Surely you know many foods that come from fermentation. Beverages such as wine or kombucha, and foods such as cheese or yogurt are products that are part of our daily lives come from fermentation.

To carry out the fermentation, the microorganisms secrete a series of enzymes that induce the decomposition of basic ingredients (mainly sugars) to transform them into components that can be much more powerful, such as acids, alcohols or even gases. This idea of ​​enhancing ingredients is what is behind the trend of using fermented ingredients for cosmetic products.

A trend that comes from Asia

The use of fermented ingredients is as old as human history. However, the first historical evidence of this technique dates to the 3rd century A.D. in what we now know as Korea [1]. Thanks to fermentation food could be preserved for a longer time, allowing it to be consumed during the winter or even in times of drought, when fresh food was scarce.In the field of cosmetics, the use of fermented ingredients also has its origin in Korea, specifically in the 1390s during the Joseon dynasty, its subsequent popularization began in countries such as Japan and South Korea in the 90s of the last century, until becoming one of the biggest trends in the world of cosmetics in 2022 [2].

How fermentation occurs

In fermentation, 4 types of fermentation can be defined depending on the type of final product that is produced, each one of them gives rise to a type of alcohol or acid from sugars, mainly glucose. Thus, alcoholic fermentation gives rise to ethanol, acid fermentation that gives rise to lactic acid and acetic acid and, finally, alkaline fermentation that hydrolyses proteins to give rise to amino acids.

Fermentation has been used for centuries in food. Today the food industry uses alcoholic fermentation to produce wine and beer, lactic fermentation in the production of dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt, acetic fermentation in the production of vinegar and, the lesser-known type of fermentation, alkaline, to produce natto, a Japanese ingredient from the fermentation of soybeans. Beyond food, today fermentation is also used to produce pharmaceutical and cosmetic ingredients.

Skincare ingredients that come from fermentation

To produce pharmaceutical and cosmetic ingredients, modern fermentation processes are used to obtain compounds such as enzymes, amino acids, or vitamins.An example of the use of fermentation in the pharmaceutical industry is found using fungi (Trichoderma sp.) or bacteria (Penicillium sp.) to produce antifungal molecules [3, 4]. But also, in the production of terpenoids, such as Taxol (paclitaxel) that are used as chemotherapeutic agents to treat certain types of tumours [5].

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In skin care, the most used ingredients from fermentation are probiotics. On the one hand, a clinical study showed that a mixture of probiotics reduces the severity of psoriasis by compensating the skin microbiota of patients [6]. On the other hand, another study found that probiotics can help restore the skin’s acidic pH, relieve oxidative stress, reduce photoaging, improve skin barrier function, and improve hair quality [7].

In addition to probiotics, fermentation allows certain cosmetic ingredients to acquire new properties in skin care. In this regard, a study conducted by the Department of Food and Nutrition in South Korea determined that fermented red ginseng had higher antioxidant capacity and better efficacy in reducing pigmentation and wrinkles than non-fermented ginseng [8].

Finally, we find fermentation products such as alpha hydroxy acids (lactic, glycolic, and mandelic acid) that help regenerate the skin, while amino acids such as L-glutamate and L-lysine allow the improvement of the barrier function and the stimulation of collagen production [9].

Fermentation is a natural process used for centuries to improve food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical ingredients. Therefore, it is not surprising that the current trend is to use more and more fermented ingredients to improve skin care.


  1. Lee S. W. 1975 Studies on the movements and interchanges of vegetable pickles in China, Korea and Japan J. Kor. Soc. Food Nutr. 4 71 – 76.2.    
  3. Li, C. W., Song, R. Q., Yang, L. B., & Deng, X. (2015). Isolation, Purification, and Structural Identification of an Antifungal Compound from a Trichoderma Strain. Journal of microbiology and biotechnology, 25(8), 1257–1264.
  4. Svahn, K. S., Chryssanthou, E., Olsen, B., Bohlin, L., & Göransson, U. (2015). Penicillium nalgiovense Laxa isolated from Antarctica is a new source of the antifungal metabolite amphotericin B. Fungal biology and biotechnology, 2, 1.
  5. Carsanba, E., Pintado, M., & Oliveira, C. (2021). Fermentation Strategies for Production of Pharmaceutical Terpenoids in Engineered Yeast. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 14(4), 295.
  6. Navarro-López V., Martínez-Andrés A., Ramírez-Boscá A., Ruzafa-Costas B., Núñez-Delegido E., Carrión-Gutiérrez M.A., Prieto-Merino D., Codoñer-Cortés F., Ramón-Vidal D., Genovés-Martínez S., et al. Efficacy and safety of oral administration of a mixture of probiotic strains in patients with psoriasis: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Acta Derm. Venereol. 2019;99:1078–1084.
  7. Sharma D., Kober M.M., Bowe W.P. Anti-aging effects of probiotics. J. Drugs Dermatol. 2016;15:9–12.
  8. Lee HS, Kim MR, Park Y, et al. Fermenting red ginseng enhances its safety and efficacy as a novel skin care anti-aging ingredient: in vitro and animal study. J Med Food. 2012;15(11):1015-1023.9.    

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