Most of us have heard of the typical players in the skincare game: hyaluronic acid, retinols, rose hips—the list goes on. But sometimes we hear about ingredients that take us by surprise. You can pick almost any ingredient, and someone somewhere will have considered its potential for health or beauty. Everything from milk thistle to CBD oil has been tried and tested. But the most recent innovative ingredient showing up in the skincare world is one that we’re used to seeing in the kitchen, not the bathroom: Mushrooms.
Mushrooms are incredible. They’ve been supplementing and improving human wellness for a considerable chunk of history. The Greeks believed mushrooms gave their warriors strength, the Chinese thought they were an ‘elixir of life’, while Japanese emperors used them as aphrodisiacs. These funky fungi have an increasing place in the health and wellness world. They are prominent in the mainstream medical sphere (think antibiotics and anti-cholesterol drugs) alongside more alternative strains of wellness including Ayurveda and homeopathy.
The exact science of how mushrooms bolster our immunity is still being investigated. The benefits vary widely as mushrooms contain a huge diversity of biomolecules with medicinal properties. It’s estimated that so far, scientists have only identified 10–15 per cent of the 140,000 species of mushroom that are estimated to exist on earth. That means there could still be thousands of undiscovered species of mushrooms which could be beneficial to human health. It is understood that certain bioactive plant chemicals stimulate the immune system and give certain mushrooms their superfood status. Any plant that offers anti-inflammatory, blood sugar regulating, anti-ulcer and immune-stimulating effects is a winner in our books.
How mushrooms can affect skin?
And what about skin? Well, like anything that boosts our health, these ‘shrooms can make us glow on the outside as well. The beauty benefits are shown to be widespread (depending on the type of mushroom you use). Reducing inflammation and redness, minimizing the appearance of pore size, and even aiding in cell turnover and barrier functionality are all welcome side effects of mushrooms when used in skincare products. It’s not surprising these superfoods are now in the category of amazing skin savers.
Shiitake, porcini, maitake, enoki, chaga, and oyster mushrooms all offer serious amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the skin by reducing and counteracting free radical production. Recent studies show that edible mushrooms could serve as prebiotics that sustain our good gut bacteria. Another study suggests that a medicinal mushroom used in Chinese medicine—Ganoderma Lucidum (also known as Reishi)—helped to reduce inflammation and insulin resistance. Sounds pretty good, right?
Mushrooms supplement facts
While almost 400 species of specific mushrooms have proven medicinal properties, even the regular-Joe mushrooms available at the supermarket have something to offer. Edible mushrooms are highly nutritious, rich in protein, essential amino acids, fibre and carbohydrates. They are also low in fat—bonus! They vitamin haul in these fantastic fungi is no joke either: B1, B2, B12, C, D and E and minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, iron, zinc and copper are all available. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, mushrooms can easily serve as a non-animal, unfortified food source of vitamin D. The only requirement is that you source mushrooms either grown in sunlight or exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
It is helpful to know the extraction method of the mushroom as well as what part of the mushroom is used. Skin science reveals that products which use the whole mushroom are usually the most effective. In terms of specific products, mushrooms are mostly found in serums, masks and moisturizers.
So, next time you go out searching for some skin loving products, try the power of mushrooms!