Why mushrooms are the latest essential ingredient in skincare beauty products
Origins’ Mega Mushroom range launched the versatile fungi into the skincare sphere, and ever more brands are embracing them as the key to younger-looking and brighter skin
Mushrooms have long been revered for their healing properties in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), but now this wonder ingredient has moved from our plates into our beauty cabinets.
Already tried and tested for their nutritional and medicinal properties, mushrooms are the latest ingredient to be embraced by beauty brands as the key to younger and brighter skin.
“Mushrooms may be the latest millennial trend, but they have been around for centuries. The Chinese have been using them internally and externally for their anti-inflammatory benefits for over 5,000 years. I don’t think we’ll be seeing mushroom-fortified skincare disappear any time soon,” says Jenefer Palmer, founder of Los Angeles-based natural skincare brand OSEA.
OSEA is just one of a growing group of cosmetic brands that are harnessing the powers of the mushroom kingdom. One of its earliest proponents was skincare guru Dr Andrew Weil, who developed the now bestselling Mega Mushroom range with US brand Origins over 10 years ago.
Now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, including Asian brands such as Shiseido and Amore Pacific, which have infused many of their formulas with “super” mushrooms such as reishi, also called lingzhi (scientific name Ganoderma lucidum), and shiitake.
“Functional mushrooms help support your skin with their antioxidant and adaptogenic properties, and hydrating effects. says Tero Isokauppila, founder of Four Sigmatic, which is known for its mushroom-infused coffees and elixirs. “Whether you want to calm redness, reduce acne, fight wrinkles, or lighten skin, applying and consuming mushrooms might be your answer.”
One of the biggest benefits of working with an ingredient like mushrooms is the sheer variety available. According to Isokauppila, who has been foraging for them since he was a young boy growing up in Finland, each species has a different effect on the body and skin.
Those that are especially prevalent in skincare include reishi/lingzhi, which are high in beta-glucans and can help reduce surface redness and skin oxidation (and therefore have anti-ageing benefits). Oyster mushrooms contain kojic acid, which is a natural skin lightener.
Weil meanwhile developed his own potent formula, which includes chaga mushrooms, a powerful anti-irritant and antioxidant, and Chinese cordyceps, known to create cellular energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
Isokauppila also highlights fungi of the Tremella genus, a popular ingredient in TCM which is referred to as the “beauty mushroom”. They have similar properties to hyaluronic acid and are said to hold 500 times their weight in water, leaving the skin soft and supple. They are also said to stimulate the body’s production of superoxide dismutase, which protects the skin against free radicals.
While there’s no questioning the numerous benefits of mushrooms, there is still some doubt about the effectiveness of formulas applied to the skin compared with eating them, as TCM practitioners would have you do.
“While topical skincare can be beneficial, treating the skin issue from the inside out is the most important. Making sure your digestive system and liver are functioning optimally will have positive effects on your skin. Your skin is your largest organ and often issues in your other organs will show up on your skin,” says Isokauppila.
For those looking to get the maximum benefits, Chinese medicine practitioner Maxine To Chui-ying suggests increased consumption of super mushrooms including lingzhi and Auricularia auricula-judae (wood ear or black fungus).
“Some laboratory scientists have found that lingzhi is good for the micro-circulation of the blood vessels in the skin. If our skin has good blood flow it will provide good overall rejuvenation and a glowing appearance,” she says.
“I also suggest black fungus, which is often called a ‘vascular scavenger’. One of its main benefits is to moisten the blood, promote circulation and relieve stasis. When the stasis of blood is released, then good blood flow to the skin can help to rejuvenate and bring back a glow to the skin.”
Here are four mushroom-infused products designed to bring out your inner and outer beauty.
Essence Noir by Nannette De Gaspé
Containing silver mushroom extract to plump the skin, this toner aids in restoring the skin’s natural PH while protecting it against environmental aggressors. Details at: www.lanecrawford.com
Mega Mushroom Soothing Treatment Lotion by Dr Andrew Weil for Origins
This new formulation contains fermented chaga mushrooms and is designed to soothe, protect and even out the skin, while strengthening it from within. www.origins.com.hk
Brightening Serum from OSEA
This lightweight serum contains matsutake mushroom harvested from the Californian coast and is said to brighten skin and visibly reduces dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Details at: www.oseamalibu.com
Golden Latte from Four Sigmatic
Although not a topical product, this beautifying drink contains skin-loving ingredients such as shiitake mushroom and turmeric. Details at: foursigmatic.com