The skincare world can be overwhelming, with many contradicting fads and expensive products trying to sell you on the perfect skin. If you’ve ever gone down a Google Search skincare rabbit hole, you’ve probably run into countless contradictory advice:
“This 10-step nighttime routine is a MUST for optimal skin health.”
“Don’t apply too many skincare products before bed - allow your skin to generate what it needs on its own!”
“Retinol is an anti-aging miracle product.”
“Don’t use retinol - it will make you prone to sun damage and breakouts!”
And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the information that’s out there.
For those of us looking for a more natural approach to achieving healthy skin, expensive products filled with manufactured ingredients that are impossible to name may not be the solution. Instead, we may find the answer to our skin concerns in a surprisingly adorable form: mushrooms.
Functional mushrooms, also called medicinal mushrooms, are known for their wide variety of health benefits. First used in ancient Chinese medicinal practices, their benefits range from supporting our immune system response, improving mood and mental well-being, and helping to support healthy skin! These amazing anti-aging and health-boosting properties are why they are considered one of nature’s superfoods and have become more popular daily supplements in the western world in recent years.
These benefits stem from enzymes present in many mushrooms that give them anti-oxidative properties. You may have seen words like “free radicals” and “antioxidants” thrown around in many skincare products. Essentially, this means that the enzymes can help your body respond to a buildup of byproducts (free radicals) caused by things like stress, sun and chemical damage, and aging.
Ultimately, mushrooms can provide your skin with many health benefits comparable to popular skincare chemicals like hyaluronic acid, retinol, and vitamin E.
You can utilize the benefits of mushrooms by incorporating both fresh and dried mushrooms into your daily cooking recipes. However, if you want to maximize the positive impacts of these powerful fungi friends, mushroom supplements and extracts might be the way to go.
Mushrooms can have positive health benefits for all skin types and skin concerns. As you dive into this world of mushroom skincare, here are a few recommendations based on some of the most common skin issues.
Great for issues with: wrinkles, fine lines, visible signs of aging
Mushrooms to aid with this: white button mushrooms, reishi mushrooms
You may be surprised to hear that the answer to many of your skin aging worries may lie in the same mushrooms found on top of your late-night pizza slice. Button mushrooms are actually a great source of antioxidants, which are known for their ability to fight signs of aging in the body.
One study showed that an antioxidant chemical in white button mushrooms, called ergothioneine, could help protect against cell stress, improve skin clarity, and reduce inflammation. It also maintained effectiveness when incorporated into a skincare cream, a good sign for the future of skincare (1).
Of course, as mentioned before, the extraction method of these mushrooms matters, and you may not see these same benefits through ingesting alone. Instead, we recommend using skincare products and creams that utilize high-quality extraction methods.
Great for issues with: redness, irritation, and blemishes
Mushrooms to aid with this: Cordyceps, Reishi mushrooms, Shiitake Mushrooms
Cordyceps and Reishi are widely known for their adaptogenic properties, which help the body fight against physical and mental stress. In terms of skin health, they can aid in reducing common symptoms of irritation and inflammation, like redness, swelling, and blemishes (Taofiq et al. 2016).
This is due to the high concentration of beta-glucans present in these mushrooms. These molecules can aid in defending against bacteria, a common cause of acne. They can also stimulate your skin’s immune response, reducing inflammation and irritation (3).
Shiitake mushrooms also have a high concentration of a compound called kojic acid. Similar to vitamin E, this chemical can help reduce spots of hyperpigmentation and even out skin tone.
Great for issues with: dry skin, peeling, rough texture
Mushrooms to aid with this: Snow Mushrooms, Shiitake Mushrooms
Hyaluronic acid is a popular chemical used in skincare products to hydrate and smooth skin. A lesser-known mushroom alternative called Tremella (also called the Snow Mushroom) is actually believed to be even more hydrating for your skin, as it retains more water and can more easily penetrate your skin’s barrier.
Because of this, tremella is a great option for those looking to improve skin elasticity and youthfulness and is a vegetarian-friendly alternative to collagen. Try out an extract for yourself to reap the skin-plumping, softening, and youthful benefits!
Alongside topical use in skincare creams and serums, mushroom supplements can improve skin condition and overall well-being.
Great for issues with: Redness, Acne, Irritation
Mushrooms to aid with this: Shiitake
The anti-inflammatory properties of mushrooms truly seem like a miracle. From defending the body against cancer cells to treating arthritis, the list goes on. One study even found that individuals who consumed dried shiitake mushrooms daily led to an overall improved immune system response (3).
What does this mean for your skin? To start, taking regular shiitake supplements can help reduce swelling, puffiness, and irritation caused by inflammation. It also can lead to less acne, as your body’s immune system response can better regulate against bacteria and other environmental irritations.
Great for issues with: Hormonal acne, rough texture
Mushrooms to aid with this: Reishi and Chaga
For hormonal acne not necessarily caused by bacteria or environmental stressors, reishi and chaga mushrooms may be your best bet. Commonly known for their benefits in regulating the nervous system and mental health, these mushrooms can also help regulate hormones, leading to fewer breakouts.
According to one study, reishi’s anti-inflammatory effects could aid in a healthier stress response in the body. Not only does this mean a stronger ability to bounce back from daily mental stressors, but your skin is better protected as well (4).
Great for issues with: Long-term skin damage from the sun and exposure to environmental stressors
Mushrooms to aid with this: Chaga
Melanin, a chemical found in your skin and certain foods, is responsible for giving your skin its complexion and helping to protect it against damage from UV radiation and environmental toxins.
Chaga has been found to have a high concentration of melanin and can help replenish your body’s supply when taken as a supplement. This can lead to greater resistance against sun damage and help protect against skin cancer (5).
As you can see, functional mushrooms can provide a vast array of benefits for your skin! When experimenting with mushroom supplements and remedies - it really is a choose-your-own-adventure!
To summarize just a few of the benefits we dove into above and give you a good starting point of what to look into next:
For help with signs of aging, wrinkles, and fine lines, try button mushroom or reishi mushroom skin cream (here’s a recipe to even try making your own at home!)
For help with redness, irritation, and blemishes, try a soothing mushroom toner
For help with inflammation and acne, try a reishi daily tincture
For help with dry skin and rough texture, try a tremella mushroom serum
For help with protection against skin damage and eczema, try a healing chaga skin balm
As you’re diving into your own mushroom skincare routine, it’s essential to research the extraction methods and quality of ingredients in your products. After all, we don’t want to fall into the same trap of buying into trendy buzzwords and fads.
Some things to look out for in products that you use:
If you want to learn more about incorporating these remarkable compounds into your wellness routine, check out: