There’s always something brewing in the ever-expansive landscape of beauty trends. The latest is fermented skincare, which began in South Korea and is slowly making its way to the West. It might not sound appealing at first and like something you would expect in a science textbook and least of all something you would want to apply to your skin. However, you need not fear, it’s not some molding lotion that has to be slathered on your skin; it can actually be quite beneficial.
Just the same way fermented foods like yoghurt and kimchi are said to be good for our gut health, fermented products are now said to work wonders for our skin. For those who do keep up with beauty trends, you would have noticed them appearing in serums, toners and moisturisers.
Yet, how does fermented products really help the skin?
What are fermented skincare products?
Like cabbage is fermented in salt to make kimchi, fermentation for skincare products in a lab uses micro-organisms like yeast and bacteria to break down skincare ingredients into different compounds. The idea behind this process is so that these ingredients can penetrate the skin easily and can be absorbed more efficiently.
The source of the products are mostly plant-based and sustainable, explains Aashim Kukreja, a dermatologist from Medcare Medical Centre Jumeirah, City Center Mirdif & Meadows. There are different blends that are attempted, for instance hyaluronic acid, ginseng, collagen, seaweed and mushroom can be fermented with bacteria and yeast.
“The fermentation process produces byproducts, or increases the concentration of active ingredients that can be beneficial for the skin,” explains Hamdan Hamed, a UAE-based dermatologist and owner of the platform Power Your Curls. “The fermentation process is then stopped and the final product is sold to the consumer,” he adds.
The fermentation process produces byproducts, or increases the concentration of active ingredients that can be beneficial for the skin. The process is then stopped and the final product is sold to the consumer...
In the past year, several brands have attempted to come forward with new fermented skincare products. In 2022, the media portal Glamour UK reported that the beauty brand Clinique had a reformulated moisturiser, by using the plant aloe vera. According to the site’s research, fermented aloe vera was more bio-available and penetrated the skin with ease. On the other hand, brands like Glossier launched a cleanser, which contained exfoliating grape ferment. The brand Vichy emerged with Vichy Mineral 89, which contained the prebiotic to ferment hyaluronic acid, which was said to be far more beneficial for the skin, as it was said to boost barrier repair.
What are the benefits of fermented skincare?
The claims surrounding fermented products say that it works ‘wonders’ for the skin and provides nourishment, as well as have anti-ageing benefits, and sooths wrinkles. Moreover, the fermented skincare products are said to have a longer shelf-life, along with keeping the skin healthy and giving it a ‘glow’.
As most of these are plant-based, they are rich in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory, according to Kukreja. The fermentation process can be beneficial as they can result in probiotics, post-biotics in the form of peptides, amino acids and other enzymes. Some of these products do help in supporting the skin barrier and reduce the tendency for inflammation and sensitivity. Moreover, certain enzymes can help in soothing irritation.
Most of these products are plant-based, and are rich in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory. The fermentation process can be beneficial as they can result in probiotics, post-biotics in the form of peptides, amino acids and other enzymes...
What does research say?
Like all beauty trends, fermented skincare too, comes with a disclaimer. The jury is still out on this one. Research is still being done, in an attempt to ascertain exactly how beneficial fermented skincare ingredients are.
Akbar Ali, head of dermatology and Aesthetics, at the Canadian specialist hospital Dubai, calls it a ‘double-edged’ sword and says, “People need to check the quality and the content profile of the company before buying anything related to fermented skincare.” The problem arises if a person purchases an item of poor quality that only ends up harming the skin. “It is a rather new concept, so few companies have actually done research,” he says. He advises those who use fermented products, to always take a small amount and apply on the forearm to check for allergies, and later perhaps consult a dermatologist.
The problem arises if a person purchases an item of poor quality that only ends up harming the skin. It is a rather new concept, so few companies have actually done research...
“There haven't been any verifiable studies that definitively show the improved efficacy of fermented skincare products in clinical trials,” says Hamed. However, he adds that while there is dearth of scientific evidence, it has been observed that fermentation does alter the concentration of active ingredients in such products. “This alteration can occur by either decreasing the available amount of precursor ingredients that the skin may or may not use, or by affecting the active ingredients themselves, potentially making them more easily absorbed by the skin,” he adds.