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A Fungus Among Us

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: October 17, 2008, from the November 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Recently, the skin care benefits of mushrooms have been getting more and more attention from spas and products. The extracts of several Japanese mushrooms have been shown to reduce inflammation, resulting in anti-aging benefits such as restored collagen and fewer fine lines, and this reduction of inflammation keeps cells vital and suppresses irritation so other active ingredients can work effectively.

The current star of the mushroom family when it comes to skin care is the shiitake mushroom that contains antioxidants, chemical exfoliation properties and kojic acid, which lighten age spots and discoloration.3

At Genesis Salon & Spa in Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada, the 90-minute Radiant Skin Facial features shiitake mushroom extract to help resurface skin; and a mushroom and maiden fern wrap encourages lymphatic improvement during the Sauna Body Ritual offered by Immerse Spa at the MGM Grand Detroit in Detroit. At the various Bliss spa locations, such as those in San Francisco and London, The Eyes Have It service features a Japanese mushroom enzyme peel to help diminish wrinkles; and at the many Exhale Spa locations, such as those in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, the True facial treatment features a mushroom enzyme mask to lift away dull and tired skin. The new Drift Spa and Hammam at Palms Place in Las Vegas offers the Renew facial that combines mushroom and pumpkin to exfoliate, and the Firming Facial at Oasis Day Spa’s three New York locations features a toning mushroom mask.

Products gracing the retail areas of spas are using this powerful fungus for its multiple benefits too, and they include Sircuit Agent from Sircuit Cosmeceuticals, which uses mushroom to tighten pores; and Aloette’s Pure Radiance Bioactive Mist, which contains kombuchka mushroom to help brighten the complexion. Perricone MD Cosmeceuticals’ Maitake Supplements contain the maitake mushroom to help prevent and correct slow metabolism, high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels and bad cholesterol; and the Purification Mask from Temple Spa features mushroom extract as a main ingredient because it increases elasticity and slows down the effects of aging. Additionally, Actifirm’s Renovation Mushroom Mask can be used after microdermabrasion, as well as chemical and enzyme peels, to calm and hydrate skin while increasing cell turnover.

A mushrooming trend

Although these earthy gems have been around for a speculated 90 million years,4 their benefits are still coming to light. It is an exciting time as consumers and professionals alike realize that though many ingredients may seem unusual for topical applications—just as those wild mushrooms seemed unusual in the middle of our dinner table—they still have a plethora of wellness and beauty secrets to reveal.