Product Review

Symbiome’s Minimalist Skin-Care Line Saved My Sensitive Skin

Symbiome, a brand-new science-backed skin-care line, features seven products made with less than 10 ingredients. Here, Allure associate beauty director Sarah Kinonen shares her review of the sensitive-skin-friendly collection.
Sarah Kinonen holding 3 symbiome skincare products in her hand in a bathroom
Photographed by David Carr

Over the last seven months, my skin has seen some things— and I’m not just referring to the pandemic raging across the globe. Thanks to over-testing products with my newfound free time at home, paired with my discovery of maskne, my formerly combination skin is now officially sensitized. It’s finicky with new products, inflames easily under pressure, and craves hydration like no one’s business. That said, I’ve been in search of a sensitive-skin-friendly soothing solution, and I think I may have finally found it with Symbiome.

Symbiome, a brand-new sustainable and science-backed skin-care line, contains products made of ingredients designed to “nourish the skin microbiome and restore what our skin has lost in the modern world,” say founders Larry Weiss and Vicki Levine. Specifically speaking, the Symbiome collection, which has seven products (two cleansers, four facial oils, and one moisturizer), each formulated with less than 10 ingredients that are predominantly sourced from the Amazon rainforest. “The things you put on your skin should be simple and balanced and retain the biological integrity of the natural ingredients that went into them,” says Levine.

According to the experts, minimal ingredients mean less chance of a reaction, which is something my fussy complexion surely appreciates. “Few ingredients just means [fewer] opportunities for allergic reactions,” says cosmetic chemist Ginger King. “When a formula is made with more than 10 ingredients, it’s harder to pin down issues if you have super-sensitive skin.”

King is right: After chucking the 10-step routine I’ve followed for years, I’m now down to a mere three products — The Renewal Daily Cleanser, The One Restorative Cream, and the Rebalance001 Postbiomic Oil — without experiencing any sensitivity.

The Symbiome skin-care collection

Photographed by David Carr

In addition to Symbiome’s pared-back ingredient list, the brand’s efficacy could also be due to which ingredients are in these three products I’m using, as well as how they’re formulated. The skin-care line features more than a few powerhouse players, including fermented buriti fruit oil to fight off free radicals and help prevent moisture loss, glycerin to helps retain moisture and hydrate the skin, and the brand’s proprietary postbiotic blend of Lactobacillus ferment to soothe the complexion all while helping to balance the microbiome.

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For the uninitiated, the skin microbiome is a "rainforest of diverse organisms including bacteria, fungi, and viruses" found in healthy skin, Whitney Bowe, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, and author of Dirty Looks: The Secret to Beautiful Skin, previously told Allure. "A healthy microbiome can keep our skin healthy and glowing in a number of different ways."

The inclusion of postbiotics (i.e., Lactobacillus ferment) in the line was especially important to the brand. “Our recent advances in microbiome science have shown us that postbiotics are more effective in delivering nutrients back to the skin,” says Weiss. “The word ‘Symbiome’ describes the connection between us, our environment, and the microbial world. Every single one of our products reflects our commitment to restoring the lost benefits of the ancestral microbiome.”

Sarah applying the Symbiome The One Restorative Cream.

Photographed by David Carr

Luckily for me, Symbiome’s products — and especially the ones I’ve been loving lately — are packed with postbiotics derived from good-for-your-skin bacteria, along with a few other nourishing ingredients, that not only help calm my skin, but work to prevent future sensitivity and inflammation, too. “All microbiome-related approaches have one goal, which is to work with our own skin's system,” says King. “So this means the products can be more tolerable to people with sensitive skin.”

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Symbiome’s postbiomic ingredients are fermented using what Weiss and Levine call “proprietary blend of ancestral, native microbes to unlock and optimize bioavailable nutrients and enzymes.” And in the skin-care world, fermentation is done no differently than brewing beer or making kimchi, says King. “You need a starting material containing carbohydrates, and you use bacteria, yeast, or enzymes to break that down into smaller pieces so it’s absorbed more easily.” The process helps the skin better drink up the products applied onto it. “In general, fermented products have better efficacy in penetration,” she adds.

When presented with the science, it’s no wonder I ditched my extensive skin-care regimen for a cool three products by Symbiome. Because let’s be real: It’s 2020, and no one has time for sensitive skin — we have other, more-pressing business to deal with (read: the aforementioned raging pandemic). Now, allow me to walk you through my newly-minimalist routine.

Sarah's minimalist skin-care routine using The Renewal, The One, and Rebalance001.

Every morning, I start by washing up with Symbiome’s lightweight, oil-to-gel-based The Renewal Daily Cleanser. As promised, the product is made with just seven ingredients, with stand-outs like hydrating glycerin and antioxidant-packed croton cajucara (sanoma) leaf oil. Just two to three pumps onto dry skin (used as if it were an oil cleanser) gently removes any dirt and oil build-up from the night before. I like that the cleanser has a faint-but-not-overpowering almond scent and doesn’t strip the skin.

After toweling off, I follow up The Renewal with the three-ingredient The One Restorative Cream. Instead of applying a giant dollop of the rich formula, which has the consistency of Greek yogurt, I instead go by what I’ve dubbed the “dabbing method”: I simply dip my finger into the jar, and then dab the moisturizer into five key areas of my face — my forehead, my cheeks, my nose, my chin, and my neck — then slowly rub in the cream in circular (and upward on my neck) motions.

Finally, I seal everything in with a couple of dabs of the two-ingredient (!) Rebalance001 Postbiomic Oil. I take three to four drops of the earthy-scented, orange-hued oil into the palm of my hands and rub them together to “warm up” the formula. Rather than slathering it on, I gently press it into my face and neck a few times as it’s drying to ensure it fully absorbs into my skin.

Then, I set the three products atop my vanity, allowing them to claim newfound precious shelfie space, because not only do I use them every day (twice a day at that!), but they look good up there, too. Every one of Symbiome’s products are housed in sustainably-sourced materials, including recyclable frosted glass and plastic bottles, which arrive in 100 percent-recycled cardboard boxes that are both recyclable and compostable.

So not only do the bottles look good once they’re empty, but I also feel good getting rid of them — knowing I’m not adding to my carbon footprint. Oh, and as for my skin? No redness, inflammation is null, and I’ve got an overall glow.

I guess this means I shouldn’t feel too bad that I’m already planning a restock then, huh? 

Symbiome The Renewal Daily Cleanser

Symbiome The One Restorative Cream

Symbiome Rebalance001 Postbiomic Oil

Symbiome’s skin-care collection is available now, ranging from $45 to $125, at Symbiome.com.