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I recently did a bit of a deep-dive on pre, pro and postbiotics, so if you didn't catch that then I'd recommend checking it out here before continuing on to read this review, as it gives a lot of context in terms of what these ingredients are, how they're supposed to work and my personal views on them (so I'll keep it brief on those broader topics here). Cultured is a new brand launch for the second half of 2021 and is available on their own site but also via Cult Beauty. But, are their products worth a look...?
As a brief bit of context: prebiotics are like the 'food' that friendly bacteria like, so promote the flourishing of it, probiotics are inert forms of 'live' good skin bacteria and postbiotics are their fermented produce. These ingredients can help encourage a healthy skin barrier so the skin feels less irritated, possibly looks less red and feels more hydrated and calm. I'm a little dubious as to whether the science is there yet in terms of how they should be formulated to give these benefits, but it's an interesting area of skincare and they're certainly a 'good to have' on an INCI list in my books.
Cultured was founded by the same person behind REN Skincare, so my hopes were high for these formulations. Going into this, really my only negative is the packaging, which is shallow (I know!) However, the price-point of the products is actually more in the high-end category, ranging from £32 to £60, so for me this does look a little juvenile and - dare I say it? - cheap (whereas the stuff inside it most certainly isn't to formulate). The cleanser, for example (spoiler alert) is well-loved by me and the pattern and lettering on the bottle is already rubbing off so it doesn't look great! Additionally, from a functional perspective, I would have preferred it if the moisturiser had been in reverse pump packaging if it needs to be airtight and in an opaque environment, as it doesn't always come out that easily in this component. However, I do like that they combine their 'biomecare' ingredients with proven actives as a bit of a counterbalance. Let's dive into the individual products...
First up is the Biome One Mask* | £48. This exfoliating mask uses inulin as its prebiotic component, lactococcus ferment lysate as its postbiotic and also saccharomyces (the antioxidant SK-II is famed for) which is fermented from hydrating snow mushroom and black tea. The primary exfoliant in here is lactic acid (traditionally milk-derived but often synthetically-made now) which is a highly-effective AHA that I personally find a little gentler than something like glycolic. There's also malic acid, which tends to support other exfoliants, and succinic acid, which is a newer ingredient that can have some antibacterial properties. We also have a derivative of azelaic acid, which can be great for redness, hyperpigmentation, rosacea and acne, as well as providing a very mild exfoliation action. Obviously this is a face mask so it's short-contact therapy, but you can definitely still get some benefits from it beyond the exfoliation. This is a gentle jelly formula that you leave on for 10 minutes. I experienced no irritation and I actually found this to be very gentle, however it still left my skin softer, smoother and gave the instant gratification of a glow-boost. If you need to perk up your skin quickly then this is an amazing option or you can integrate it into your routine as a once-weekly treatment to see those longer-term effects like a clearer, more-even skin tone.
The standout for me - as I might have already given away - is probably going to have to be the Biome One Cleansing Balm* | £32. You know I love a cleansing balm that's not in a pot! This comes in a bottle with a pump so it just feels like less effort to reach for at the end of a long day. Likewise, the consistency and texture of the product works well in this packaging; it does almost come out like a balmy-gel, but as you massage it down it does become more oil-based and then emulsifies clean off the skin once splashed with water. This cleanser actually has quite a simple formula - the glycerin is probably what gives it this slightly jelly-like quality, then we have various non-fragrant plant oils (many of which are very beneficial for the skin like sea buckthorn, argan, jojoba and sweet almond) that have been fermented and a sugar-based emulsifier. Plus, we have plankton as an antioxidant (along with Vitamin E) and lactic acid, which could be there more for hydration or to increase penetration than to exfoliate the skin. Ultimately, this product works! It breaks down makeup, sunscreen and the dirt and grime of the day effortlessly. If I'm only wearing sunscreen, water alone is fine, but if I'm removing makeup, I do tend to pair it with a cloth to help things along (though this isn't strictly necessary). It cuts through everything on my skin whilst being very gentle and leaving my skin soft without any excess left sitting on its surface.
Next, we have the Biome One Serum* | £55. This is probably my least-favourite from the line in terms of formulation, not because there's anything wrong with it, but because I just prefer the moisturiser and don't feel like I need both in my own routine. We'll get onto the moisturiser in a moment, but the serum is what I'd go for if you want a leave-on product with all of the skin barrier boosting benefits of this line but you're more on the oily side. Or, this could be a great option if you like to layer. This is formulated with inulin as a prebiotic, lactococcus ferment and lactobacillus plantarum extract as your postbiotics, as well as fermented black tea and hyaluronic acid. Then we have antioxidant algae extract, to fight against free radical damage, non-fragrant plant oils for moisture, including squalane (a plant-derived, skin-similar oil). Then we just have some fatty alcohols to moisturise and replenish the skin. It's nice, light but moisturising and milky, I guess I just find myself instinctively reaching for the moisturiser over this.
Speaking of which, let's round off this review with the Biome-Calm Cream* | £60. As I mentioned (particularly towards the start of this product) I did struggle a little with the pump, but it gets better as you get further into the product. Here we have the inulin and lactococcus ferment again, a soothing mushroom extract, your microalgae and piperonyl glucose, an interesting ingredient that can help with redness in the skin. Additionally, we have fatty alcohols, glycerin to act as a humectant (drawing water into the skin), squalane and soothing chamomile oil as moisturisers. Additionally we have saccharomyces ferment filtrate in here. There's a reasonable amount of overlap between this and the serum, which is why I don't tend to need to use both together in the same routine. This is pretty much the perfect moisturiser texture to me; it's not too rich or heavy, nor is it too light and lotion-y. At the moment I can wear it both AM and PM, it works under makeup and leaves my skin so beautifully soft, smooth and happy. I do feel like when my skin has had a bit of inflammation, this has helped calm things back down and restore its natural balance.
Overall, it is more on the pricey side, but once you look into the formulations, you get a good idea of why. Cultured have some really fantastic ingredients in the mix and these products really did work for me. It's all killer, no filler and the line is fragrance-free, making it a great option for those with more sensitive skin. I really recommend checking these products out - especially the cleanser and moisturiser!
Have you tried anything from this brand?