Yeast is in your favorite glass of wine, your bread, and even healthy probiotic formulas (like Glow Powder by The Beauty Chef). You may want to think about adding it to your skin care routine, too. Why? Yeast extract contains some of our largest organ’s favorite things, like amino acids, proteins, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins, like B.
Many of beauty brands including Kiehl’s, REN, and SkinCeuticals are using various species of it — many times a form of baker’s yeast, which has a cellular structure very similar to human cells — as powerful active ingredients in their formulas. When applied topically, it’s super hydrating, anti-aging, collagen-producing, and brightening. In fact, SK-II has been using it for years: Hero product Facial Treatment Essence contains 90 percent Pitera, their signature ingredient derived from yeast fermentation.
Of course, adding yeast to a serum or cream is nothing like baking bread. “A yeast species saccharomyces cerevisiae (the scientific name for baker’s yeast) converts carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohol,” says Marc Cornell, senior scientist for 3LAB, which makes five products with the ingredient. “This same organism can be programed to produce anti-age compounds with a basic but highly refined biotechnological process that allows the microorganism to generate by-products which have unique functions for anti-age cosmetics.” Cornell says this process gives some yeast forms antioxidant functions, while others stimulate collagen and elastin production or reduce inflammation.
For REN Skincare, yeast is a major go-to: Some form — extract, peptide or hyaluronic acid derived from it — shows up in 13 different formulas, including the new Wake Wonderful Night-Time Facial. “Fermented yeast has been credited with helping to give a bright, youthful complexion and yeast in general has phenomenal moisturizing and hydration properties,” says Lucy Halperin, celebrity makeup artist and ambassador for the brand. “That’s why a product like REN Instant Firming Beauty Shot is so great — you’re able to moisturize, firm, and lift skin both immediately as well as rebuild over time thanks to the hyaluronic acid that comes from yeast.”
Dr. Geoff Genesky, Kiehl’s head of research & innovation believes that yeast is becoming increasingly popular due to high concentrations of nutrients. “Yeast’s benefits include antioxidant and cell renewal properties, with the ability to improve skin smoothness and texture when introduced in cosmetic formulations,” he says. Kiehl’s recently launched its Precision Lifting and Pore-Tightening Concentrate, with purified, micro-filtered yeast extract that’s gentle but potent, and improves firmness, smoothness and pore size, while better defining facial contours and lifting overall.
Cornell, says yeast’s calming claims are substantiated because is is a known source of beta-glucan, making in a great antioxidant and a soothing active ingredient. “There are yeast ferments that address all major signs of skin aging: wrinkles, age spots, slack skin,” says Cornell.
Pigmentation and age spots are the target of SkinCeuticals’ new Advanced Pigment Corrector, which contains yeast that decreases the production of the brown or reddish skin pigment known as eumelanin. Julie Russak, M.D., founder of NYC’s Russak Dermatology Clinic says this, in turn, gives the appearance of a lighter, more even skin tone. Used topically, Russak believes it also promotes skin lightening — and fewer dark spots — by regulating production of the enzyme tyrosinase, the key enzyme in melanin production. “It [also] increases precutaneous absorption without systemic effect and aids in collagen production to fight wrinkles,” says Russak.
Yeast shouldn’t be used topically by those with known allergies, but it is gluten-free. Additionally, it’s prized because “yeast ferments are less likely to be recognized as foreign substances due to their skin-similar protein chemistry,” says Cornell. The sudden influx of the ingredient is also tied to green practices in the beauty industry. “The major push in manufacture of ‘chemicals’ has driven many suppliers to use more ‘green’ chemistry,” he continues. According to Cornell, this eco-friendly biotech process generates less toxic waste, has a lower carbon footprint, creates less greenhouse gases and uses more natural ingredients. Call it a win for yeast — and our complexions.