Everything You Need To Know About Fermented Beauty Products

Like most people, when we hear the word "fermentation," our minds immediately jump to kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut. Fermentation isn't a process exclusive to food, though — it's a major component in certain skin-care products. In fact, fermentation has long been integral to the Korean and Eastern beauty market. And beer, apple cider vinegar, and yogurt have been used for centuries as at-home treatments. But as the technology and demand for fermented ingredients develops (and as marketers catch on to the trend), you can expect to see it just about everywhere.

Before you reach for that extra serving of kimchi, though, let's back up a bit. What the hell is fermentation, anyway? And what does it mean for your night cream? According to Craig Kraffert, MD, board-certified dermatologist and president of Amarte, fermentation is the metabolic process of converting sugars into acids, gases, or alcohols using yeast and/or bacteria. It's commonly used to make popular foods and drinks, but where skin care is concerned, fermentation holds a host of possibilities.

The most important: increasing the potency of ingredients like tea, ginseng, and rice. "Fermentation helps enhance the beneficial properties [of] natural extracts," says Dr. Kraffert. "It also causes the breakdown of larger organic plant structures and complex molecules into smaller — and potentially more bioactive — molecules." Translation: Because the molecules are smaller, they are more readily absorbed into your skin.
Mary Schook, licensed aesthetician and founder of M.S. Apothecary, adds that since most fermented ingredients are acidic, "They help to naturally exfoliate dead cells, allowing product to penetrate deeper." According to both Dr. Kraffert and Schook, fermented ingredients are often loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients and can provide a calming and brightening effect to the skin. Schook also notes that many fermented ingredients are known for promoting healthy bacteria growth on the skin, while simultaneously eliminating bad bacteria.

But as we're sure your mother has told you a hundred times, everything in moderation. Schook warns that there are risks when using fermented products: "Because most fermented ingredients in skin care are acids, you have to worry about sun sensitivity," she says. So, be sure to diligently apply your SPF (which we know you always do anyway).

So grab a beer (or maybe a glass of kombucha) and check out our favorite fermented beauty products in the slides ahead.
1 of 9
Now that fall is upon is, you're going to want an A+ hand cream on lock as temps start to drop. This one from Oskia has a blend of fermented minerals that stimulate cell renewal to give you the smooth, crack-free hands of your dreams.
2 of 9
SK-II's classic Facial Treatment Essence contains more than 90% pitera, "A nutrient-rich yeast product [of fermentation] that helps with anti-aging, brightening, and purifying the skin," says Schook.
3 of 9
"Fermented tea has antioxidants just like regular tea," says Jill Sung, co-founder of Juara. "But it has the added benefits of good bacteria and yeast."

Juara's Sweet Black Tea & Ginger Oil-Free Moisturizer takes advantage of fermented tea's anti-aging qualities and couples it with mattifying ginger and cinnamon.
4 of 9
Dermalogica's Breakout Control uses lactobacillus ferment to balance the bacteria that occurs naturally on your skin. "Most acne products strip the skin of good bacteria, but this one doesn't," says Schook.

Dab a few drops of this spot treatment over your acne and in a few days you'll notice diminished pimples without that tight, dry feeling that comes with many acne treatments.
5 of 9
This oil-serum hybrid contains fermented red rice yeast oil to both firm and moisturize the skin. Despite its lightweight consistency, it hydrates spectacularly, leaving the skin feeling balanced and not at all greasy.
6 of 9
This super-moisturizing mask contains fermented black tea, which, you likely know, is loaded with free-radical-fighting antioxidants. Leave this on for just 10 minutes, rinse it away with warm water, and marvel at the radiance-boosting effects. If you're looking to get a little extra mileage from this mask, keep it in the fridge to de-puff tired (or hungover) skin.
7 of 9
This toner is rich in fermented gingko nut extract, which, according to Dr. Kraffert, "has impressive antibacterial and calming properties." We love misting this refreshing toner on our faces post-cleansing and even throughout the day as an afternoon pick-me-up.
8 of 9
This moisturizer has black tea ferment, which — you guessed it — is loaded with antioxidants. According to Schook, it also promotes a healthy bacterial balance on the skin as part of a good longterm acne strategy.
9 of 9
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!