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Fungi extracts: A new trend in cosmetic ingredients

The demand for natural cosmetic ingredients is growing. Nowadays, consumers are looking for products with naturally derived ingredients rather than synthetic ones, as they perceive them to be safer for human health and the environment. [1] This is one of the reasons why cosmetic manufacturers are increasing the use of natural compounds in their formulations and are very interested in finding new sources.

Fig 1. The demand for cosmetic products with natural ingredients is increasing every year, in the same way as the search for new sources of these compounds.

Currently, natural compounds are extracted mainly from plants, but the growing consumer demand is forcing the cosmetic industry to explore other sources like microorganisms.

Microorganisms such as fungi, algae, and bacteria represent a good and cheap source of natural ingredients since they are easy to grow and rich in fatty acids, enzymes, peptides, vitamins, lipopolysaccharides, and pigments with beneficial properties for cosmetic applications. [2]

Fungi as an alternative source for cosmetics ingredients

Mushrooms (i.e., carpophore fungi) have been reported to contain many bioactive metabolites, such as polysaccharides, lectins, phenolics and polyphenols, terpenoids, ergosterols, and volatile organic compounds with beneficial properties for the skin. As a result, fungi are becoming more and more relevant in the cosmetic industry and several companies are starting to use them in their products. [3] But… what are the scientifically proven beneficial properties of these organisms?

Fig 2. Fungi contain many bioactive metabolites that can be used in cosmetic products due to their beneficial properties for the skin.

Reported properties of fungi that can be beneficial for the skin

Antioxidant activity is one of the most studied properties of fungi nowadays. The antioxidant molecules act as a barrier against cell damage caused by an increased presence of free radicals. Some studies have reported this activity in the extracts of fungi such as Agaricus bisporus, Agaricus brasiliensis, Phellinus linteus, Ganoderma lucidum, Pleurotus citrinopileatus, Dictyophora indusiata, and Ramaria flava. [4,5,6,7]

Another activity that has been studied is the effect on the skin metalloproteinase, elastase, which is involved in the degradation of elastin, a structural protein of the dermal extracellular matrix that provides elasticity. This enzyme is also implicated in the process of wrinkle formation. Studies performed on Tricholoma matsutake showed that its extract significantly decreased the activity of this enzyme. [8]

In addition, research also shows that some fungi such as Pleurotus citrinopileatus have the property of inhibiting the hyaluronidase, an enzyme that is present in the skin and degrades hyaluronic acid, which is a compound that helps to hold moisture, increase viscosity, and reduce the permeability of extracellular fluid in this organ. [5, 9]

Furthermore, other studies indicate that extracts of the fungal species Dictyophora indusiata exhibit significant anti-inflammatory activity [6] Also, the ethanol extract from Ramaria flava has shown antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and Escherichia coli as well as antifungal activity against Fusarium graminearum and Cercosporella albo-maculans. [7]

Commercially available cosmetics containing fungi in their products

At this moment, some brands are starting to incorporate fungi in skincare. Origins™ is one of them, with their popular line of products DR. ANDREW WEIL FOR ORIGINS™ Mega-Mushroom. This collection consists of face serums, lotions, creams, cleansers, and face masks containing Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi Mushroom) extract as a key ingredient and is used to reduce visible redness and calm sensitivity and irritation of the skin. [10]

ONE LOVE ORGANICS® is another one, with their product “Botanical D Moisture Mist”, a lightweight face moisturizer and toner that incorporates in its formulation Lentinus edodes (Shiitake mushroom) extract and is used to help tone and balance the skin. [11]

Lastly, a few companies are incorporating fungi also in hair products such as TelaTM Beauty Organic with their styling cream called “Encore, Texture and Style Paste” which contains Ganoderma lucidum and protects the hair against sun damage and color fading. [12]

In conclusion, fungi extracts are a good source of natural cosmetics ingredients due to their potential antioxidant, anti-wrinkle, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal effects on the skin. Currently, several companies have begun to incorporate them into their formulations, so don’t be surprised if you start to see them even in your favorite cosmetic products.


[2] Gupta, P. L., Rajput, M., Oza, T., Trivedi, U., & Sanghvi, G. (2019). Eminence of Microbial Products in Cosmetic Industry. Natural products and bioprospecting, 9(4), 267–278.

[3] Wu, Y., Choi, M.-H., Li, J., Yang, H., & Shin, H.-J. (2016). Mushroom Cosmetics: The Present and Future. Cosmetics, 3(3), 22.

[4] Kozarski, M., Klaus, A., Niksic, M., Jakovljevic, D., Helsper, J. P. F. G., & van Griensven, L. J. L. D. (2011). Antioxidative and immunomodulating activities of polysaccharide extracts of the medicinal mushrooms Agaricus bisporus, Agaricus brasiliensis, Ganoderma lucidum and Phellinus linteus. Food Chemistry, 129(4), 1667-1675.

[5] Meng, T. X., Furuta, S., Fukamizu, S., Yamamoto, R., Ishikawa, H., Arung, E. T., Shimizu, K., Ohga, S., & Kondo, R. (2011). Evaluation of biological activities of extracts from the fruiting body of Pleurotus citrinopileatus for skin cosmetics. Journal of Wood Science, 57(5), 452-458.

[6] Nazir, Y., Linsaenkart, P., Khantham, C., Chaitep, T., Jantrawut, P., Chittasupho, C., Rachtanapun, P., Jantanasakulwong, K., Phimolsiripol, Y., Sommano, S. R., Tocharus, J., Mingmalairak, S., Wongsa, A., Arjin, C., Sringarm, K., Berrada, H., Barba, F. J., & Ruksiriwanich, W. (2021). High Efficiency In Vitro Wound Healing of Dictyophora indusiata Extracts via Anti-Inflammatory and Collagen Stimulating (MMP-2 Inhibition) Mechanisms. Journal of fungi (Basel, Switzerland), 7(12), 1100.

[7] Liu, Kun & Wang, Junli & Zhao, Le & Wang, Qian. (2013). Anticancer, antioxidant and antibiotic activities of mushroom Ramaria flava. Food and chemical toxicology. 58. 375-380.

[8] Kim, S.Y., Go, K.C., Song, Y.S., Jeong, Y.S., Kim, E.J., & Kim, B.J. (2014). Extract of the mycelium of T. matsutake inhibits elastase activity and TPA-induced MMP-1 expression in human fibroblasts. International Journal of Molecular Medicine, 34, 1613-1621.

[9] Taofiq, Oludemi & Gonzalez-paramas, Ana M. & Martins, Anabela & Barreiro, M. & Ferreira, Isabel. (2016). Mushrooms extracts and compounds in cosmetics, cosmeceuticals and nutricosmetics—A review. Industrial Crops and Products. 90. 38-48.

[10] (accessed on November 25, 2022)

[12] (accessed on November 25, 2022)

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