Why kombucha for the skin is the latest beauty trend

Seen as a natural way to boost potency and protection, fermented ingredients are tipped to be the next big thing in skincare.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, no doubt you would have heard about the fermented food craze.

Foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi are being praised for their taste and gut-boosting health benefits.

Now, fermented skincare ingredients are gaining attention and taking the market by storm with the promise of increased potency, better skin hydration and anti-ageing effects.

How can fermentation benefit skin?

Fermentation is an age-old practice where an ingredient is broken down by microorganisms – mainly enzymes, bacteria or yeasts – into its core components.

It’s a process used throughout history to make food and drink, but now, driven by the increasing popularity of Korean and Japanese-inspired beauty practices, many skincare brands are embracing fermentation.

“Fermented products are becoming more popular because we talk a lot about fermented food and how it releases certain probiotics and enzymes and bacteria and how good it is for our gut, so the thinking is it’s good for our skin too,” Melbourne Wellness naturopath Emily Segal says.

Not only does fermenting boost antioxidants, but these types of products also have “a natural affinity” with skin microbiome or flora due to the acidic nature of fermented products, she adds.

Ocinium naturopath Cassandra Hilton explains there are a number of benefits that result from the fermentation of biology plant and bacteria, but the three most important are increased potency, penetration and preservation.

“In a nutshell, fermented skincare can help tackle everything from signs of ageing to dullness, dryness, pigmentation and inflammation faster and more effectively than their non-fermented counterparts,” Cassandra says.

What fermented products are suitable for skin?

A whole range of ingredients are fermented for skincare products, but there are some that are proven to have significant impacts when applied topically.

Kombucha and other fermented teas are a popular addition for creams, serums and essences – boasting anti-inflammatory effects and anti-ageing properties.

A Journal of Medicinal Food study revealed that fermented red ginseng stimulated blood circulation and enhanced skin nutrition.

Fermented rice bran is also a proven ingredient, with one study finding it has anti-ageing, whitening and moisturising effects.

According to Cassandra, other trending fermented ingredients include: honey, milk, fruits – such as grape, pear and pomegranate – algae, collagen, soy, turmeric, oils, minerals and metals, and salts.

Are fermented skincare products for everyone?

Like all beauty products, some people will see their skin thrive when using fermented beauty products and others may have side effects.

“Everyone’s skin microbiome is slightly different and for some people their skin might not like it straight away and it takes time to adjust,” Emily says.

She suggests starting with one product at a time – perhaps a moisturiser – and slowly introducing more options over time.

However, Cassandra says fewer people are likely to react to fermented ingredients compared to traditional skincare additives.

“Fermented cosmetics have been found to act symbiotically with skin,” she says.

“This biocompatibility mimics the skin’s cell functions and supports the skin without disrupting its natural processes, so it is less likely to cause sensitivity.”