You probably think of recipes for tasty food dishes when discussing the benefits of mushrooms. You know, those delicious chanterelles, true morels, shiitakes, and oysters. But, the fact of the matter is that mushrooms are packed with vitamins like thiamin and riboflavin which have many beneficial properties to help keep your skin looking youthful and healthy, whether you eat them or apply their extracts.
Riboflavin is part of the B complex of vitamins, and is known as vitamin B2. It's a crucial vitamin that is used to break down proteins into amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates in the form of glucose. This is a foundation of the body's healthy metabolism, and it powers the body using energy it produces.
Thiamin is also part of the B vitamin complex, in this case B1, and it was the first of the B vitamins to be discovered. Like riboflavin, thiamin helps to convert the foods you eat into energy that the body needs for healthy organ and brain function. It also works synergistically with other B vitamins and helps to keep the skin and hair healthy as well.
So how do mushrooms help create a more youthful appearance and a more vibrant looking skin? In a word: antioxidants. That’s because mushrooms are full of riboflavin (vitamin B2) and thiamin (vitamin B1), that help boost the body’s energy levels, which helps facilitate a healthy metabolism. This in turn prevents free radical damage, protecting the skin.
The B vitamins like B1 and B2 work at the skin’s cellular level, promoting healthy collagen levels. Collagen is what gives your skin a more youthful appearance, as collagen and elastin; two skin components that help prevent sagging skin - which leads to a look of premature aging. Vitamin B1 and B2 also helps reduce inflammation, which can cause a variety of skin ailments like eczema, psoriasis, acne, dry skin, and many others. That is why you’re likely to find different mushroom components in many quality skincare product formulations.
These vitamins are also potent antioxidants, working to ward off damage to skin cells caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. Just to give you a little background into this process, free radicals are highly reactive and short-lived molecules that have an unpaired valence electron. Because they are highly reactive, they can cause damage to membranes of the skin cells, including DNA proteins and lipids.
The free radicals can also negatively impair the mitochondria within the skin cells, causing damage and a loss of collagen and elastin. This promotes fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin, again- giving the appearance of older looking skin.
Free radicals in the human body are a result of both regular metabolic actions that occur within the body, and as a result of environmental stressors like UV rays from the sun, pollution, smoking, and other toxins. This background information is important, because antioxidants like the B vitamin complex found in mushrooms attack these free radicals, helping to prevent and reverse the damage they can cause to the skin.
Antioxidants form a line of defense for your skin cells, a critically important step in preventing damage to your skin and other organs from those free radicals. When the line of defense doesn’t quite measure up to the amount of free radicals that are working to damage your skin cells, a condition called oxidative stress occurs.
Perhaps the most easily identifiable damage caused by oxidative stress is the appearance of aging. They also play a role in many other disease processes, but the actual mechanism of aging in skin cells is likely a result of the destructive properties of free radicals and oxidative stress.
By reducing the amount of oxidative stress, via nutritional and topical antioxidants, scientists believe they can delay the aging process. These scientists also believe that free radical damage can adequately be controlled by a strong antioxidant defense, and that an optimal intake of nutritional and topical antioxidants can minimize the damage to cells caused by oxidative stress.
There are several levels of defense with antioxidants that help to protect the body and the skin. The first line of defense is prevention - which works to suppress free radicals from forming in the first place. The second line of defense is scavenging - those antioxidants that work to scavenge free radicals that already exist. The third line of defense is repairing skin cells that have been attacked. This is usually done at the DNA level. Finally, there is what is known as adaptation, where the body recognizes the free radicals and actually sends the antioxidants to the right place to do their work.
Now that you have some background on how free radicals impact your skin cells and how antioxidants work to take on those damaging free radicals, it’s time to discuss how antioxidants take on the aging process itself. And it’s not only antioxidant properties in mushrooms that do this work; they also contain polysaccharides that work to bolster a healthy skin structure.
From the time we’re born, our bodies work to fight off the aging process. But scientists have found that by reducing free radicals in the body and minimizing their role has the potential to delay aging. This is evident by seeing what photoaging does to the skin.
Because your skin cells are exposed to UV rays from the sun, along with other environmental toxins, free radicals tend to damage your facial skin cells first. This shows as fine lines and wrinkles, age spots, and sagging skin even if you’re in your 20’s or 30’s.
Antioxidants work to not only stem this damage to your skin’s DNA and other cellular components, they work to actually reverse it. This is accomplished by restoring collagen and elastin production, which gives the skin back its youthful appearance and elasticity. This is different from damage caused to skin cells due to advancing age, which can be helped but not eliminated.
Many studies have been conducted as to whether oral supplementation is superior to topical application of vitamin B1 and B2. What scientists have found is that a very low percentage, often only 1% of orally administered B vitamin supplements actually reach the skin. The body’s other organs absorb the vitamin before it makes to the skin cells.
The main thing to remember is that B vitamins are not very effective as stand-alone topical agents, but work synergistically with other ingredients and skincare product formulations because they are compatible and stable with other topical compounds, and are able to easily penetrate the skin’s outer layers.
Putting the antioxidant powers of products containing mushrooms to work on your skin is a process that requires time and some regular routines on your part. As with most skincare, applying these products on a daily basis produces the best results, and while it may take a little time to see the results, you will be pleasantly surprised when they work their magic. Many people use products with mushroom ingredients as nighttime masks to let the product’s healing properties work while they sleep.
Topical B1 and B2 vitamins are most effective when combined with other key ingredients. Look for skincare formulations that contain hyaluronic acid for extreme skin hydration. Other key ingredients include oils high in vitamins, extracts that help moisturize and have anti-bacterial properties to fight off acne, and soothing ingredients that help moisturize sensitive skin.
Products filled with mushroom extracts could also include ingredients that are rich in vitamin C, like anti-inflammatory butters, and revitalizing green tea extract. Also, squalane offers anti-aging properties and is similar to our bodies’ own natural sebum which helps to balance the skin’s oil production. Using vitamin-packed mushrooms benefit your skin in many different ways, proving the power of fungi.