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Ultimate guide to fermented skincare

  • 4 min read

The latest trend to hit our Instagram feeds from South Korea is fermented skin care. We’ve heard about the wonders of fermented foods but is fermented skincare a healthy wonder too? Many companies now claim that they have the best fermented skin care products, but are they just jumping on the bandwagon or does fermented skincare work?

Here, we look at what fermented skincare is, fermented skincare ingredients and consider if this is a skincare wonder, a skincare plunder or something somewhere in between the two. 

What is fermented skincare? 

You’re probably familiar with the concept of fermentation from the foodie scene. From kombucha to kimchi, and sauerkraut to kefir, many of us have started to get the message that fermented foods are good for us. 

This is because they are natural probiotics – a great way of adding good and beneficial microbes to our gut and digestive tract. This feeds and populates our gut microbiome and research has shown that this is helpful to our health in a range of ways from bolstering immunity to helping depression.

But our skin has its own microbiome too. This is the collection of healthy and beneficial microbes that live on and in your skin. These aid our health – not just that of our skin, but our health overall! In fact, your skin is your first line of defence for many harmful bacteria. A healthy skin microbiome is important. The best fermented skincare is believed to nourish and populate your skin microbiome, much as probiotics nourish your gut microbiome.

With fermented foods, the food stuff is fermented to make the final product. So, for example, cabbage is fermented in salt to make kimchi, and grapes are fermented in yeast to produce wine. It’s a similar process for fermented skin care; particular ingredients in skincare are fermented to encourage microbe growth.

Fermented ingredients in skincare are all natural, being derived from nature. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are plant-based. Fermented mushrooms are quite a common fermented skincare ingredient and are hailed for their natural anti-inflammatory qualities, as well as being a powerful antioxidant. Other common fermented ingredients in skincare include rice and ginseng root.

When it comes to your gut microbiome, variety is the spice of life – a diverse microbiome brings the most benefits. The same is likely true for your skin. 

Does fermented skincare work?

So, it all sounds very promising and interesting, but does fermented skincare work?

Fermentation has long been understood in ancient cultures to bring health benefits. Western science is catching up and the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome, aided by fermented foods, are now widely understood. 

Some of this science can be overlaid onto fermented skin care. We know from the research that fermentation breaks down ingredients and cultivates microbial diversity. It’s then believed that these ingredients, once broken down in skincare, can more easily permeate the skin, delivering the benefits more effectively and directly. The basic science is that fermentation breaks down active ingredients into smaller molecules which can then be more easily absorbed.

There are some studies emerging which look promising for fermented skincare. It appears, at least at the research level, that fermented ingredients in skincare increase potency. This makes these ingredients particularly effective for supporting a healthy skin barrier, which in turn is important for the overall health of your skin, potentially reducing issues such as inflammation or sensitivity.

The issue is that like with many skincare and beauty trends, it’s very difficult to pull the fact from the fiction. It’s early days for this trend and so it’s difficult to know what’s real and what is simply just hype. When answering ‘does fermented skincare work?’, we need to be clear and say, we don’t actually completely know – yet. More studies need to be done before anyone can say with any confidence that fermented skincare works.

The danger is that in the world of social media, influencers are strongly touting fermented skincare without the background science – because that science doesn’t yet exist. 

However, fundamentally, fermented skincare isn’t harmful. Therefore, if you are interested in trying fermented skin care for yourself then you’ve got nothing to lose, except the pennies you spend! You can try it for yourself and judge the results in your own case. Does your skin feel more hydrated? Do your fine lines and wrinkles appear minimised?

What are the alternatives to fermented skincare?

If you like the sound of fermented skincare but aren’t sure about the hype and subscribing to a social media trend, do you have alternatives?

We believe that many of the same benefits of fermented skincare simply come by choosing natural vegan skincare products and ingredients. Many of these ingredients have been better studied for their skin benefits. 

For example, coffee in skincare is a powerful antioxidant, which bolsters your circulation, making your skin appear more radiant. Or apricot powder, which is rich in vitamin E, helping to ensure healthy, supple and strong skin.

Choosing skincare products that use herbs, fruit, and other natural products, such as shea butter, ensure your skin benefits in many of the same ways as with fermented skincare products. Many of these natural skincare products will also naturally include the same microbes to support your skin microbiome that you find in fermented skin care. Again, choose products that use a diversity of ingredients for the healthiest skin. 

A good variety of natural vegan skincare that you might choose for skin health includes:

  • Organic Face Serum with Coffee Oil – rich in Vitamin C as well as antioxidant-rich coffee, choose this serum to boost collagen, fade dark spots and brighten your complexion. 

  • Face Toner with Hyaluronic Acid – choose this face toner with Hyaluronic Acid as well as Vitamin C rich mandarin juice water and chamomile to soothe and hydrate skin.

We need more research to know if fermented skincare is definitely worth it and here to stay, but for now, things look reasonably promising. However, you can benefit greatly from a variety of all natural vegan skincare too.