Kimchi and sauerkraut optional.
Truth be told, I had never really considered that the process that turns grapes into wine could be a major player in the skin care game—until recently. After trying all-natural skin care brand Whamisa's sea kelp and hydrogel masks, both of which are made with fermented ingredients, I knew there was research to be done.
It turns out the process isn't as confusing as I imagined. According to our friends over at Glow Recipe, an online destination for all your natural Korean beauty needs, fermentation is when carbs and sugars are turned into enzymes and amino acids with the help of "good" microorganisms like lactobacillus over an extended period of time. During this process, nasty toxins and unwanted bacteria are also naturally killed, leaving you with a natural oasis of broken down molecules your skin will love.
But enough with the science—here's what you really need to know. Fermented ingredients' properties are mainly of the soothing and hydrating nature, which means most products you'll find are of the leave-on variety. Think toners, essences, serums, and creams. Different fermented flowers, fruits, and grains contain varying properties, but studies have shown that like wine, the final product will hold an increased concentration of antioxidants, peptides, proteins, and amino acids.
And because the process of fermentation makes it impossible for things like preservatives to survive, the all-natural products do have a shorter shelf life. Glow Recipe says you should be safe to keep unopened products around for 24 to 36 months and once opened, anywhere from 6 to 12 months.
The most popular ingredients are chrysanthemum, dandelion, rice, soy, and natto, but my favorite Whamisa masks have a variety of other ingredients. The sea kelp mask ($14,glowrecipe.com) is drenched in fermented—you guessed it—more sea kelp and bamboo. The fermented hydrogel mask series ($9 per mask, glowrecipe.com) runs the gamut of ingredients, ranging from the most popular (listed above) to tomato, apple, licorice, and banana.
Again, fermentation is not just limited to masks or Korean skin care. Christine Chang, co-founder of Glow Recipe, thinks it's a trend that will soon be adopted by skin care companies all over the world. Judging by the industry's recent focus on natural and organic products and how amazing my skin felt post-masks, I couldn't agree more.
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