Mushrooms are extremely versatile – they are tasty sauteed, can be made into vegan leather, or even added to your skincare products. Mushrooms, which are distinguished from plants and animals by their unique biochemical makeup and growth patterns, are one of Earth’s most interesting inhabitants.
No one knows how many types of mushrooms exist in nature. There are about 10,000 known species in North America, but there is no doubt there are many undiscovered types.
What we do know is that mushrooms have adaptogenic properties. This means that, when consumed, they can help our bodies adapt to stress. But these multi-faceted ingredients don’t stop at internal benefits – they also pack a punch when applied topically.
Read further to learn why mushrooms deserve a spot in your skincare routine!
Understanding Mushrooms as Adaptogens
Certain mushrooms are adaptogens – but what exactly are adaptogens? Adaptogens are a subgroup of superfoods with extreme powers rooted in their ability to survive and acclimate to extreme environmental conditions as well as cope with specific needs of an individual caused by stress or aging. To summarize: adaptogens mean business!
This unique ability to adapt to what the body needs in real-time is how adaptogens got their name. This combined with being able to survive in the most extreme climates is how our fungi friends have been around for billions of years.
Adaptogens are some of the most powerful antioxidants on Earth (remember that antioxidants are super important because they neutralize free radicals before they have a chance to damage our skin). Without antioxidants, our skin would be slammed with oxidative stress which triggers a cascade of negative effects like redness, dark spots, and uneven texture.
Adaptogens don’t stop at protecting skin – some can also stimulate collagen production (aka the key to healthy, rejuvenated skin) and help repair the moisture barrier. This means diminished worry lines, dullness, and breakouts.
But wait, there’s more! Adaptogens also help protect skin against stress-induced aging.
What Is Stress-Aging?
When we’re stressed, our body goes through a “fight or flight” response. This causes a spike in adrenaline and cortisone while blood rushes to vital organs like your heart and lungs, diverting it from skin (a non-vital organ). Think about it – you don’t need your skin to escape a bear. You need your legs.
Over time, humans still have the same fight or flight responses, however, instead of being chased by a sabertooth tiger, our stressors are things like an overflowing inbox or meeting your significant other’s parents. The result is depleted antioxidants, oxygen, and nutrients in skin which show up as worry lines, dryness, dullness, red patches, flareups, and tired eyes.
Mushrooms help to reverse the negative effects that this stress has on skin.
Our Favorite Mushrooms in Skincare:
Some of our favorite scientifically proven superfoods are...
Chaga mushroom: Known for being a superfood high in vitamins and nutrients that reduce oxidative stress and boost the immune system. The anti-inflammatory properties of the Chaga mushroom increase blood circulation in the skin which helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to cells and encourages healthy detoxification of the skin.
Cordyceps mushroom: This superfood and adaptogen supports our immune system by stimulating protective cells that fight off disease and infection. The anti-inflammatory benefits from Cordyceps mushroom help to prevent free radicals from forming dark spots and keep the skin looking radiant.
Maitake mushroom: A powerful superfood that stops inflammation in its tracks while improving the skin’s firmness and elasticity. Maitake mushroom aids in moisturization to decrease the visibility of stress like dry patches, worry lines, and dullness.
Trametes mushroom: This works by stimulating the immune system to increase circulation – delivering more oxygen and nutrients to skin cells – to aid in cellular repair. Trametes mushroom addresses inflammation head-on which reduces the effects of stress before it even appears on the skin.
How to Reap Benefits of Mushrooms for Skin
Now you can’t just take any mushroom, rub it on your face, and expect to see signs of stress disappear. Our skin is designed to protect us by keeping things out. This is where science comes in (cue the Bill Nye theme song)!
To reap the benefits of mushrooms, the key is double encapsulation. Encapsulating mushrooms twice allows them to first: be delivered down through the skin and, second: absorb into the cell membrane without any loss of nutritional value. Without this delivery system, the properties and nutrients mushrooms have to offer won’t reach the cell membrane and effect change. When mushrooms reach the cell membrane intact, they improve circulation and barrier function as well as reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. A daily dose is all you need to stop signs of stress in their tracks.
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Originally published on 11/26/2021. Updated on 9/1/2023.
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