What is it? While Americans may be surprised to learn that mushrooms are rich in healing properties, dozens of other cultures around the world have enjoyed their benefits for centuries. The Japanese have used mushrooms for medicinal purposes since the Nara Period, which began in 710. In particular, the shiitake mushroom - growing in the wild since prehistoric times - has played a critical role in Asian medicinal traditions for over 6,000 years.
More recently, medical research in the U.S. has caught on to the shiitake mushroom’s numerous health benefits, with some surprising results. Research suggests the shiitake mushroom boosts immunity, lowers cholesterol and treats cancer. And it has many benefits for your skin.
You'll find it in: Skin care companies are beginning to take note of mushroom's benefits, and the extract can be found in everything from anti-aging serums to daily moisturizers.
Our product picks: Look for Kojic acid, a natural skin lightener found in shiitake mushrooms, in
NeoStrata Skin Brightening Gel. To calm and hydrate the skin after skin care treatments like microdermabrasion and chemical peels, try Actifirm Actizyme Renovation Mushroom Mask.
What to expect: The skin care industry is a buzz about mushrooms, but more research is still needed. Thus far, we do know that Japanese mushroom extract can reduce inflammation and irritation, which in turn can impact the appearance of fine lines and collagen production.
When skin functions better as a whole, it boosts the benefits of other ingredients, particularly antioxidants. Shiitake mushrooms also contain the antioxidant L-ergothioneine, which helps prevent cell breakdown and exfoliate the skin. Additionally, shiitake mushrooms are a rich source of kojic acid, a natural skin lightener and alternative to the chemical hydroquinone, helping to brighten skin and fade sunspots and acne scars.
Who should avoid it: Just as with any new product, watch carefully when using serums or cleansers that contain mushroom extract. Signs of redness or irritation could indicate an allergy to either the mushroom or other ingredients in the product. Talk to your dermatologist about using products with mushroom extract.