Could fermentation be the next big thing in skincare?

Having been around in traditional beauty for centuries, fermented skincare is making its presence felt.

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Remember when Priyanka Chopra introduced the besan-yoghurt mask to the digital world? Not that us Indians needed any introduction to it really. We have all, at some point or the other, under coercion or not, sat down with a besan-yoghurt-turmeric face pack hoping to wipe it off to clear, glowing skin. And, turns out, there is great skin science behind it. 

Yoghurt, rich in lactic acid, is one fermented ingredient that has been part of traditional Indian beauty rituals, but the technique has caught up in contemporary Japanese and Korean beauty products, and fermented products have now taken the global beauty scape by storm. 

But what is fermented skincare? 

Simply put, it’s skincare that uses fermented natural ingredients—the miracle drug for your skin microbiome. What is the skin microbiome you may ask? It is an ecosystem where the skin’s very own natural bacterial flora lives, which in turn helps it protect from external polluting factors. 

“These microorganisms contribute to maintaining the pH of the skin and balancing the skin barrier. And skin health is determined by this very skin barrier function,” says celebrity cosmetic dermatologist Dr Chytra Anand, Founder of Kosmoderma Clinics & SkinQ. “Fermented skin formulas use techniques similar to that of fermented food—think kimchi, kaanji, wine—using microorganisms like yeast and bacteria to break down the skincare ingredients into smaller molecules, which helps them be absorbed better by the skin.”

And what are the benefits of fermented skincare?

To break down more of that gibberish—your skin has good bacteria that lives on it, and fermented skincare (both prebiotics and probiotics) on your skin is like a treat for it, which thus promotes antioxidant action and overall health.

History has it that the benefits of fermentation for the skin was first discovered in the 70s, in the sake breweries in Akita, Japan, where scientists found that the brewers showed various signs of ageing everywhere but their hands. Why was that? Because of the fermented brews they worked with. 

And what is it about fermented skincare that makes it so potent? The small molecules. Experts say that the smaller the molecules the easier it is for the skin to absorb them, and these bugs help break down the skincare to more effective sizes. 

Hyaluronic acid is a great example of this. In itself, the popular humectant that helps skin retain water is a large molecule, making it difficult for the skin to absorb. Breaking it down with fermentation helps it become more accepted by the skin. 

And all this means one thing—skincare that is more effective in fighting skin concerns, whether it is dullness, dryness, acne, dark spots, ageing, and more. It can even help with irritation and inflammation, and aid in the case of skin conditions like eczema and rosacea. 

Anything to be weary of?

But this also means that it could be more irritating, especially for sensitive skin. So while fermented skincare could be beneficial for everyone, a patch test is a must. That and there isn’t enough research on it to document the full extent of the benefits and effects of fermented skincare.

“And this also means that there isn’t enough science to back the products that already exist in the market. Are we putting enough quantity of the microorganisms, the right microorganisms, and is it really active on the skin for a long time? Because most microorganisms are unable to stabilise in a formulation. Which could question the efficacy of the products,” says Anand. 

The verdict

Of course, if done right, there may be nothing like fermented skincare. And there are plenty of products using ingredients like soy, ginseng, radish root, yacón root, seaweed, mushroom, and many more for the same that could be worth a try. Here are some that we recommend.

ONE THING Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate

Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum

Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray

Fresh Beauty Soy Face Cleanser and Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence


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Juicy Chemistry Prebiotic Barrier Repair Ampoule Kit with Pichia Mushroom Prebiotic Ferment and Gotu Kola 

Nuskay Prebiotic Ceramide Moisturiser


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