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Add this to your skin-care vocabulary: Tremella fuciformis, also known as snow mushroom. It sounds like something you'd stumble upon in a mystical forest, and yes, it is a fungus, but it looks more like a white gelatinous flower than a mushroom. It's commonly used in traditional sweet Chinese foods (like snow fungus soup) and has also been a staple ingredient in Asian medicine and skin care for thousands of years.
Now, it's popping up as an active ingredient in skin-care products in Western beauty, and it's even been labeled as the next hyaluronic acid for its hydrating properties.
What exactly is snow mushroom?
This ingredient's skin-care origins go as far back as the imperial Tang dynasty for creating a youthful, supple appearance, according to Cosmetic chemist Ginger King. Modern science can explain why: King says silver ear mushrooms, yet another name for tremella fuciformis, have an ability to boost skin hydration when ingested.
"Due to the gelatinous structure and high amount of polysaccharide, it has been used in skin care to provide hydration, as well," she tells Allure.
What are the benefits of snow mushroom?
Board-certified Dermatologist Dendy Engelman, the director of dermatologic surgery at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City, says the fungus acts similarly to that of hydration powerhouse hyaluronic acid by pulling moisture to the skin. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, so finding an all-natural match for its hydrating power is pretty major.
And snow mushroom has an extra edge. "The particles are smaller than hyaluronic acid, so it penetrates the skin more easily," says Engelman. She cautions, however, that she wants to see more targeted studies on the ingredient's skin-care properties before she hails it as a magic mushroom for moisture.
With that being said, board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, who is based in New York City, notes that this mushroom — like most mushrooms, in general — is rich in fatty acids, which also help retain moisture while stabilizing your skin barrier. "Mushrooms are also rich in vitamins A, [also known as retinol], C, and D and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties," she says.
In addition to its moisturizing abilities, King says mushrooms are becoming more popular in skin care because they have anti-inflammatory properties to calm and comfort your skin. They're also a source of kojic acid, an ingredient most commonly known for addressing dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
"Kojic acid is often used as a skin lightener and is found in many skin-care topicals that claim to help with age spots and skin discoloration," says King. "Kojic acid is thought to help inhibit melanin production on the surface of treated skin."
So if you're looking to address any dark spots and other discoloration concerns, this ingredient will definitely provide a helping hand.
What type of products contain snow mushrooms?
Though both dermatologists would like to see more research done around snow mushroom skin-care products, this fungus sure looks promising. One of the benefits is that it's gentle on skin, so most skin types (even the most sensitive) can enjoy it.
This ingredient can be found in a plethora of face creams, serums, and other skin-care products, but King's favorite is Volition's Snow Mushroom Water Serum for hydrating while addressing dark circles. If you'd rather check out the drugstore beauty aisles, the Botanics Pure Botanicals Snow Mushroom Concentrated Serum will provide intensive hydration on a budget.
Volition Beauty Snow Mushroom Water Serum
Botanics Pure Botanicals Snow Mushroom Concentrated Serum
It seems like even Pharrell, who's known for his flawless skin, is snow mushroom. This hydrating ingredient can also be found in products from his own skin-care line, Humanrace. The brand's Humidifying Cream is packed with the brightening properties of the beloved ancient mushroom, alongside oil-balancing niacinamide, anti-inflammatory Centella asiatica (also known as cica), and more botanically-derived ingredients.
If you're in need of hydration and exfoliation, then allow us to introduce you to Good Light's Moon Glow Milky Toning Lotion. This toner uses a combination of snow mushroom and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to gently remove dirt, oil, and makeup from your skin without drying it out.
Humanrace Humidifying Cream
Good Light Moon Glow Milky Toning Lotion
Is your skin still feeling a tad dry? Then refresh it throughout the day with the Origins Mega-Mushroom Soothing Hydra-Mist. This mushroom-infused mist contains two types of the fungus (reishi and snow) for moisture, as well as hydrating hyaluronic acid for good measure.
For dry skin that's just begging for a hydrating moment, slather on Tata Harper's Hydrating Floral Mask. This mask is packed with a quenching blend of snow mushroom, hyaluronic acid, kangaroo paw flower, red spider flower, and candlestick flower. The flowers aren't just a cute botanical touch: Each of them is known as a natural source of ellagic and ferulic acids, two antioxidants that brighten your complexion, even skin tone, and minimize the look of redness.
Origins Mega-Mushroom Soothing Hydra-Mist
Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Mask
Cooler weather is just around the corner, and if your skin is feeling particularly dry or irritated, we recommend supercharging your moisturizing routine by adding in snow mushroom and another hydrating ingredient, like hyaluronic acid or glycerin to seal the deal.