Mushrooms are part of the fungi family. They have been used for health and beauty applications by different cultures for thousands of years. Today, scientific data proves that certain mushrooms provide a variety of skin-restoring benefits.
Edible mushrooms are healthy fungi that can meet many of our skin care needs, naturally. Certain types offer many benefits, including anti-aging, detoxifying, hydrating, and brightening effects. They also help restore sun-damaged, dry, and wrinkled skin with powerful blends of antioxidants, vitamins, and polysaccharides. Many mushrooms can also heal and calm acne and rosacea-prone complexions with anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Some mushrooms offer superior hydrating properties due to high concentrations of ceremides and polysaccharides which help your skin retain moisture. This may be hard to believe, but studies demonstrate that tremella mushrooms (also known as snow mushrooms, golden jelly fungus, or yellow tremblers) which are commonly used in traditional Chinese dishes, have comparable or even better water-holding capacities than hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a component of human skin which diminishes as we age and has been called the “youth molecule.”
As we grow older, our skin cells also naturally accumulate toxins, which often leads to premature aging and inflammatory conditions like acne and rosacea. Mushrooms have the ability to purify skin cells by stimulating superoxide dismutase production. This enzyme plays a key role in cellular detoxification and helps to slow the aging process as well.
Even mushrooms found in grocery stores like portobello (agaricus bisporus), shiitake (lentinus edodes), and oyster (pleurotus citrinopileatus) mushrooms help to reduce free radical damage with powerful antioxidants, which can also heal and hydrate the skin. For example, the familiar portobello mushroom, in addition to its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, also helps improve hyperpigmentation by reducing melanin content and inhibiting tyrosinase activity (melanin production).
Most edible and medicinal mushrooms have high concentrations of anti-inflammatory nutrients like phenolic and indolic compounds, mycosteroids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. As we know, inflammation is a natural response by your immune system to stress related to physical, chemical, and pathogenic skin damage. Mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans which have the ability to modulate the immune function. They help to rejuvenate and firm the skin by stimulating cellular regeneration. They also have the ability to reduce over-sensitivity.
Most edible mushrooms, like truffles and morels, contain high concentrations of vitamins D and B, which are known to support the skin and improve elasticity. Truffles are a wonderful, but pricey source of essential amino acids, vitamins B1, B2, and B3, polysaccharides like lentinan and eritadentin, and skin-moisturizing and protecting ceremides.
The maitake mushroom (grifola frondosa) helps reduce wrinkles and firms the skin by stimulating collagen production. I often perform face and neck massages using sliced, organically grown, raw maitake and oyster mushrooms during a facial. This procedure gently exfoliates, hydrates, and visibly brightens the skin. It works well for clients with rosacea, and for those with even the most sensitive skin.
Reishi mushroom (ganoderma lucidum) has been called the mushroom of immortality for its powerful anti-aging properties. Reishi extract supports sensitive skin and helps skin become more resilient. It contains ganoderic acid, which offers skin-restoring and antioxidant nutrients, as well as triterpenes, steroid-like molecules that inhibit the release of histamine which decreases inflammatory skin reactions. It is also a good source of vitamin D2 and skin-firming trace minerals like copper and selenium, as well as amino acids leucine and lysine.
Another magnificent tree mushroom is chaga (inonotus obliquus). It grows on white birch trees in northern countries. Extracts of chaga have been used for centuries for their powerful healing, anti-aging, and anti-inflammatory properties. The chaga mushroom contains over 200 phytonutrients, polysaccharides, betulin, triterpenes, vitamins K, D2, B1, B2, B3, essential minerals, ionized trace minerals, and amino acids. It can stimulate self-repair, as well as balance mechanisms in the skin.
At your spa, you can incorporate fresh tea, or a decoction made from reishi or chaga mushrooms, into face masks and warm compresses. This will benefit any complexion. You can also create face masks from scratch by mixing dry powdered mushrooms into a natural base.
Clients will also love the results they get from a truffle oil infused face massage. Make tea from dry morels or soak them in warm water until they start looking like small, soft sponges. Then, use them for a face-hydrating and a polishing mushroom treatment.
Elina Fedotova is the Founder, Formulator, and CEO of Elina Organics, an award-winning cosmetic chemist, and licensed aesthetician. She hand makes her professional skincare line in her laboratory using holistic principles and organic ingredients from around the world. In 2007, she founded the Association of Holistic Skin Care Practitioners (AHSCP), a nonprofit organization that provides ongoing training and education for skincare professionals.