The Beauty of Mushrooms
Mushrooms: they're tasty to eat, cute as decor (Gen Z knows), and, apparently, really good for your skin. Over the last few years, the skin-care industry has boomed, bringing buzzy new ingredients with it. At the top of that list are mushrooms of all different varieties. This has led to a phenomenon dubbed the "shroom boom" in the world of cosmetics.
The superfood has been used in traditional medicines and topicals for centuries to treat a myriad of concerns, both internally and externally. But the Western market only recently caught on. Now, not only is it common to find products formulated with fungi, but it's also often touted right on the front of the packaging in big bold letters.
"It's only been in recent years, with the advent of natural and clean beauty, that we've seen brands recognize the power of these ingredients," Ryan Turner, MD, FAAD, a board-certified NYC dermatologist and cofounder of TRNR Skin, tells POPSUGAR. "There is often a belief in Western medicine that natural remedies are ineffective, but a great deal of modern medicine is derived from ingredients found in nature."
The reason we're seeing the shroom boom happen now has to do with a newfound interest in adaptogens in the beauty and wellness spaces. These are "a type of ingredient that helps your body and skin adapt to stress, whether that stress is caused by internal or external factors," says Dr. Turner. Mary Berry, the CEO and founder of skin-care lab Cosmos Labs, agrees. "On the formulation side of the beauty industry, there has definitely been a growing interest in incorporating mushrooms into skin-care products," she says.
Whether you recently purchased a product formulated with mushrooms or you're wondering what all the hype is about, keep reading to learn more about the buzzy new skin-care ingredient from a handful of experts.
A Brief History of Mushrooms in Beauty
Mushrooms have a long, rich history, and many cultures have been harnessing their wellness powers before it was trendy. "Mushrooms have long been used since traditional medicinal practices throughout Asia, and their use has also been described in ancient Greece, most notably for their anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties for the skin," says Dr. Turner.
Even though it took a while to catch on stateside, there are a handful of brands out there that have been centered on mushrooms. House of Grō, for example, is rooted in three generations of family wellness practices passed down from cofounder Irina Gottesman's great-grandmother. "[She] recognized the transformative power of mushrooms in Tajikistan in nourishing and rejuvenating the skin," Gottesman says.
Skin-Care Benefits of Mushrooms
The category of mushrooms is very diverse, with each kind holding distinct benefits. But in general, they're known for being incredibly rejuvenating to the skin. "They can offer enhanced moisturizing, soothing, and brightening effects while softening the appearance of skin damage and aging," Berry says. Because of this, you can find them in all manner of products, from serums (one of the most common forms) to moisturizers, face masks, moisturizers, and toners.
"Mushrooms with adaptogenic properties can help reduce inflammation, which means that they can soothe and calm redness in the skin, as well as be valuable allies in the fight against skin aging," says Dr. Turner. "Depending on the mushroom used, they may also help reduce hyperpigmentation or skin dehydration."
Types of Mushrooms in Skin Care
Many different types of mushrooms are used in skin-care formulations. The most popular include reishi, cordyceps, and tremella mushrooms. Ahead, learn about the key benefits of each one when used topically.
Reishi: Reishi mushrooms are commonly used in traditional Asian medicine. They're high in antioxidants and have adaptogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. "They are often used in skin-care products for their potential to soothe and calm irritated skin," Berry says.
The TRNR Niacinamide 5% Restorative Serum ($55), created by Dr. Turner, contains this variety of fungi. "[It] also promotes skin healing, can protect against hyperpigmentation, and hydrate the skin," he says. A.P. Chem's Magical Moisturizer ($75) also contains the ingredient (as well as seven other types of mushrooms, most of which are listed below).
Cordyceps: Cordyceps is a type of fungus that lives on certain caterpillars in the mountains of China, according to WebMD. "Studies show this ingredient offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits," says Dr. Turner. It's most commonly found in antiaging products, like the Pai Skincare Tri-Mushroom 10% Super-Soothing Booster ($29), as Berry says it can help "promote a more youthful complexion."
Tremella: Tremella mushrooms have the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that most mushrooms have, but really, they're praised for their ability to hydrate the skin. "Tremella mushrooms are often referred to as 'nature's hyaluronic acid,' due to their exceptional moisturizing properties," Gottesman says. "They have the ability to retain moisture and improve skin hydration, resulting in a plump and youthful appearance." The Dr. Andrew Weil For Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Fortifying Emulsion ($43) contains this type of mushroom, among others.
Chaga: Chaga mushrooms have become very popular in herbal teas and supplements for their wellness abilities. Topically, they're a great source of antioxidants. "They help protect the skin from free radicals, which can contribute to premature aging," Gottesman says. They have soothing properties and are good for calming redness, but that's not all.
"Chaga mushrooms are a source of betulinic acid, which can help improve skin elasticity and reduce the signs of aging," Berry says. This is why you'll commonly find them in antiaging formulas. House of Grō utilizes chaga mushrooms, sourcing them from northern Maine, in its At Dawn Rejuvenating Daytime Oil ($225).
Shiitake: Shiitake mushrooms contain kojic acid, a naturally derived ingredient that's paramount for fading hyperpigmentation. "Kojic acid helps reduce the appearance of dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone," Gottesman says. Additionally, they're great for protecting against environmental damage. The Biossance Squalane + 10% Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum ($65) contains white shiitake mushroom to help even skin tone.
Generally, mushrooms are well-tolerated by most skin types, says Dr. Turner. However, a patch test is still recommended. "This is especially important if your skin tends to be reactive or sensitive. You want to ensure your skin can tolerate a new product before committing to full face application." Some types of mushrooms, like those containing kojic acid, for example, can lead to irritation.