You already have that friend (sibling, significant other, mortal enemy) who feels perfectly entitled reaching their fork across the table and into your plate. But if a friendly microorganism asks to dig in before you take your first bite, let them! You’re bound to get something even more delicious out if it. We’re talkin’ about fermentation here, which has been used for thousands of years to make food taste and digest better. Now, you can also find fermented elements in skincare. The theory is that after bacteria have broken down larger molecules, it’s easier for them to penetrate (and thereby effect change in) your skin. Plus, that bacteria is good for your natural protective microbiome. If you want to reap the benefits of ferments inside and out, why don’t you try pairing…
Yogurt, known in some poorly socialized circles as bacteria milk, is easier to digest than a tall glass of 2-percent since the fermentation process helps break down pesky lactose sugars. Plus, it’s delicious—the extra-thick Greek variety and Iceland’s super creamy version called skyr, in particular. It’s great with berries and granola for breakfast or whipped up with EVOO, salt, and pepper for an easy DIY dip, but if you’re looking for something else to pair your yogurt with, go for Kinship’s Self Reflect sunscreen. Its star fermented ingredient is lactobacillus ferment, which helps support a healthy microbiome (it’s a probiotic!). And the dewy, glowy finish is as much a crowd pleaser as froyo.
Fermentation makes the difference between a nuanced glass of vino and a cup of Welch’s. Who knew? Maybe you, especially if you tend towards funky natural wines with a kombucha-like kick—unlike most commercial wines that have their active probiotic bacteria and yeast strains filtered out, natural wine lovers will see those gut-friendly goodies floating around at the bottom of the bottle. Of course, fermentation (and more specifically, a byproduct called acetaldehyde) is also the reason you’ll feel hungover the morning after getting wine drunk to yell at the TV. But that’s where Cleanser Concentrate comes in: a deeply cleansing face wash that gently exfoliates and moisturizes is the perfect cure for hangover face dullness. The fact that its formula features grape ferment is just a fun little coinkydink.
Do you need an essence? ‘Course not, but there’s no denying that a few splashes of that fancy water is a value-add to your routine—just look at your cushy, hydrated face post pat for the proof. SK-II chalks up their essence’s superiority to miracle ingredient Pitera, which is a vitamin, antioxidant, and amino acid-rich liquid derived from fermented yeast. They famously came up with the idea when they saw how the yeast-drenched hands of workers at a sake brewery were smoother than a baby’s bum. Now, drinking sake won’t help your skin in an inside-out kind of way, but it certainly dials up the taste factor of a plate of sashimi and hey, we’re just trying to help you out here.
SU:M37 makes really good stuff, but our favorites are working a disappearing act. Loved the Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick and then poof, it vanished into discontinued land. Same goes for the Skin Saver Melting Cleansing Balm and its unbelievably clean rinse. Which is to say that maybe it’s worth stocking up on their essence because you never know at this point. This one’s slightly thicker than SK-II’s and an even better friend to drier skin types. Made with 80-plus fermented plant extracts to boost skin, it’ll definitely pull a disappearing act from your bottle. Kind of like miso in a way—we can’t keep it in the kitchen for very long. The price to pay when you go with everything! Cod, asparagus, dressing, soup, mmmm.
Making sourdough is work. From maintaining the starter, to finding the ideal flour ratio, to oh my God, those hours of waiting to make sure the dough rises just right. The most labor intensive of complex carbs is a fitting match to a workhorse of a serum. Bio-Shroom’s got it all: pore helper-outer niacinamide, brightening vitamin C, and peptides. But the things it’s got the most of is a fermented mushroom broth that’s heavy in exfoliating acids, antioxidants, and adaptogens. It also kind of smells like farts, which really lets you know that stuff is working hard for you.
The term “escabeche” can refer to lots of things in Spanish and Latin American cooking—but in this case we’re talking about Mexican pickled vegetables. It’s often some combination of jalapenos, carrots, onion, cauliflower, garlic, and various other spicy chilis, but the only hard and fast rule is the brine of tangy vinegar. Vinegar itself is fermented, created when acetic acid bacteria goes to town on some ethanol. Perhaps surprisingly (or not, if you’ve ever put your nose to its bottle and taken a whiff) vinegar is also an ingredient in the cult classic Biologique Recherche Lotion P50. All six versions of the stuff! It’s not recommended for topical use alone, but in diluted formulas can help remove dead skin buildup.
Kimchi most often starts as humble cabbage that’s fermented among garlic, ginger, and red pepper. Over the course of about five days on the counter, it turns into a spicy, salty, tangy, fermented side dish. Pretty cool, huh? Benton, the brand you most likely know for their beloved snail mucin sheet mask, also makes this fermented delight. It features filtrates really high up on its ingredient list—lactobacillus makes an appearance (just like in kimchi!) alongside galactomyces and bifida filtrates. With moisturizing ceramides to lock in the hydration, the mask leaves you plump and soothed after just 10 minutes—no need to wait a week.
Photo via ITG