From Our K-beauty columnists Christine Chang & Sarah Lee of Glow Recipe
A process that has been around for a millennia, fermentation, is making a comeback in the food world. Having undergone a process in which carbohydrates are converted into “good” bacteria and probiotics, fermented foods like miso, kombucha, and kimchi (our K-probiotic of choice) have been promoting healthy digestion for ages. Just as fermented foods are a staple in a healthy Korean diet, it’s no surprise that this process has trickled into skincare as well.
The same fermentation process creates skin-loving enzymes and amino acids, via the metabolic activity of ‘good’ microorganisms, like lactobacillus. Unlike traditional cosmetic processes that utilize high temperatures to blend ingredients and actives, fermented skincare is slowly processed over a period of time (that can lead up to several weeks) in a pristine, oxygen-free environment. During this conversion process, ingredients are broken down and harmful bacteria and toxins are naturally removed.
So what does this mean for the skin?
1. Through the fermentation process, ingredients are ‘broken down’ into smaller molecules that are more effectively absorbed into skin
2. Fermentation also helps to enrich the nutrient density and concentration of beneficial ingredients such as peptides, proteins, antioxidants and amino acids – an example of this is how wine has several times the antioxidant content of grapes.
3. Fermentation creates an environment that doesn’t allow for ‘bad’ microorganisms to survive, thus leaving less preservatives to be used in the formula. All this makes for gentle yet effective formulas that help to improve texture, tone, dryness and fine lines.
Some of the most popular ingredients include fermented botanicals such as chrysanthemums and dandelions, fermented grains such as rice, and fermented proteins such as soy or natto. These ingredients are all multi-functional and help to smooth rough texture, brighten, and even tone and hydrate.
Ready to add a fermented skincare product or two to your skincare routine? It’s as simple as a daily moisturizing cream or adding in a sheet mask during the week. One of the pioneers of the fermented skincare movement in Korea is Whamisa, an Ecocert certified brand with stand out treatments such as their Organic Organic Flowers Cream with Natto and their Organic Sea Kelp Sheet Mask. The first is a blend of fermented chrysanthemum and natto, and is a water-free formula that is incredibly lightweight, yet nourishing. Whamisa’s Organic Sea Kelp Sheet Mask is a recent curation that we were blown away by – it’s a mask made of 100% real sea kelp, which is drenched in fermented sea kelp and bamboo, and is clinically tested to hydrate and smooth lines. Primary Raw, is another natural brand that uses fermented soy in their formulations—such as the DoYou Soy Cleanse Toner—to create lightweight textures with effective results.