Roasted, fried, brewed, sautéed or smoked, mushrooms have always been the stuff of culinary delight. And a way of exploring alternate realities (remind me to tell you of my Amsterdam ‘experiences’ one day).
And now, meet beauty’s latest obsession: Mushrooms for skincare.
In fact, there are very few natural ingredients as versatile as the humble mushroom, and its latest job is to give you perfectly flawless, blemish-less, pore-less skin.
Mushrooms as the Holy Grail of skincare? You mean, mushroom serums and mushroom face creams? Yes, way. Origins has built a whole range around them and other skincare brands are in fast pursuit.
And while we may consider it a recent invention, mushrooms have actually been a mainstay in skincare at least as far back as the 3rd century BC.
What is so fabulous about this fungus? And which one of its 15,000+ varieties should you be seeking out for your skin?
Take a look at the different varieties of mushrooms and how they fit into a skincare routine.
Shiitake: The dark spots busting mushroom
Possibly the most recognisable varietals, these ‘umbrella caps’ are the second most popular, and third most widely cultivated edible mushrooms in the world.
These are the ones you will find tossed into pastas and stir-fries, smoky in flavor, and rich on the palate.
Shiitake mushroom’s benefits for the skin: Shiitake mushrooms are a dense source of kojic acid. Kojic acid is a natural substitute for hydroquinone as a natural skin lightener. It helps fade hyperpigmentation of all kinds, ranging from acne to sun spots.
These functional mushrooms also have anti-inflammatory benefits besides being packed with antioxidants to mop up free radicals and guard your skin against environmental damage, while easing skin conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea.
In fact, in Japan, shiitake is considered the anti-ageing mushroom, based on its ability to reduce oxidative stress, increase skin elasticity and guard against premature aging.
Shiitake mushroom for skincare DIY: These mushrooms are easily accessible, and Bustle has an excellent shiitake DIY face mask recipe that I love on long, lazy nights.
The best shiitake mushroom skincare products (click to buy!): Murad Age Reform Invisiblur Perfecting Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 30, One Love Organics’ Vitamin D Mist, Arêmês Fermentis Super Bioactive Face Serum
Tremella mushroom benefits: The super-moisturizer
Also known as the snow mushroom, snow fungus, white jelly mushroom, silver ear mushroom, tremella fuciformis or witch’s butter, Tremella was the favorite of Princess Yang Guifei, one of China’s four great beauties. She was so beautiful that Emperor Xuanzong of Tang allowed his dynasty to collapse just to have her.
And Yang Guifei publicly credited Tremella mushrooms for her flawless skin and everlasting youthful appearance.
So, yes, that’s one seriously powerful mushroom for healthy skin.
Tremella continues to be popular in traditional Chinese medicine, even though it’s most commonly found in tropical areas, such as South America, and the Caribbean.
It looks like a loofah, feels like jelly, and grows on the side of trees.
Tremella mushroom’s benefits for skin: A score of scientific studies have proved that Tremella mushrooms can hold up to 500 times their own weight in water, making them comparable to the much-lauded hyaluronic acid for skin hydration.
And they have an extra edge: On a molecular level, Tremella’s particles are smaller than hyaluronic acid, so they penetrate the skin more easily. Hello, softer, smoother, plumper skin!
Tremella mushrooms skincare benefits also extend to lightening hyperpigmentation, age spots, and old acne scars by inhibiting melanin production.
In fact, according to several scientific studies, tremella mushroom extract is more effective than vitamin C and kojic acid for skin lightening.
Tremella mushroom for skin DIY: This is not exactly a grind-and-go mushroom. After digging deep in the annals of Chinese culture, I have found one DIY recipe for this super-hydrator. And Dr. John Layke sums it up really well for our world, in his post here.
The best tremella mushroom skincare products (click to buy!): Tata Harper Clarifying Moisturizer, Joanna Vargas Euphoria Mask, Kypris Glow Philtre, Moon Juice Beauty Shroom Plumping Jelly Serum, TULA Skincare Get Toned Pro-Glycolic 10% Resurfacing Toner
Reishi mushroom benefits: Anti-stress, anti-inflammatory, and detox
Once reserved only for emperors and empresses, Reishi is the oldest species of mushrooms, and has been used in the Far East for over 2,000 years. The earliest written mention dates from 221 BC.
Its Chinese name — Ling Zhi — translates as mushroom of immortality, which can be seen as a clue to its superpowers.
This hard and bitter mushroom (definitely not one for a stir fry or risotto!) comes in a whole variety of colors, out of which the red is considered most medicinal in the beauty world.
Reishi mushrooms grow on decaying hardwood deciduous trees (mostly hemlock) and have become increasingly difficult to find in the wild. Consequently, they are now mostly cultivated in grow-rooms.
Reishi mushroom’s benefits for the skin: Reishi mushroom extracts benefit skin with their potent beta-glucans, which are natural sugars that can penetrate through multiple layers of skin to help calm dryness and itchiness.
They also contain polysaccharides, which boost skin’s natural ability to retain water. This makes them a powerful moisturizer when used in topical skincare products.
And that’s not all: Reishi mushrooms skin benefits continue with their anti-inflammatory properties, which makes them terrific at dealing with acne, abrasions, redness, sunburns, rashes and stressed skin.
And they contain massive doses of antioxidants that counter free radical damage to help deal with signs of premature ageing and skin health, such as the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Taken together, these properties make for a super-ingredient that’s a boon for stressed or sensitive skin, leaving it stronger, smoother and irritation-free. All while protecting it against environmental toxins, and other forms of daily damage.
Reishi mushroom for skin DIY: Reishi is a difficult mushroom to process at home, given its toughness.
The best option is to buy pre-cut slices and steep them in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Then strain out the slices, and apply the liquid on your face, post-cleansing. Say hello to radiant skin!
If you are looking for a more intensive treatment for dry skin, try this DIY face cream from Kristin Collins Jackson.
The best reishi mushroom skincare products (click to buy!): Dr. Andrew Weil For Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Soothing Treatment Lotion, Moon Juice Acid Potion Resurfacing Exfoliator, Youth To The People Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream, Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Soothing Hydra-Mist
Cordyceps mushroom benefits: Skin smoothing superpowers
If you are squeamish step away NOW — the origins of cordyceps are not exactly pretty.
They are parasites that attach themselves to a caterpillar, and feed on its corpse. This gives them a host of alternate names, including caterpillar fungus, caterpillar mushroom, vegetable caterpillar, golden worm, and Tibetan mushroom.
To the Tibetan harvesters (cordyceps typically grow in the higher altitudes of the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau), this fungus means big money — up to $50,000 per pound. Which is testament to its benefits.
Today, Cordyceps are cultivated on rice, and research suggests that these contain the same pharmacological components and medicinal properties as the original, wild varietal.
And that may be exactly what you are looking for, if the thought of caterpillars leaves you queasy.
Cordyceps mushroom benefits for skin: Cordyceps are a beauty mushroom that contain powerful anti-aging compounds whose healing properties help rejuvenate the skin, eliminate dead or dying cells and improve the appearance of blemishes, wrinkles, and age spots.
As skincare ingredients, they also help healthy cells come up to the surface, effectively shaving years off your complexion!
The cordycep mushrooms for skin DIY: Brew the cordyceps in tea or chew it raw!
The best cordyceps mushroom skincare products (click to buy!): Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Soothing Cream, Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Stress Repair Face Cream, Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense Sunscreen SPF 30
Chaga mushroom benefits: The protective ‘shroom
Chaga grow on birch trees in some of the coldest climates in the world — including Russia, Japan, China, Korea, and Northern America — where winters are beyond harsh and little else survives.
This gives them potent anti-viral properties, which healers have been calling upon for thousands of years.
Chaga mushroom benefits for skin: Chaga mushrooms are not exactly pretty. In fact, they look more like lumps of coal than something you would put in your mouth. Or on your skin.
However, they have superb skin boosting benefits, not the least of which is that they are packed with melanin content.
Melanin is the compound that not only determines your skin color, but also creates a shield against harmful UV rays.
Drinking chaga tea is a great way of normalising the melanin production in your body, giving skin a beautiful glow, while acting as an internal layer of protection against the sun.
The chaga mushrooms for skin DIY: Chaga is most commonly brewed into a tea. How? Simply infuse slices in hot water for an hour.
Or you can buy chaga powder, which can be stirred into hot water, much like coffee.
The best chaga mushroom skincare products (click to buy!): Dr. Dennis Gross Stress Rescue Super Serum, Moon Juice Chaga Protective Supershroom, Üphoric Eart Detox Chaga Mushroom Double Extracted Tincture, Dr. Andrew Weil For Origins Mega-Mushroom Weightless Hydrating Moisturizer, Biophile Shroom Rejuvenating Serum