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The Importance of Mushrooms in Skincare

The Importance of Mushrooms in Skincare

During the autumn season, the forest is filled with the scent of mushrooms. While they may be modest in size and lack the charm of roses, mushrooms have been a staple in human diets worldwide for centuries. Some have also found their place in medicine and the cosmetic industry, as briefly discussed below.

For many years, mushrooms were classified under the plant kingdom, but they are now recognized as a separate taxonomic entity. Rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, they serve as an excellent source of β-glucan, selenium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, and more. The Eastern cultures, in particular, have long appreciated the presence of numerous bioactive compounds in mushrooms. These cultures recognize mushrooms for their deep-rooted history, primarily due to their medicinal properties, which have been corroborated by numerous scientific and clinical studies. One study, for instance, demonstrated that mushrooms help combat aging, reduce the severity of skin inflammatory conditions, and correct discoloration. Another study revealed that the β-glucan in mushrooms aids in improving the skin barrier, making them particularly attractive for individuals with sensitive skin. Further evidence of the beneficial effects of mushrooms comes from research showing their incredibly high levels of two essential antioxidants that can aid in combating aging and strengthening overall health.


Mushroom Royalty – Shiitake and Reishi

Shiitake, also known as Japanese oak mushroom or scientifically as Lentinula edodes, is the second most cultivated mushroom globally, following only the common button mushroom. It primarily grows on chestnut trees (Shii in Japanese), from which it derives its name. Valued in Asia for over 2000 years for its culinary and medicinal qualities, it is considered an “elixir of life.” Shiitake is rich in essential amino acids, a variety of vitamins and minerals (including B-group vitamins, vitamin D, and A), and polysaccharides, with β-glucan (known as lentinan) being the most studied. In Japan, Shiitake is recognized as one of the most popular protein sources.

Reishi, known as Ling Zhi in China (meaning the plant of the spirit) and Reishi in Japan, holds a significant place in traditional Chinese pharmacopeia. Described as the “continuous use of Ling Zhi reduces body weight and increases lifespan,” it is also known as the “mushroom of immortality” in Chinese culture. Similar to Shiitake, Reishi is a nutrient powerhouse, containing carbohydrates, amino acids, minerals, and primarily B-group vitamins. It has proven anti-aging, moisturizing, skin-brightening properties, and aids in wound healing. Reishi is also valued as an adaptogen, helping the body adapt to unfavorable environmental conditions and the effects of stress. Since the 1980s, Japanese skincare brand Menard has incorporated Reishi into anti-aging products.


Not-So-Sweet, White Jelly – Snow Mushroom

The intriguingly named Snow Mushroom or Silver Ear Mushroom, scientifically Tremella fuciformis, is renowned as a “super-hydrator.” Studies suggest that it hydrates the skin better than the popular hyaluronic acid. With a jelly-like structure and high levels of polysaccharides, this mushroom helps draw water into the skin. It is primarily used in cosmetics for its moisturizing, antioxidant, and anti-aging properties. In China, it is popular as a tonifying medicinal agent, used to treat weakness and exhaustion.


Forest Diamond – Chaga Mushroom

Named the “diamond of the forest” by the Japanese, Chaga mushroom, scientifically Inonotus obliquus, is a parasitic fungus responsible for white rot in wood, mainly on deciduous trees. Predominantly found in Siberia (hence the name Siberian Chaga), it has been used for centuries as a preventative measure for various ailments. Its most notable property is its antioxidant activity, having the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) among mushrooms. Like the previously mentioned mushrooms, Chaga is rich in valuable vitamins and minerals. Its enzyme, superoxide dismutase, along with phenolic compounds, neutralizes free radicals, slowing down the aging process. Its skincare benefits include toning, soothing the skin, and supporting skin renewal.


Gems Primarily for Eastern Cultures

Numerous studies discuss various plant species that positively affect the skin and hair. However, the examples of mushrooms mentioned, well-known in Eastern cultures, constitute a treasure trove of nutritional components, vitamins, and minerals. It’s no wonder that their potential is harnessed in cosmetic production, providing anti-aging, antioxidant, moisturizing, and skin-brightening effects.

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