Wine, cheese and skincare—what do these three things have in common besides an indulgent self-care Sunday ritual? Fermentation.
Fermentation is a process in which complex biological compounds are broken down through enzymatic action, facilitated by a controlled microbial growth (usually by yeast, fungi or bacteria). Fermentation can enhance the taste of drinks like that bottle of rosé, alter the flavour and texture of dairy products and enhance the health benefits of something as simple as tea giving us kombucha or food like in kimchi. Still, what does this have to do with your daily skincare ritual? A lot.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT…
OVERALL CLINICAL DATA ON SPECIFIC INGREDIENT(S) & HOW THEY FUNCTION:
In the context of cosmetics, fermented ingredients present numerous, published potential benefits. Employed in the industry for decades, fermented skincare has arguably originated and was popularized by Asian brands.
So, how does this work for your cleanser, moisturizer or serum? Ingredients such as rice bran1–3, green tea4, milk5, ginseng6,7, soy8,9 and lavender10 all have documented benefits for the skin, but imagine if you can supercharge these benefits by making these ingredients into something special—fermentation can do this.
Natural products such as those mentioned above are fermented in a controlled environment in the presence of specific “friendly” bacteria (like Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, Lactobacillus and Lactococcus), fungi (like Aspergillus) or yeast (like Saccharomyces). After some time, the fermented material (or culture) is processed in a way to inactivate any living microorganism (such as through heat, filtration or sonication) while retaining all the fermented goodness to be used in a cosmetic formula.
You may often see products marketed with terms like “probiotic” or “postbiotic,” and chances are, they contain fermented ingredients. There’s a misconception that such products contain living microorganisms but that is not the case. If you take a look at the ingredients list and see any of the names of the organisms above or the words, “lysate” or “ferment,” then you have yourself fermented skincare. In some cases, an ingredient list may even have what the raw product was and how it was fermented—for example, “SACCHAROMYCES/RICE FERMENT FILTRATE” is found in many skincare products and suggests that rice bran was fermented by the bacterium, Saccharomyces.
Fermented skincare in action
Now that we know what fermentation is and how it applies to skincare, is there any real benefit to fermented ingredients? The short answer—yes; the long answer—it depends, as more conclusive data is needed.
Like many cosmetics, published research regarding efficacy is limited. That said, fermented ingredients have a surprising catalogue of sound data with human, and in vivo models. One of the hallmarks of fermenting ingredients is to breakdown these complex organic compounds and increase either their bioavailability to the skin, availability of beneficial compounds, enhancement of the antioxidant profile and improved cosmetic elegance.
One ingredient that has been widely adopted in cosmetics is fermented rice bran. Rice bran is often discarded as agricultural waste from rice processing, but it is well known that fermentation of this by-product changes the biochemical properties2,11–13. Fermentation allows for the breakdown of the otherwise indigestible cell wall of rice bran, releasing or synthesizing a variety of bioactive compounds such as plant phenols, enzymes and organic acids. Further to this, fermentation also improves the antioxidant profile of rice bran—enzymes such as β-glucosidase, produced by the fungi, liberates free phenolics such as ferulic and sinapic acid from rice bran during fermentation2,12. Other studies have also demonstrated great potential of fermented rice bran in addressing the signs of ageing due to the increased availability of syringic acid which is an effective elastase (enzymes which degrades elastin) inhibitor as well as kojic and protocatechuic acids, which are strong tyrosinase (enzyme responsible for hyperpigmentation) inhibitors2,14,15.
Studies have pointed to the fermentation of soy milk by Bifidobacterium in stimulating hyaluronic acid in human skin cells. The bacterium releases two critical compounds from raw soy called genistein and diadzein, which are known for stimulating hyaluronic acid synthesis9. A ferment of Saccharomyces demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in vivo, which could be due its function as a prebiotic to modulate and promote probiotic strains present on our skin to produce essential fatty acids16,17.
It’s clear that ferments have quite a bit of potential when it comes to improving the appearance and health of our skin, but what else can fermentation do? It can improve cosmetic elegance while also increasing nutritional profiles. In the case of Camellia oil, an antioxidant rich plant oil, bacteria break down the oil through the synthesis of enzymes lending to a product that only has an improved antioxidant profile but one that is less greasy, easier to rinse and emulsify making it ideally suited for a first-cleanse experience.
Ferments—where do they stand?
While being eco-friendly by reducing waste, fermentation has the distinct ability to increase the bioavailability of key compounds for your skin, enhancing the antioxidant potential of botanicals, encouraging the growth of probiotics as well as improving the appearance and health of your skin, it is clear that ferments present numerous and documented benefits that even extend to the improvement in cosmetic elegance of ingredients.
Can your routine rest alone on ferments? These biocompatible and well-tolerated ingredients make a great addition to any routine. Ferments support an existing routine through the provision of enhanced antioxidant support and key bioactive compounds to improve overall skin health and condition.
Lab Journals are intended to help educate on specific ingredients and skin care topics. Our articles are written to be informative and informational.
Please note any Naturium products with referenced ingredients are formulated for Cosmetic Use Only and NOT intended as replacements for physician pharmaceutical product recommendations.
Fermented Camellia Creamy Cleansing Oil
3.5 FL OZ / 103.5 ML Our innovative creamy cleansing oil is formulated with fermented camellia oil, camellia extract and a nourishing blend of lino...
Fermented Rice Enzyme Cleanser
4.0 FL OZ / 120 MLOur gentle, yet effective exfoliating face wash is formulated with fermented rice filtrate, fruit enzymes and natural, biodegrada...