fermented vs. non-fermented ingredients

A fermenting fad among foodies has started trending in the beauty business. Now, I’m all for fermented grapes, but are fermented foods really bubbling with exceptional benefits, and could fermented ingredients play a role in skin care?

What is Fermenting?

Think of everyday fermented products, such as yogurt or beer. The process of fermentation created bacteria or yeast that feed on the natural sugars in these foods and create compounds such as lactic acid or alcohol, which help preserve the foods.

Devotees claim that “friendly bacteria” produce beneficial enzyme nutrients. Probiotic yogurt would be a good example. Making cabbage into sauerkraut or kimchi increases glucosinolate compounds believed to fight cancer. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013 established that gut bacteria influence immune responses.

Note that you have to make your own fermented foods. A store-bought jar of sauerkraut will have been pasteurized and heated with the resulting loss of bacteria. In 2010, yogurt giant Dannon was found by the US Federal Trade Commission to have made “false and misleading claims” by suggesting in its marketing that its probiotic yogurt product line “reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu” and “is scientifically proven to help with slow intestinal transit.”

Fermenting and Skin Care

Some claims needed to taken with a pinch of salt. An article in Huffington Post declares that a study conducted by L’Oreal found kombucha (a fermented tea) to be “beneficial to the skin, helping to maintain moisture and elasticity so it appears more even in tone and texture.” In actual fact, the study only notes that kombucha “is considered” beneficial and the purpose of the study was only to establish it is not a skin irritant.

There is, however, some compelling evidence that shows fermented ingredients could be superior anti-agers for the skin over non-fermented ingredients. A 2012 study compared fermented and non-fermented red ginseng and found that the ferment had greater concentrations of antioxidants and “increased anti-wrinkle efficacy, [and] whitening efficacy.”

The same study also concluded that toxins were reduced by fermenting. A Korean skin care company that uses yeast to ferment medicinal herbs claims that its extracts are safer and milder. It also says that the extracts have been broken down by microorganisms and absorb more easily into the skin. Although a nice idea, I haven’t been able to find any hard evidence that herbs munched by bacteria are more easily absorbed.

Where to Find Fermented Beauty Products

Talking of Korea, this is where you’ll find most skin care products with fermented ingredients. Closer to home, SK11 is based on fermented rice. Other mainstream beauty brands are a bit vaguer — La Mer refers to “bioferment” and a so-called “Miracle Broth”.

A brand that I recently came to know and love is Innarah, and it claims to have an “exclusive” fermenting process. Typically, cosmetic formulations are blended and then heated, but Innarah ferments the ingredients over time with subtle tweaks made to the pressure and quantity of oxygen. Innarah claims that the end result is ingredients that are as potent as if they were raw and completely fresh.

BRAD Biophotonic is another skin care range that is a favorite. All products are produced using “bio-fermentation.” BRAD says that “the process of fermentation concentrates the nutrient value and increases the bio-availability of ingredients so that they can be absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin.


Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.