Like black diamond truffles in the forests of Périgord, France, mushroom ingredients are cropping up in abundance in the beauty world. Once mostly a skin care phenomenon, the market for fungi-spiked merch has mushroomed, and now, alongside a crop of creams and serums, they’re finding their way into makeup, hair care and even brow boosters.
That’s good news, says ahead-of-the-curve NYC dermatologist Jeannette Graf, who’s been studying the effects of mushrooms on skin for close to 20 years. While they may never achieve the legend status of say, alpha hydroxy acids or retinoids, mushrooms have been used for centuries in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine to enhance overall health, and they bring a whole host of benefits to the complexion table.
“Mushrooms are rich in beta glucans, which are immune-boosters for the skin, and have anti-oxidant, wound-healing and anti-aging properties,” Graf notes, before ticking off a tidy list of other attributes, including the ability to act as an anti-inflammatory, lighten hyperpigmentation and deeply hydrate. As a bonus, mushroom ingredients tend to be gentle on the skin, so even sensitive types can dive in.
Graf considers the reishi mushroom to be the best all-around skin beautifier. However other gurus — including House of Grō co-founder Irina Gottesman — are keen on a species of fungi that grows on dead and decaying trees: chaga. Gottesman can rattle off all the science-y reasons why she swears by chaga, including its sky-high ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) and SOD (superoxide dismutase) levels. But the fact that her great granny in Tajikistan used it to whip up her own skin care potions inspired Gottesman to include chaga in Grō’s Woke Rejuvenating Face & Neck Oil and After Dark Anti-Aging Serum. Chaga can also be found in Solvasa Integrative Beauty’s DeStressance Serum, added for its ability to counteract “inflammaging” — a mashup of inflammation and aging that’s gaining traction in the aesthetics world.
Kourtney Kardashian, meanwhile, is such a superfan of Ambari’s mushroom-laced skin care line, including the reishi-spiked, high-powered Gold Profection22 Mask, that she themed her 2021 “Poolside With Poosh” event around the posh products. In a setting meant to evoke a chic European spa (albeit outdoors, and in LA), guests received custom Ambari facials from celebrity estheticians Celeste Rodrigues and Candice Miele, a KKW favorite.
In addition to hyaluronic acid and vegan collagen, a combo pack of snow and reishi mushrooms fuels Milk Makeup’s new Bionic Liquid Blush, a buildable formula with futuristic shade names like Infinity and Teleport. Also new in makeup? One / Size by Patrick Starrr Preserve the Serve Luminous Setting Spray, which blends snow mushroom with cactus water and goji berry extract to hydrate skin and make you look like you’ve perpetually just stepped out of glam. And if you’re in the market for lush, Emily Ratajkowski-caliber brows, swipe on Vivi Naturals Sagano Lash and Brow Serum, featuring a patented reishi extract designed to repair damage and reduce breakage.
For her part, Graf is happy the rest of the beauty world has caught up with her decadeslong obsession with fungi. “It would be great for us to continue to research mushrooms and their skin-boosting benefits,” she says. “They’re so multi-purpose, gentle and powerful.”