There is no shortage of beauty oils available on the market today– most often featuring pure plant oils for the face, body and hair – for they deliver emolliency and nourishment in a simplified, pure and preservative-free format. Although these oils can vary in their composition, there hasn’t been much innovation with plant oils, until now. There is a new kind of oil available with enhanced bio-activity and benefits for the skin – Fermented Face Oil. This new category of oil is supercharged for immense skin benefits.
Before getting into specifics, let’s start by reviewing basic skin lipid biology, plant oil composition and function in the skin, and then we’ll get into how fermentation can transform oils to provide unique benefits for the skin.
Biological skin lipids 101
One thing is true, is that we need oil for our bodies to function. We have co-evolved with plants and their oils, because through our diets our body needs these essential lipids and nutrients to build the skin barrier, repair wounded tissues, modulate skin immunity and even help manage our microbiomes. This fact made emollients from fats and vegetable oils the earliest and most universal beauty treatment.
The skin is comprised of various different types of lipids. Our sebaceous glands contain mainly squalene, triglycerides and wax esters while the stratum corneum (SC) is composed of ceramides (50%), free fatty acids (15%) and cholesterol (25%) – this is the essential glue that supports the skin barrier, preventing trans-epidermal water loss, calming inflammation and protecting itself from infection. [Elias and Choi, 2005]. Key building blocks for the SC are essential fatty acids such as Linoleic (omega 3) and a-Linolenic (omega 6) acids. These key acids cannot be synthesized by our bodies – we must get them from vegetable/seed oils.
Seed Oils… broken down
In addition to antioxidants, phenolics, vitamins and phospholipid compounds, seed oils are mainly comprised of fatty acid triglycerides – which are three fatty acids linked to a glycerin molecule.
The type and composition of the fatty acids determine the texture characteristics as well its effect on the skin. Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids (EFA) are anti-inflammatory and support a healthy barrier, while Oleic acid (omega 9) can disrupt the skin barrier (which may be advantageous for active ingredient delivery, but problematic if it is too high of a concentration. [Erin M. Moore et al., 2020]
In order for these fatty acids to be used by the skin, they must be broken from their triglyceride form. Triglycerides can feel heavy and on the skin and because they do not penetrate they mainly function as an emollient, occlusion and prevention of water loss. How does the body free up these triglycerides so the skin can integrate them? Digestive enzymes in our saliva and gut easily do this with ingested oils, but on the skin it is more nuanced, with our microbes doing this important work.
This enzymatic digestion by microbes that has led to a new and exciting category of oil – Fermented face oil! Using fermentation, vegetable oils can be biologically transformed to increase penetration, bioavailability and unique activity on the skin and microbiome.
Fermentation is a natural process by which microorganisms (i.e., yeast, bacteria, algae, fungi) ‘digest’ substances into smaller units making them more bio-available, while synthesizing new compounds in the process. The resulting mixture is called a ‘post-biotic’ which has incredible benefits for the skin and microbiome.
How is a fermented face oil made?
Fermented oils are made with the help of a unique microbe (i.e., Pseudozyma sp.) that is able to digest triglycerides. In fact, little superheroes like this are also used to clean up oil spills and hydrocarbon pollution in our waterways!
Credit: LABIO, biosciences
During the fermentation process, yeast break some of the triglyceride bonds, releasing free fatty acids, glycerol and synthesizing a new compound called MEL (Mannosylerythritol lipid). Transformed at the molecular level, fermented oils are non-greasy, deeply penetrating , more moisturizing and have higher antioxidant activity than their non-fermented counterparts. The new MEL (aka. ‘glycolipid’) has an emulsification and ceramide-like barrier repair effect on the skin, creating a noticeable plumping and moisture lock effect on the skin.
If this wasn’t enough, a recent study showed fermented face oil to improve facial microbiome composition and restore it to ‘younger’ and more beneficial communities, in addition to an increase in healthier flora diversity. [Tiziana Ciardiello, et al, 2020]
At biophile, we use a powerful Fermented Green Tea Seed oil in our Bio Barrier Nourishing Oil. Along with squalane, omega 3,6 fatty acids, Vitamin C, E and adaptogenic Schisandra berry, this friendly oil is designed to penetrate deeper into the skin, delivering actives, antioxidants and fatty acids deep within the skin while supporting a healthy microbiome at the surface*. Designed to be used after your water-based treatments (like a serum, or on slightly damp skin) this unique formula also combines with this water, creating a balmy, moisture lock film on the skin which has a plump and seal effect unlike any regular oil.
This is just one of the many scientific reasons we believe that the future is fermented.
Elias, P. M. and Choi, E. H. Interactions Among Stratum Corneum Defensive Functions. Exp . Dermatology 14, 719
Erin M. Moore, Charles Wagner and Slavko Komarnytsky. The Enigma of Bioactivity and Toxicity of Botanical Oils for Skin Care. Frontiers in Pharmacology, May 2020, Vol. 11, Article 785
Tzu-Kai Lin et al. Anti-inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of some Plant Oils. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2018, 19,70.
Tiziana Ciardiello, et al. Effects of Fermented Oils on Alpha-Biodiversity and Relative Abundance of Cheek Resident Skin Microbiota. Cosmetics, May 2020, 7, 34.
*biophile formula is tested and Certified microbiome friendly