The Scoop On Fermented Skincare + 5 Goodies To Slather

Expert Advice


Kombucha, kimchi, rosé – all things that are so much better because they’ve been fermented to perfection. Did you know that skincare products can also be fermented and that doing so can unleash lots of goodness for your complexion? It’s true, and TBH it’s a pretty exciting topic. Hold on to your wine glass/ kombucha and get your scrolling finger ready because we’re diving into the world of fermented skincare.

What is Fermented Skincare?

via Giphy

Fermented skincare undergoes a similar process to fermented foods and drinks. Long story short, ingredients such as yeast and bacteria are strategically mixed with complex sugars or carbohydrate molecules from botanical sources and then left to set for a certain period of time under very specific conditions. This triggers a natural chemical reaction where the molecules are broken down into smaller, simpler acids.

Similar to how we ingest fermented foods to aid in our absorption and digestiontopically applied fermented skincare products perform similar functions,” explains Dr. Ava Shamban, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California. “In theory, [the simpler acids] are more skin-friendly and better absorbed for use in the epidermis.

She adds that sometimes the process will also result in the production of live bacteria – AKA our friend, probiotics – which are important for the balance and health of our skin microbiome. As for which ingredients tend to get the fermented skincare treatment, the list is lengthy. Commonly, though, you’ll see different kinds of fermented fruits, mushrooms, honey, tea, sake, yogurt, rice, soybeans, and seaweed.

BTW, K-Beauty is really a pioneer in the fermented skincare space, though non-K-Beauty brands have certainly jumped aboard this ship.

What Are the Benefits of Fermented Skincare?

In addition to the smaller molecular size of fermented ingredients being more “bioavailable” and therefore theoretically more effective, Dr. Shamban says there are a few other fermented skincare benefits to consider. They can:

Promote balanced pH levels
Support a healthy microbiome
Help skin retain more moisture
Calm inflammation
Strengthen the skin barrier
Protects from free radicals via antioxidants
In addition, some natural ingredients may have irritants, toxins, or chemicals from nature, pesticides, or heavy metal levels,” adds Dr. Shamban. “The fermentation process will help to neutralize those pathogens so the product is not just safer to use, but also better tolerated by all skin types including sensitive or reactive skin. 

via Giphy

How Long Does Fermented Skincare Last?

Every skincare product has an expiration date, but fermented skincare tends to outpace others in terms of shelf life.

It is a concept similar to how these ingredients kept certain foods preserved long before the invention of the refrigerator,” says Dr. Shamban. While it breaks down to serve up the good stuff, it also is a natural preservative. Once the enzymes break down –and it creates new vitamins, essential minerals, probiotics, acids, or additional enzymes – it will technically continue to keep unwanted bacteria at bay and thus retain potency.

That said, you should always adhere to product expiration labels and be mindful of conditions and exposure to air or sun – especially when products aren’t packaged in an airtight pump. 

Fermented Skincare Products We Love

Intrigued? Consider checking out some of these must-slather fermented skincare goodies.

1. Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray, $42

1-Drunk-Elephant-Sweet-Biome-Fermented-Sake-SpraySource: Drunk Elephant

Packed with kombucha and fermented sake (scientifically known as galactomycesferment filtrate), this refreshing, skin-balancing spray helps shield your skin from pollution and free radicals while offering a lending hand to your skin microbiome.

2. Innisfree Fermented Soybean Firming Energy Essence, $39

2-Innisfree-Fermented-Soybean-Firming-Energy-EssenceSource: Innisfree

If your skin is on the dry side, adding a hydrating essence to your regimen offers another chance to up your moisture levels. This fermented option from Innisfree is made with fermented soybean extract and fermented soybean oil, which help nourish, strengthen, and protect. Oat kernel extracts soothe and soften.

3. cocokind Oil to Milk Cleanser, $19

3-cocokind-Oil-to-Milk-CleanserSource: cocokind

If your skin is feeling stressed or irritated, try this fun cleanser from cocokind. It starts out with an oil texture and then transforms into a milky froth once water is added. The unique blend of fermented oat, oat lipid complex, and organic oils helps sweep away the day’s grime without stripping moisture. The formula also supports a healthy skin barrier and defends against environmental stressors.

4. TONYMOLY The Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Cream, $25

4-Tonymoly-The-Chok-Chok-Green-Tea-Watery-CreamSource: TONYMOLY

With summer around the corner, having a lightweight moisturizer is a must. This watery cream from K-Beauty brand, TONYMOLY, features a whopping 63% fermented green tea extract along with botanical oils. The result is hydrated, soft, protected skin. (BTW, “chok chok” is a cute Korean phrase that basically translates to bouncy, dewy skin. The idea is that this skin makes that sound when you tap your fingers against it.)

5. OLEHENRIKSEN Truth Barrier Booster Orange Ferment Vitamin C Essence, $44

5-Olehenriksen-Truth-Barrier-Booster-Orange-Ferment-VitaminC-EssenceSource: OLEHENRIKSEN

This essence uses fermented orange peel extract to nourish your complexion and help it look soft, nourished, and hydrated. Meanwhile, orange stem cells and vitamin C help brighten and defend skin against pollution.

Have you heard of fermented skincare before? If not, would you give it a try? Let’s chat below. 

Disclaimer: Every product we review has been independently selected and tested without bias by our editorial team. Although some brands allow affiliate links, we never take payment to review products, so we may earn a commission if you purchase a product by clicking on one of our links.