Here’s Why Mushrooms Are the New “It” Skin-Care Ingredient

on Dec 03, 2018

Believe it: Fungi is good for your face.

Few things are quite as versatile as the humble mushroom (seriously, find us something else that can be both a delicious pizza topping and a mind-altering substance). Their latest role? Complexion perfector. A whole host of new skin-care products are cropping up—pun intended—and touting the fabulous fungus. Still, despite the fact that the topical trend is just now taking off, mushrooms have always been a mainstay in ancient medicine and skin-care practices.

“Mushrooms have been used by healers and holistic formulators for hundreds, even thousands of years. But now that there’s scientific data proving their benefits, even mainstream companies are using mushroom extracts in their formulations,” explains Elina Fedotova, founder of Elina Organics and the Association of Holistic Skin Care Practitioners.

What makes mushrooms unique is the extreme variety; there are some 150,000 species of mushroom on this planet containing an equally vast amount of compounds and nutrients that would be impossible to list in full. While they’re obviously not all created equal, “most mushrooms have multiple benefits including anti-aging, detoxifying, hydrating, and brightening effects,” says Fedotova. Credit first and foremost sky-high levels of antioxidants, which help combat free radical damage caused by exposure to sun and pollution. (Related: Skin-Care Products That Protect Against Pollution)

They’re also loaded with skin-saving vitamins: “Mushrooms are rich in B complex vitamins, which can do everything from calm inflammation to brighten the skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Specifically, we’re talking about B3, also known as niacinamide, a multitasker with a capital M. “It has anti-inflammatory properties, prevents abnormal pigment production, improves hydration, and promotes healthy collagen and elastin,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Niacinamide is a jack of all trades when it comes to the skin, which is why botanical extracts that contain it naturally, like mushrooms, are such popular ingredients in skin care.” (Related: 5 Skin-Care Ingredients That Get Rid of Dull Skin and Help You Glow from Within).

To the point of brightening the skin, oyster, shiitake, and other mushrooms also contain kojic acid, known for its lightening abilities (it slows pigment production), says Fedotova, Other varieties also deliver hydrating benefits: Truffles contain ceramides, an essential component for maintaining a healthy skin barrier (and locking in hydration), while the tremella mushroom is often used in place of hyaluronic acid in China and Japan, thanks to its water-retaining capabilities, says Fedotova.

The bottom line: There’s no shortage of different types of mushrooms nor the different types of skin-saving compounds they contain, making them a good choice to seek out in your next skin-care purchase. Just keep in mind that, as with any other topical ingredient, you’ll need to use it for several weeks for the mushrooms’ effects to show up on your complexion, notes Dr. Zeichner.