients lists already. Lactic acid is an AHA, it exfoliates and adds moisture. Hyaluronic acid is the classic ingredient for retaining water, and ceramics are vital for your skin barrier.
What Effects Does Fermented Skincare Have On Skin?
Depending on the source material used, you will see different outcomes, but in general, fermenting natural ingredients gives them new properties:
- Most unfermented cosmetics are produced by heating and then cooling a mixture of ingredients. This process can reduce the effectiveness of the active ingredients (think of raw honey vs refined honey). Fermenting will not reduce the effectiveness of the ingredients.
- Once fermented, the ingredient will be more acidic making it more skin-friendly. The skin has a ph level of around 5,5.
- Fermenting breaks down the molecular structure. The particles of the ingredients are smaller allowing them to better penetrate the skin.
- Fermentation add valuable byproducts like amino acids, omega-3s, antioxidants, and more.
- With the different microorganisms that are responsible for the fermentation, the fermented ingredient has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. These microbes inhibit the growth of most pathogenic bacteria and the formation of bacterial toxins. Not only do fermented skincare require a lower level of synthetic preservatives (they’d also kill the good microbes), but they also help to preserve the skin balance.
With the different microorganisms that are responsible for the fermentation, the fermented ingredient has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. These microbes inhibit the growth of most pathogenic bacteria and the formation of bacterial toxins. Not only do fermented skincare require a lower level of synthetic preservatives (they’d also kill the good microbes), but they also help to preserve the skin balance.
Applying both the microorganisms (also called ferments) and fermented ingredients will work wonders on your skin. The ferments will be beneficial on the microbiome on the surface of your skin, while the fermented ingredients will easily and readily absorb into the deeper layers of the epidermis and promoting its natural renewal.
Fermented skincare is a great all-rounder product that improves your skin health. If you’re looking to plump up your skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, hydrate, and in general want a glow, try adding a fermented skincare product to your routine. Fermented skincare products are especially beneficial for people with dry skin. They are very effective moisturisers due to their acid content.
What Are The Best Fermented Skincare Ingredients?
The source ingredients depend on your skin type or needs. Some ingredients have been proven to be amazing (also scientifically):
- Red ginseng has stronger anti-aging and lightening effects when fermented.
- Rice is a traditional beauty ingredient in the Far East. It’s brightening, moisturising, and anti-inflammatory.
- Fermented soy will boost your hydration level since it produces more hyaluronic acid.
Fermentation Or Decomposition?
Both processes are biological degradation. Decomposition is the microbial digestion and destruction of dead material and involves putrefactive bacteria.
Fermentation is a metabolic process where fermentation bacteria and yeast feed on carbohydrates and turn it into acids, alcohol, and gases.
The biggest difference is the microorganisms involved. Also, the outcome of decomposition has a bad smell and can cause food poisoning, while fermentation is a way to preserve food.
If you are thinking of making your own rice or tea toner on steroids, keep this in mind.
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