The theories as to why we age have been debated for some time. One presumption is that our DNA is programmed to show signs of aging at a certain time and that genes determine how long we live a natural life; the other is that our cells and DNA get damaged and worn out over time. Regardless of which theory is correct, we will all experience this gradual change, though how well our body ages depends on the lifestyle choices we make and our attitude towards this inevitable process.
The most obvious outward signs of aging are the graying of our hair and the wrinkling of our skin. As we get older, our ability to produce new skin cells is less effective and their number is proportionately diminished. Though genetics play an important role, environmental factors have some profound effects on our skin such as the exposure to direct sunlight, pollution and cigarette smoke. Oxidative stress and inflammation also contribute to cellular breakdown by causing an imbalance between the number of free radical/oxidants that are produced (too many) and their counter parts, the antioxidants. Increasing our antioxidant defenses can in part delay the aging process and also repair dermal components that provide elasticity and structure to our skin.
Mushrooms are full of antioxidants and the reason several cosmetic companies have incorporated them in some of their skin care product line including facial masks, moisturizers, serums, eye gels and sun care creams. In addition to their antioxidant properties, mushrooms have the capability of repairing damaged or diseased skin cells and proliferate into new ones resulting in a youthful glow.
Human stem cells are the building blocks of our skin. Skin cells are produced in the epidermis supported by collagen and elastin proteins in the dermis below. Collagen provides durability and structure to the skin whereas elastin gives it its flexibility allowing it to spring back after being stretched. Over time adult stem cells lose their potency resulting in fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and sagging skin. Certain mushrooms have cells that can function as “stem cells” similar to those of humans with the added benefit of remaining totipotent (capable of becoming any other cell type). Introducing mushroom stem cells into the epidermis allows them to take on skin cell characteristics and help regenerate the dermal layer.
In addition to stimulating the skin’s renewal process, mushroom extracts in cosmetic products have other important dermal benefits. They have anti-irritant properties, they can diminish the effects of oxidative stress, they protect the skin from photoaging and inhibit elastase activity responsible for wrinkles. In addition, some mushrooms contain L-ergothioneine known to be a natural exfoliator and kojic acid, a natural skin lightener that also helps fade sunspots and acne scars. Some cosmetic creams and serum have agarikon extracts that improves the appearance of oily facial skin and minimize size of pores.
Most skin care manufacturers use shiitake and reishi extracts, though some companies have found success with cordyceps, elm oysters and agarikon. Extracts from mushrooms must be specially formulated in order to be effective and should be applied topically. Companies such as Aveeno use a natural shiitake complex in their Positively Ageless line whereas Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom products incorporates a trio of reishi, cordyceps and elm oyster. Estee Lauder, Menard, Swiss Spa, Chantecaille, Cornelia Essentials, Artistry and Ergo Boost skin care products all carry a line of skin care products with mushroom extracts confirming its beneficial effects.
Though the search for the fountain of youth, immortality and the elusive age-defying elixir has been a quest of mankind for centuries, mushrooms seem to hold the key to the mystery. For those looking to improve the appearance of their skin, using a natural, mushroom-based skin care products combined with a healthy diet and exercise might just be the answer. Aging gracefully is accepting the predictable changes but why not do it with a positive attitude and glowing skin.
Terrafunga has not tested and does not endorse any products or companies mentioned in this article, nor does the company offer medical advice. Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.
Sources: happi.com June 6, 2013, dermatologysocal.com April 13, 2012, dermatology news June 1, 2007, Society of Dermatology & Skin Care March 20, 2012, Lifelineskincare.com, Whitney P. Bowe, MD, Cosmetic effects of Natural Ingredients: Mushrooms, Feverfew Tea and Wheat., Sept. 2013, Cosmeticsand toiletries.com.