Mushrooms in Personal Care

As the functional food trend heats up, the search is on for edible ingredients that have the most effective skin-enhancing actives. The Ganoderma lucidum mushroom (Reishi in Japanese, Lingzhi in Chinese) is classed as a "superior herb" in traditional Chinese medicine. It tones the organs and calms the heart, as well as boosts the immune system. This association with immunity and vitality earned it the moniker, "Mushroom of Immortality."

Centuries ago, the largest and most beautiful Lingzhi were considered precious enough to be presented as tributes to the court. The Qianlong Emperor (China, 1736-1795) even had a collection of table screens mounted with Lingzhi, both for aesthetic purposes and to promote well-being. More recently, in the West, mushrooms have become part of the "superfood" pantheon and are appreciated for their anti-cancer and anti-viral effects. In fact, as in a shaded wood after the rain, mushrooms are popping up in skin care formulations with antiaging, soothing, pore-minimizing and exfoliating claims.

The Japanese brand Menard was the first to use Reishi extract in premium skin care. Two versions of this mushroom are featured in its Embellir range. Black Reishi is said to eliminate toxins that slow cellular renewal while red Reishi stimulates cell production and helps repair damage caused by UV rays and free radicals. Originally launched in 1986, the Embellir range is now available in 31 countries.

Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins was among the first premium Western brands to exploit fungi in skin care. Launched in 2006, the Planti-dote Mega-Mushroom range features three mushrooms. In addition to Reishi, it contains Cordyceps, also well-known in Chinese medicine, and Hypsizygus ulmarius, which has reported calming and soothing properties. According to the manufacturers, these magic mushrooms mirror the process that sends Narcissus lily bulbs into dormancy as a means of self-protection; it claims to signal the skin to conserve its energy to optimize its defenses against age accelerators. A recent addition to the Dr. Weil for Origins range is Plantidote Mega-Mushroom Body Cream--an emollient cream containing the three-mushroom complex as well as a mix of spices such as ginger, turmeric and holy basil that together sound more appropriate on a restaurant plate rather than a dressing table.

Estée Lauder looked to the East when reformulating its Re-Nutriv sun care line. It is made with Reishi mushroom, wolfberry and ginseng. Re-Nutriv Sun Supreme Rescue Serum claims to have a triple-action repair technology to help enhance the skin's own natural defenses against the visible effects of sun exposure and sun-stressed skin.

In China, Skinhealthy Herbal Whitening Facial Mask contains eighteen natural plant extracts, the key one being Lingzhi. It is claimed to cleanse, whiten, nourish and tighten skin. The mask is especially designed for "office people who work in an air-conditioned environment, suffering from TV and computer radiation and lack of sleep."

According to the Mintel Global New Product Database (GNPD), other mushrooms such as Shiitake, Fomes officinalis and Mucor miehei are also sprouting in skin care formulations. One of the newest products to contain Shiitake is Exage Vital Booster in Japan. This product contains 14 ampoules of "moisturizing intensive care essence" for a two-week treatment to boost the skin’s rejuvenating cycle.

Shiitake’s antiaging properties are featured in eye care as well. Johnson & Johnson Aveeno Active Naturals launched Positively Ageless Eye Serum in October 2007. This oil-free cream with a natural Shiitake complex claims to visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles, lift and firm the skin around the eyes, and brighten and open the eye area.

Earlier this year, Patricia Wexler M.D. Fastscription reformulated its Instant De-Puff Eye Gel. It contains Agaricus bisporus, also known as the common button mushroom, which is high in vitamin B and potassium. This antiaging product also contains MMPi, claimed to actively rejuvenate the skin's surface at the structural level, measurably reducing visible imperfections and visibly renewing and improving skin inside and out.

The Chantecaille Aromacologie collection is based on principles of aromatherapy and plant therapy. It blends biotechnology, Chinese medicine and European flower pharmacology to produce "stunning products with an unusually high concentration of botanicals." The Detox Clay Mask with Rosemary & Honey contains kaolin clay as well as Fomes officinalis (mushroom) extract, an effective astringent.

Swiss spa brand Qiriness includes Fomes officinalis in its balancing range for oily skin. The ingredient is said to control pore size in the Élixir Equilibre, a "purity performance essence." This blue serum also contains the brand’s exclusive EOS (Energizing, Oxygenating, Soothing) complex of Ayurvedic herbal extracts and bio-actives that  are said to enhance the efficiency of the skin’s metabolism.

Another spa brand, US-based Cornelia Essentials, also makes use of mushroom extract’s claim to reduce and tighten pores. The Cornelia Works range is designed to target oily, acne-prone problem skin. The Oil Regulating Cleansing Gel is reported to refine oily skin and eliminate surface shine. Dead skin cells are exfoliated and makeup residue is stripped without damaging the skin.

This link with exfoliating appears again in the new Actifirm 30% Z-Peel Plus gel exfoliator. The formula contains a self-regulating "smart" peptide derived from the precious Mucor miehei mushroom, a powerful botanical said to gently and selectively exfoliate dead and damaged skin cells by mimicking the skin’s own internal shedding process. This exfoliation is claimed to increase epidermal thickness and hide existing spots.

Having found new life in 21st century cosmetics, the ancient Lingzhi is indeed living up to its reputation as the "Mushroom of Immortality."

—Nica Lewis, Mintel

The Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) tracks new product launches, trends and innovations internationally. The Mintel Cosmetic Research Database tracks mass market and luxury cosmetic innovations in France and the United States. For additional information regarding either Mintel GNPD or Mintel Cosmetic Research, visit or call Mintel International at 1-312-932-0600.

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