Fermented Skin Care & Serum Guide

I know - when I say the phrases ‘fermented skin care’ or ‘skin ferments’, it’s almost a reflex to wrinkle up your nose and say, "ew". The word ‘ferment’ definitely conjures up super-specific mental imagery - particularly the stinky kind. But are fermented skincare ingredients just a trend or are they going to stick around?

The thing is, this kind of skincare has been actually around for a long time and has already made its mark in luxury beauty - you just don’t know it. Seriously - one of the most famously expensive face creams in the world contains fermented skincare, and is exactly why it’s so expensive! I know what you’re thinking: none of your skincare smells like it’s been fermented, but trust me, they’re there. Here’s the breakdown on what skin ferments are and what they can do for skin. 

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence image

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence | $210
One of the original (and most famous!) fermented skincare products: the Facial Treatment Essence.

What Is Fermented Skincare?

Bubbling liquid image

So, what is fermented skincare, exactly? Think of it as a beauty product that’s alive. It’s basically like a probiotic for your skin - the same way that your gut benefits from probiotic yogurt, these skincare ferments have great benefits for your skin too. 

One of the biggest categories of fermented skincare extracts are yeast-derived - no, that doesn’t mean you can do some DIY skincare with baker’s yeast! I mean, it’s not like it’s going to do your skin any harm, unlike other DIY ‘skincare hacks’, but there are definitely better ways to get the benefits of fermented skincare!

Any fermented ingredients added to skincare have been filtered and extracted before adding to the formula. That’s why skincare products with these ingredients don’t necessarily smell like kimchi or kombucha - especially the higher-end ones. 

Common yeast-based skincare ferments include galactomyces and sacharromyces - these two are particularly popular in J Beauty and K Beauty. However, there are some more famous brands that use fermented filtrates (and you might not know it)!

Creme de La Mer image

The ultra-luxurious flagship cream of the La Mer brand - it's major ingredient, Miracle Broth is a potent algae-based ferment.


Benefits of Fermented Skincare

So, what do fermented ingredients actually do for the skin? What’s interesting is that even though the ferments themselves are derived from different origins, they tend to have common benefits for skin, including:

  • Increased skin hydration
  • Brighten uneven skin tone
  • Antioxidant effects on skin
  • Encourage skin renewal
  • Soften fine lines and wrinkles

Lancome Genifique Youth Activating Serum image

Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Serum | $160
Rich in Bifida Ferment Lysate to rejuvenate and refresh skin.

Famous Skincare Ferments

The cool thing about fermented filtrates is that you don’t necessarily need them to be yeast-based to be effective! They can be made with rice wine or fermented algae extract - if those two sound familiar, that’s because I’m referring to SK-II and La Mer respectively. Let’s take a closer look at these two famous ferment-based skincare products, plus two more luxury brands that you probably didn’t know used fermented ingredients


SK-II has a clear brand story about how they discovered their sake-based ferment and why it’s so effective. The brand created an iconic skincare essence packed with the now-trademarked pitera - this sparked many copycats from different brands, but so far, none are really as good as the real thing!

La Mer

This one often surprises people as when you use Creme de La Mer, there’s really no hint or clue that it is a fermented skincare product. Also, people typically assume fermented skincare can only be formulated in watery essences, like the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. However, the process of creating La Mer’s famously effective cream included fermenting the algae-extract - adding all the benefits of ferments to Creme de La Mer.


It’s not something that you’d expect from French luxury brand Lancôme, but the entire Génifique line contains fermented skincare! Specifically, it has an ingredient called Bifida Ferment Lysate, a yeast-based fermented extract. Studies have found that this particular skincare ferment encourages the skin to self-repair, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles - it’s no wonder why they’d create an entire skincare line based on it!

Estée Lauder 

Lancôme isn’t the only brand that’s adopted fermented extracts, either. Bifida Ferment Lysate features in Estée Lauder’s skincare too! The iconic Advanced Night Repair line highlights this fermented extract as the major ingredient behind all the anti-ageing magic in the entire line, adding it in everything from serum to eye cream to ensure that your skin can take advantage of it!

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum | $105
Fortified with Bifida Ferment Lysate to repair and renew the undereye area.

Fermented skincare definitely works wonders for skin - so what are you waiting for? Get your beauty affairs in order and add some fermented skincare goodness to your routine.

The bonus? They’re great for all skin types, too!

Need some help putting together the best skincare routine for your skin type? Try our skin quiz!

Beauty Affairs Skin Quiz Image

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Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne is a passionate beauty writer with over 10 years of experience. She’s incredibly keen on all things skincare, makeup and cosmetics, with a fingertip on the pulse of the latest global beauty trends at all times.

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