Above: The Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria),  depicted  in many fairy stories and throughout  folk-law.  This fungus is however, quite toxic causing hallucinations, sweating and stomach cramping in some people. Picture copyright of Amanda Foxon-Hill.
Fungi has been included in the natural medical and nutrition basket for many years, what we wanted to know was “what about for skincare”?    It seems that many well known brands are adding mushroom extracts to their “anti-ageing” ranges – Estee Lauder, Origins and Aveena come immediately to mind making us think that there must be more to the mushroom than meets the eye. Let’s investigate!

While there are thousands of types of fungi – derived from the Latin word for mushroom only a handful have been studied for their effects on the skin.  A “hero”  mushroom as far as skincare is concerned is the Hypsizygus ulmarius – one of the fungi found in all three of the brands listed above. Others demonstrating potential topically are Shiitake and Reishi types.

So what exactly do these fungi do to the skin? Well,  they have the potential to interact with the immune system to one degree or another as they contain betaglucans – a polysaccharide (sugar) based family of chemicals that can either suppress or stimulate the immune system based on the type of betaglucan present (and there are a few!)  The funny thing is that both suppressing and stimulating the immune system can be classed as “anti-ageing” depending on how you look at it.  In addition, other chemicals found in mushrooms have been found to have skin lightening and moisturising properties yet more tools in the anti-ageing kit.

All very interesting if not a little confusing so let’s look at each benefit in turn!

Immune Suppressing

In this instance, immune suppressing relates to […]