Fermented Skincare . Why we need it

Walking around Seoul, I notice a lot of rice-based and makkeogli (traditional korean acoholic beverage)/sake-based skincare products that fly off shelves. What’s so special about these products? They use fermentation as a key part of the formulation.

“Pitera” is the key ingredient that they use (a term they coined) that uses a specific yeast strain first discovered in rice to prevent aging.

Just like so many of my favourite skincare innovations, the fermented skincare movement started in Japan. The Korean skincare market has been the most dynamic in developing products incorporating this process, and the response is huge. Infact, there are entire brands devoted to fermented ingredients such as Su:m37, Sulwhasoo, Goodal, Primary Raw, to mention just a few.

Not only are they using fermented yeast, which is a very rich source of vitamin B, this process has been used on other plant ingredients to boost their potency. Since Korean skincare has already mainly been using food-based ingredients in their products, which easily lends itself to fermentation, this was an organic transition.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a natural process in which yeast secretes enzymes that are beneficial to the human body. It takes some time, but with a bit of patience the product will naturally form amino acids, vitamins and anti-oxidants thanks to the fermentation process.

In short, it’s a natural, anaerobic process where organic compounds with enzymes (like carbohydrates) are turned into an acid or alcohol.

Fermented products include things like wine, cheese, yogurt, bread leavening (with yeast), and kimchi (staple korean side dish).

NO preservatives are used because these will kill the good microbes (what’s needed in fermentation process) used in the products. Natural ingredients are also separated from bacteria. Bacteria is typically bad as it causes acne but also products to expire. Skincare products using fermentation typically have exceptionally long shelf lives because bacteria is separated out. Also, typically, deconstructed compounds in the anaerobic process creates small molecules that can more easily be absorbed by the skin.

So, what exactly are the claims and why do we need fermentation in our skincare?

▪The process increases potency, creating supercharged ingredients that are loaded with anti oxidants, vitamins and anti-inflammatories.

▪Causes the breakdown larger molecules into smaller ones which makes for deeper absorption providing more effective nourishment. This is also gentler and less irritating on sensitive skin. Essences potent with fermented yeast have been known to help reduce redness.

▪Creates natural acidity in ingredients which, helps our skin’s acid mantle. This is important for a strong and healthy moisture barrier.

▪Natural preservative so synthetic preservatives are not as required.

▪The actives in fermented yeast are rich in vitamin B and peptides as well as boost our skin’s ability to naturally produce hyaluron, which helps prevent transepidermal water loss.

Where can you find products that use this amazing process as part of the formulation?

It’s not just SK-II! Almost every Korean and Japanese brand will have a line that uses rice-wine based formulations. They fly off shelves out here for the sans-bacteria-and-preservatives benefits. Awesome stuff, and not all are as expensive as SK-II fortunately.

What can it do for my skin?

It’s perfect for those that are dry skin types: With loads of fruit and sugar acids, it’s a natural moisturizer for the skin

For those dealing with fine lines: Amino acids, such as glycine revitalizes and firms skin. It is also an antioxidant that can reduce free radicals and protect the skin from UV damage.

Or pigmentation and brown spots: Helps lighten brown spots, and even skin tone.

And aging:

Amino acids, such as glycine, encourage the production of collagen and increases cell vitality.


Here are a few of my current favorite fermented skincare products at different price points, and some of my favorite brands here:


SU:M37 – A luxury Korean beauty brand that specializes in naturally fermented skincare. «SU:M» represents the Korean word for respiration and «37» signifies the optimal fermentation temperature. SU:M37 products are also free of fragrances, artificial colors, and synthetic preservatives.

Goodal – A premium Korean beauty brand that specializes in a line of fermented essential oil skincare products.

Missha – The Time Revolution line uses fermented yeast as their superstar ingredient, and I hope they roll out some more lines dedicated to fermented ingredients.



Missha First Treatment Essence. My favourite essence, my…my preciousss. Trust me, this essence is a must try for all skin types.

Many bloggers and other beauty enthusiasts claim the Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence is a dupe to SK-II’s more expensive version. Which, it very well may be, but who honestly cares when the reviews are as good as they are? According to Missha rep Yuna Shin, one million bottles had been sold just 11 months after its launch in late 2011. As of August 2014, over five million bottles had been sold.

This fancy-water-in-an-equally-fancy-bottle contains active ingredients including fermented-yeast extract, which absorbs rapidly into the skin to help boost the product’s soothing, moisturizing, brightening, and anti-aging properties. According to Shin, it’s recommended that you apply the essence right after cleansing (or after a toner, if you use one) with either your hands or a cotton pad. I, personally, use the former method since I feel like the nutrients absorb better after a gentle slapping of the face. But, be wary that it can slip through your fingers if you’re not careful. Essences are a prep-your-face-for-other-products step, so you can apply your moisturizers and serums right after.

While SKII uses 90% Galactomyces ferment filtrate (Pitera), Missha’s essence uses 80% Saccharomyces ferment filtrate (Zyosis). This also has Sodium Hyaluronate, Niacinamide and Root extracts.

What exactly is the Missha Time Revolution: The First Treatment Essence? It’s an essence, but not in the typical serum-y type essence. It has the consistency of a toner. What makes it different than a “regular” toner is that this essence is meant to be moisturizing, instead of an astrigent. It has been said that the Missha product actually contains better ingredients than the SKII formula, and it’s also paraben and mineral oil free.

What is this magical fermented yeast product supposed to do? Well, according to Missha, it controls the turnover period of the skin, giving you tighter, firmer, less oily, glowing, and clear skin. And I can tell you that it has definitely done all of those things, plus some.

Many Koreans believe essence to be the most important step in skincare routine, and so do I. I remember to use this product every morning and every night after toner.


Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum :A serum that has over the years, become the quintessential elixir for anti-aging. The key actives here are the same probiotics found in yogurt, Bifida Ferment Lysate and Lactobacillus Ferment. The latter is particularly effective as a skin softener. This overnight serum has left my skin feeling hydrated, less red and volumized with fewer fine lines visible and a youthful bounciness to it. Their Concentrated Recovery PowerFoil Mask, which holds half an entire bottle of the serum’s active ingredients, is probably the most powerful sheet masks I’ve used. Overnight, this transformed my skin, revitalized it and the hydration was off the charts.

And here you are the asian dupe:

Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule


An ampoule can either be used before serum or in the case of this product, instead of. This ampoule will outshine any serum out there so there’s no point in bothering. In addition to being less than half the price of the Estee Lauder ANR serum, this one has a far more impressive ingredients list.  This formula also contains probiotics Bifida Ferment Lysate and Lactobacillus Ferment, but additionally has Lactococcus Ferment to soothe and strengthen sensitive skin. There is also a good amount of Niacinamide, Retinol and a very long list of skin loving plant extracts and oils many of them fermented. This ampoule is a powerhouse and anyone concerned with anti-aging should consider using this.


Primary Raw DoYou Soy Milk Cream

The star of this brand is the Fermented Soy Bean which has become one of my favourite ingredients as it’s particularly effective at hydrating the skin and fighting the signs of aging. Everything about this product is delightful, from the packaging to formula. This is a waterless formula which is always a huge benefit since I know there is no dilution of ingredients and I’m getting the most for what I’m paying. As well as the Soybean Ferment Filtrate, there is also Soybean extract, Aloe, Rice bran water, Niacinamide, Snail secretion, Green Tea leaf extract, Beta-glucan, Copper peptides, so, so many other fabulous fermented extracts. This cream is refreshingly lightweight and milky while being deeply moisturizing without greasiness or stickiness. Mildly scented, this will leave your skin feeling silky and hydrated. Great for all skin types.


Goodal Waterest Vital Sleeping Pack

One of my favourite sleeping packs at a mere fraction of the price. Like the rest of the products in the Waterest Line, the main ingredient here is double-fermented lotus flower. The formula uses every part of the plant including the flower, seeds, leaves and roots to deliver and

lock moisture into the skin. Which is what it does very, very well. After using this for the first time, I have never touched my Laneige Water Sleeping pack since. This also contains Sage Leaf extract, Hyaluronic acid and fermented Pumpkin extract which is a naturally derived AHA.  The texture of this is perfect for all skin types as it is a soothing gel texture that is refreshing but deeply hydrating. This is neither oily, heavy or occlusive. This absorbs, works on your skin overnight and leaves you with soft, volumized, hydrated skin after rinsing the next morning.

Interested on Fermented skincare? Would you like to try some on them?


Ampoule night repair .Missha, 350ml               350 RMB

Time revolution Essence.  Missha, 120ml              230 RMB

Goodall Sleeping pack. Anti wrinkle, hydrating,waterest.  160 RMB




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