Fermented foods have long been a central part of Japanese cuisine and culture since the Stone Age. Even today, fermented foods like miso, natto (fermented soy beans), and tsukemono (Japanese pickles) continue to be found at nearly every Japanese meal. Not wanting to waste precious natural resources, women back in the day found creative ways to incorporate leftover fermented food products into their skincare regimens as well. Even the glamorous geisha entertainers heeded this “mottainai” (or “minimal waste”) culture. With just a few simple but potent fermented skincare ingredients, Japanese women attained plump, baby soft “mochi” skin (or “rice cake” skin).
How fermentation works
To really understand the benefits of fermented skincare, it helps to know how fermentation works. Fermentation is a process of food preservation that has been used throughout the centuries. In Japanese cuisine, the main catalyst for fermentation is a cultured grain called koji. During the fermentation process, hundreds of enzymes and compounds are released, altering the food’s molecular structure. This increases the nutritional content of the food, making it higher in vitamins, probiotics, and peptides.
Fermented rice water (aka sake) is probably the most popular Japanese fermented skincare ingredient that has received well-deserved attention in the beauty industry. Known for its ability to prevent wrinkles and water loss from the skin, promote collagen synthesis and brighten the skin, sake is being hailed for its anti-aging benefits. Examples of other local fermented skincare ingredients include soy milk and kombucha, a fermented tea drink that is said to have its origins in China and Japan.
How do J-Beauty fermented skincare ingredients give you Mochi skin?
They’re better absorbed by the skin
When an ingredient like rice water is left to ferment, its nutritional value multiplies. Not only does it contain more vitamins, probiotics, and peptides, but the ingredient is more readily absorbed by the skin. No matter how amazing an active ingredient, if its molecular size is too large, it won’t be able to penetrate your pores and truly benefit your skin. Fermentation breaks down molecular compounds, so that the fermented ingredient can easily sink into your skin and do its job at a deeper level.
They’re highly concentrated in active ingredients
Fermented ingredients tend to have a high concentration of ceramides, peptides, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid – exactly the kind of gentle yet potent actives you’ll find in J-Beauty skincare. Ceramides are naturally occurring lipids that strengthen the skin barrier and protect the skin from environmental stressors. Peptides are derived from amino acids and help to boost collagen production. Hyaluronic acid is a clear, gooey humectant that retains over 1000 times its weight in water within skin cells, so it’s no wonder that it’s a mainstay ingredient in moisturizing serums, creams and treatments. Lactic acid is an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) specifically used to combat hyperpigmentation, age spots, and dull complexion. It also helps to smoothen out skin tone and reduce the appearance of pores. Although a chemical exfoliant, lactic acid is a mild AHA and therefore suitable for sensitive skin types.
They balance the skin microbiome
A talk about J-Beauty fermented skincare wouldn’t be complete without the mention of probiotics. Though we often equate bacteria with germs, our skin hosts a variety of both beneficial and harmful bacteria, much like the gut. This environment is known as the microbiome. When our skin microbiome is out of balance, good bacteria are killed off and bad bacteria take over. This makes the skin vulnerable to acne and all types of inflammation. Fermented ingredients help to raise the level of good bacteria in your skin and balance its microbiome. When your microbiome is in harmony, your skin is better able to secrete its own natural humectants as well as heal scars, strengthen the skin barrier, and soothe irritations like eczema and dermatitis.
Where should you begin? - Our recommended skincare with fermented ingredients
If you’re new to fermented ingredients in skincare, you can start by introducing classic J-Beauty staples like soy milk, sake, and sake byproducts. Japanese beauty brand EDOBIO has developed its own fermented ingredient lactobacillus-fermented sake lees extract, a hydrating active formulated with BiProGe lactic acid bacteria and Japanese superfood sake kasu or sake lees. A leftover product from the sake brewing process, sake lees is used widely in Japanese cuisine in soups, marinades, baked goods, pickled dishes, and desserts. Since sake lees contains a myriad of beautifying nutrients, it is a popular skin soother in Japanese cosmetic products. When sake kasu is fermented with BiProGe lactic acid bacteria, the moisturizing ingredient helps to revitalize dull skin and improve texture.
EDOBIO’s lactobacillus-fermented sake lees extract is the star ingredient of the brand’s collection, so if you want to fully tap into the benefits of fermented J-Beauty skincare, we suggest beginning with a starter set like the EDOBIO Essential Beauty Box. The box includes minis of the EDOBIO rinse-off Radiance Booster Mask, Fresh Balancing Toner, and Intensive Hydration Serum, all of which contain lactobacillus-fermented sake lees extract. It also features the Glowing Night Gel Mask, a foaming net, and a travel size of the bestseller Floradiance Moisturizing Souffle Soap, so you’ll get a full course of the brand’s hottest essentials.
TLDR? J-Beauty fermented ingredients are simply awesome - not only because they’re naturally potent, but they help to restore the skin to its innate self-healing and nourishing capabilities.