From sheet masks to cushion compacts, the world knows by now that when a new Korean beauty offering comes along, the only acceptable way to respond is, “Yes, thank you, I’ll have one. And two more please”. So, what’s the next big thing you’ll likely be lining up for? Fermented skincare! Yes, just like kimchi and sauerkraut, except for your face (and without the cabbage).
If it’s been a while since you were in science lab, allow us to refresh your memory: Fermentation is a process wherein foods are soaked in water so that the carbs and sugars are broken down by good bacteria like lactobacillus, and which produces lactic acid. This creates a cocktail of elements like probiotics, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and other enzymes that concentrate the food’s nutrients – and help preserve it longer, too.
So how is this good for your skin? The main idea is to make the food’s nutrients concentrated and easily absorbable by the body. When fermented, the active ingredients (that your product is going to be made from) are broken down by yeast and that helps them to be absorbed way better and faster by your skin; amino acids and antioxidants are also welcome byproducts because they mean speedy cell-turnover.
Unlike your regular non-fermented skincare products that are created by simply heating up the ingredient formula at high temperatures – which could actually lower their potency – their fermented counterparts are symbiotic with the skin because they mimic its cell function.
Just like kimchi, except for your face (and without the cabbage).
Turns out fermented skincare products are great for sensitive skin, pigmentation and, of course, anti aging (all that preservation we were talking about earlier). Brands like SK-II (fermented sake) and La Mer (fermented sea kelp) might immediately come to mind, but did you know how many fermented ingredients you can find in Korean skincare? Up to 80! The Koreans have entire lines dedicated to fermented products; Whamisa, SU:M37 and Sooryehan Ho are some.
As far as ingredients are concerned, check your labels for some of these – botanicals like dandelion and aloe, grains like rice, proteins like soy (or natto), and even algae (the virtues of which we’ve discussed here at length). You’ll typically find these in creams, serums, essences – mostly leave-in stuff – which is why their expiry date rolls around in 6 - 12 months..
On that note, here’s a curated list of the best fermented skincare products in the market.