A Fungus Among Us

mushrooms health benefitsPopular in the ‘70s for their hallucinogenic effects, mushrooms have since become known for their health benefits, instead. Neither a fruit nor a vegetable, several varieties of this fleshy fungus are packed with antioxidants and vitamins, which make them a delicious and nutritious food. Now, mushrooms have been gaining popularity in the spa arena because of the skin-saving benefits of many of its varieties. Numerous skincare lines offer products featuring mushrooms to help clients with everything from hyperpigmentation to rosacea.

One popular variety is the reishi mushroom, which has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. It is a key ingredient in five products in Dermastart’s Mushroom Collection, which targets a range of skincare issues. The line also features Reishi Mushroom Ginger Masque, a professional-only product used to hydrate the skin. “The products fit perfectly into a facial for anti-redness, detoxification, anti-inflammation, and age prevention,” says Cherie Dobbs, president of Dermastart. “The mushroom blend reduces all types of inflammation associated with skin conditions such as rosacea and acne, as well as more subtle types of underlying inflammation that can lead to the destruction of collagen and elastin, contributing to premature aging.”

One of the most popular of these fungi, shiitake mushrooms, contain lentinan, a compound believed to be beneficial in treating cancer when ingested. Shiitake mushrooms are also known as an excellent source of vitamin D for fighting infection. In relation to skincare, the mushrooms contain kojic acid, an extract that helps lighten the skin. “Kojic acid has a brightening and tone-evening effect on skin, because it inhibits the production of the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for the synthesis of excess melanin,” says Jenny Farrand, director of education for Universal Companies. “Kojic acid also prolongs the shelf life of the skincare product in which it is contained, because it naturally reduces oxidation.”

Yoram Karmon, Ph.D., played an integral role in the development of the Elure product line, which contains mushroom compounds. According to Karmon, other varieties also contain naturally occurring enzymes known to brighten the skin. “Lignin peroxidase (LIP), an enzyme derived from the tree fungus phanerochaete chrysosporium, breaks down lignin in decaying trees, resulting in decolorization,” says Karmon. “Through extensive research, Elure scientists discovered that the molecular composition of LIP was similar to that of melanin and can safely be used to break down existing melanin. Products containing this ingredient offer a safe way to diminish existing discoloration and dark spots with additional cosmetic benefits in improving skin’s overall appearance, radiance, and texture.”

mushrooms health benefitsWhen it comes to incorporating products containing mushrooms into your spa’s menu, Karmon says the options are open, as they offer numerous benefits to clients dealing with a range of skincare issues. “While skin concerns vary from client to client, the most common concern is uneven skintone,” says Karmon. “In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Syneron Medical, one out of two women identified uneven skintone as their number-one concern. And while there are many products and procedures available that promise clients a brighter, more flawless complexion, the same survey revealed two out of five women would most likely begin with a luxury skincare line that’s clinically proven to be safe and effective.”

At L’Institut Sothys (New York City), clients can reap the benefits of mushrooms when they opt for the Hydradvance Intensive Facial Treatment ($175, 75 minutes), which uses Sothys Paris’s patented boletus mushroom extract. According to marketing manager Soraya Thonier, the extract is hydrating, as it helps with hydric flow, the transfer of water from the dermis to the epidermis, as well as the strengthening of the surface layer to restrict moisture loss.

Spa Bernardus at Bernardus Lodge (Carmel Valley, CA) introduced the Mushroom Medley ($150, 50 minutes) as part of its Funguy and Girl package. “We were so successful with it that we decided to include it on our new menu coming out at the end of October,” says spa director Franziska Haala. The treatment combines a mushroom-moss exfoliation with a hot stone massage. According to Haala, the products, a foaming oak exfoliation scrub and a massage oil, both contain the cepe mushroom, which is known for its healing and soothing properties. They were handcrafted by Ajne, a local organic apothecary in Carmel, CA. 

According to Victoria Tabak, a licensed skin specialist for Nature Pure Labs, products containing mushroom extracts are ideal, because they work on all skin types. Nature Pure Labs incorporates agarikon (fomes officinalis), which is one of the largest and longest living mushrooms in the world, and shiitake mushrooms (lentinula edodes) in its products because of their natural astringent and antimicrobial properties. “Lentinula edodes is also rich with polysaccharides, which powerfully lock in skin hydration, and beta-glucan, which has anti-inflammatory benefits and also stimulates collagen production to counter fine lines and wrinkles,” says Tabak.

Karmon also points out that another benefit of using products derived from certain mushrooms is that they contain naturally occurring bio-active substances that break down melanin quickly, without the irritation and side effects of hydroquinone, working to dissolve currently existing pigment as opposed to stopping cells from generating more pigment. Says Karmon, “Instead of tripping, these mushrooms will have you experiencing an entirely different kind of clarity.”

While mushrooms aren’t necessarily pretty, those found in the following products will certainly help your clients look lovely.

AmorePacific Future Response Age Defense Creme SPF30: Asian botanicals, green tea, and pine mushrooms help fight free radicals and defend the skin against harmful environmental stressors. www.amorepacific.com

Image Skincare Ageless Total Skin Lightening Serum: Ideal for all skin types, this oil-free serum blends bearberry, kojic acid, and licorice to lighten freckles, melasma, and age spots while vitamin C reduces redness associated with rosacea. www.imageskincare.com

Murad Age-Diffusing Serum: Containing iris flower extract, this serum enhances the skin’s barrier function while shiitake mushroom extract firms and conditions. wwww.murad.com

Nature Pure Labs Clearing Skin Refining Serum: This serum combines allantoin, panthenol, and yeast protein to reduce oil production while fomes officinalis clears skin and evens tone. www.naturepure.com

Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare Elevate ATP & DNA Repair: Formulated to reverse the signs of aging, boost energy, and increase fat loss, these capsules contain ganoderma, which is found in reishi mushrooms and helps detoxify skin. www.osmosisskincare.com

Prana SpaCeuticals Reishi Mushroom Serum: This lightweight recovery serum helps relieve inflammation, increase skin immunity, and enhance texture. www.pranaspaceuticals.com

Prima Fleur Intensive Oligopeptide Restructuring Serum [No. 1120]: Formulated with songyi mushroom, this anti-aging blend gently evens skintone without causing irritation or redness. www.primafleur.com

Prosana Milk Collagen Mask: Suitable for all skin types, this collagen mask is blended with citrus extract and kojic acid to reduce hyperpigmentation and restore skin’s natural moisture, tone, and overall balance. www.universalcompanies.com

Sesha Skin Therapy Clinical Advanced Lightening Serum: This serum contains hydroquinone, kojic acid derived from mushrooms, and plant extracts to help decrease melanin sediment and inhibit tyrosinase activity. www.seshaskin.com

Sothys Paris Hydradvance Intensive Hydrating Serum: Boletus mushroom extract and natural peptides work to transfer water from the dermis to the epidermis to restore, repair, and reconstruct skin. www.sothys-usa.com

Wilma Schumann European Skin Care Eye Créme Intensiv: Formulated with mannentake and shiitake mushrooms, this eye cream hydrates, brightens, and improves the appearance of fine lines and dark circles. www.wilmaschumann.com

Yüm Gourmet Skincare Rooibos & Green Tea Eye Gel: This gel contains mannentake and shiitake mushroom extracts to clarify the delicate eye area and balance moisture content. www.yumskincare.com—Jessica Morrobel