Why are Fermented Beauty Products so Popular in Korea?

The YS Beauty Lab

Using fermented ingredients in Korean beauty products is nothing new. Popular brands like Missha and Tony Moly have incorporated fermented fruits, plants, snail slime and yeast in their products for a while. There’s also been an upsurge of brands that specialize in fermented products like Sooryehan, Goodal, ZYMOGEN and MAKEUP HELPER. Why do Koreans love them so much?

Korea’s trust in fermented products can be traced back to ancient hanbang formulas. “Hanbang” refers to traditional Korean herbal and medicinal ingredients like ginseng, lotus root, tea and fungi, among others. Just like with kimchi, ancient Koreans believe that certain fermented ingredients are good for health. Their belief is backed by a number of scientific reasons:

1. Fermentation is the metabolic process of converting sugars into acids, gases or alcohols using yeast or bacteria. The process breaks down the molecular structure of the ingredients and makes the nutrients more concentrated and easily absorbed.
2. Instead of being heated, the formula is blended by fermentation to preserve the nutritional value of its ingredients. A fermented skin care product should therefore be more effective than its non-fermented counterpart.
3. Fermentation can produce additional amino acids to stimulate collagen production, and antioxidants to fight against premature aging.
4. Most fermented products are acidic, which helps exfoliate skin.
5. Fermented sugars and fruit acids help moisturize skin.
6. Fermented products are more suitable for dry and sensitive skin since they’re more symbiotic with the skin.

Now that we know the benefits of fermented beauty products, here are a few to begin with:


The star ingredient for Missha’s Time Revolution Night Repair Borabit Ampoule is bifida ferment lysate, the same probiotic in Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair. Bifida ferment lysate is a gut bacteria that strengthens the immune system, reduces sensitivity and helps the skin repair itself. Bifida is listed as the second ingredient of the ampoule after water.

Another probiotic you’ve probably heard of is Pitera, the patented magic ingredient for SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence. (SK-II is from Japan but the brand is famous in Korea.) The essence contains 90% Pitera, which helps to rejuvenate, clarify and smoothen skin. According to SK-II, Pitera is derived from a strictly controlled natural fermentation process under the use of a single secret yeast.

Those familiar with Korean skin care should also know about galactomyces, a fungus that helps reduce blackheads, sebum, dead skin cells and acne while minimizing pores and brightening skin tone. COSRX’s Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence contains 95% galactomyces ferment filtrate.

As a delicious treat for your skin, try Skin’S Boni’s Yogurt Mask Pack which contains bifida, lactobacillus and lactococcus fermentation extracts to improve the skin’s elasticity, texture and moisture-retention capacity.

Fermented Ginseng

Sooryehan’s anti-aging Hyo Bidam collection firms skin and improves wrinkles with its patented Baekhyodan ingredient. Baekhyodanis made of wild ginseng from uncontaminated areas of Mount Jiri in Korea, and undergoes a low-temperature fermentation process for 100 days before being extracted.

Fermented Snail Slime

Tony Moly’s Timeless Ferment Snail collection uses fermented snail slime to soothe, hydrate, brighten and firm skin.

Fermented Plants

su:m37’s bestselling Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick contains fermented rose petals and herbs to cleanse skin without irritation. Goodal also offers a range of sheet masks enriched with different fermented flower essences. TOSOWOONG’s 100% Fermented Camellia Oil is extracted from the camellia fruit found on Jeju Island. The oil is rich in oleic acid which helps firm, smoothen and restore skin’s water-oil balance.

Fermented Soy Bean

Fermented soy bean extract combines with rice bran water in Primary Raw’s Do You Soy Milk Ferment Essence Skin to instantly quench and revitalize dull, tired skin. ZYMOGEN’s Fermented Soybean Firming Serum features a cocktail of ferments from soy beans, glutamic acid and Chinese liquorice to reduce wrinkles and brighten skin.

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