It's no secret that fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut are top notch health foods—but it turns out fermentation can help you score beautiful skin too.
Fermentation is already uber-popular in Korea (natch), and is now starting to make a splash in the U.S. Much like how foods are fermented for more concentrated ingredients (for example, wine has several times the antioxidant content of grapes), skin care ingredients are fermented to make them more potent and more easily absorbed into the skin.
"[It's] a metabolic process where carbohydrates and sugars are broken down and converted to enzymes and amino acids via the growth of good microorganisms," Christine Chang, co-founder of Glow Recipe, a site that curates the best natural Korean products on the market, told Daily Makeover. "This process prevents oxidation of the ingredients and best preserves the efficacy."
Because of the natural fermentation process, the good bacteria keep the bad bacteria at bay—which means less preservatives (if any). "Fermentation also helps to increase the nutrient density and concentration of ingredients, by breaking down the molecular structure of the ingredients," says Chang. So you're basically left with a super-potent product that lasts just as long as the other guys, and without icky preservatives that can irritate your skin.
There's not a lot of science (yet) to back up the efficacy of fermented ingredients in skincare products, but the research that's been conducted so far is promising. For example, a 2012 study by the Department of Food and Nutrition at Korea University found that fermented red ginseng had greater concentrations of antioxidants than non-fermented, and increased anti-wrinkle and whitening efficacy. Meanwhile, a study conducted in 2009 found that when extracts of "lactobacillus plantarum" were fermented, they provided much greater benefits for atopic dermatitis, due to their increased absorptive and immune-suppressive effects.
If you're ready to dive into the world of fermented beauty products, some of the most popular ingredients in Korea include fermented botanicals, such as dandelion and aloe, grains, such as rice, and proteins, such as soy. According to Chang, rice is a very gentle, natural exfoliant that helps even out skin tone, while soy is hydrating and nourishing.
Here are a few fermentation favorites to try (you know, if you want):
1. Organic Sea Kelp Facial Sheet Mask
The Organic Sea Kelp Facial Sheet Mask is made of 100 percent real sea kelp, and will drench your face in ultra-hydration and nutrition. In other words, get ready to enjoy glowing, clear, and firm skin.
2. Snowise EX Brightening Mask
Okay, so they look a little Hannibal Lecter, but each Snowise EX Brightening Mask is formulated using plant pulp, and are individually fermented in white ginseng for two weeks to immediately brighten your skin and boost circulation.
3. SU:M37 Water-full Rebalancing Gel Lotion
The SU:M37 Water-full Rebalancing Gel Lotion moisturizes skin using four key fermented ingredients: Bamboo water (contains amino acids that are beneficial to skin health), red clover flower extract (promotes skin vitality), hibiscus flower extract (promotes moisture), and gold-silver flower (minimizes pores).
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Skin care image via Shutterstock