We’re all familiar with the humble mushroom’s health benefits. Choc-full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, mushrooms are thought to possess anti-inflammatory properties and even mitigate the risk of developing Alzheimer's, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes… So it was only a matter of time before someone started asking… what about mushrooms in skincare?

With roots in traditional Chinese medicine, some of the most popular fungi today, like the reishi shroom, have been used in skincare and supplements for over 2000 years but have taken their time to mushroom in western markets (sorry, we couldn’t help it!). However, in a recent review by John Lewis, incorporating fungi into our beauty routines was forecasted as one of the biggest trends for 2023. The retailer thinks that “fungi are about to take over the world of beauty”, with benefits including reducing inflammation, treating pigmentation and soothing skin. 

For Berlin-based skincare brand, Herbar, a love for fungi has always always been central to their philosophy. Adopting a minimalist approach, the brand offers a small selection of mushroom-powered products catered to the planet, proving that less is in fact more. 

Herbar’s hero product, The Face Oil, contains three adaptogens (natural substances considered to help the body adapt to stress) in its formulation to soothe inflammation, enhance elasticity and fortify skin. Housed in a chic brown bottle, fit with an orb-like orange stopper, it’s bound to become a firm fixture on your dressing table. Herbar also offers adorable mushroom-shaped gua shas (stones used to relieve tension, sculpt skin, and increase circulation, traditionally made of jade or quartz) for applying the nourishing face oil. 

The third addition to the collection, set to launch at the end of February, is an extension of the brand's nature-harnessing ethos. The Skin Pearls are packed with fungi and botanical extracts, that come in a targeted dosage to build your skin’s resilience to signs of stress and fatigue, strengthening your skin's natural barrier and brightening your complexion.

Because caught up with Catarina Oliveira, co-founder of Herbar to get under the skin of this exciting eco brand…

Tell us a bit more about Herbar...

We make fungi & adaptogenic formulations with your health in mind. We wholeheartedly believe in the superpowers of these extracts to work their magic inwards and outwards. Our philosophy is deeply rooted in the fact that beauty can be healing. When we couldn't find products that put these plant powerhouses forefront and centre, we started on a journey to create them. This was in 2019 and 3 years later here we are.

What were your main inspirations behind setting up the brand?

The rainbow beneath our feet- the fungi, herbs, plants and adaptogens that make the underland so intriguing. We are perpetually in awe of fungi.

What makes Herbar different from other brands in the oversaturated sustainable beauty industry?

We make Fungi & Adaptogenic powered beauty, which already is a big differentiator. These plant and fungi ingredients are very rarely seen in the western skincare world. The Face Oil is packed with powerful and very difficult-to-find extracts, like reishi, Tremella, Da Zoo, which are ingredients used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Medicinal mushrooms have been around for centuries and have healed many types of somatic issues, so why not use their power to bring out our healthiest, happiest and glowiest skin?

The Gua-Shrooms have taken a long time to perfect. From the get go, we knew we wanted a tool that would enhance the face oil. After many designs, ergonomic discussions, sketches, materials and samples we arrived at the final version of the Gua-Shroom. A face massage tool that doesn’t live in a drawer but on your top shelf, that you proudly use daily and awe at simultaneously.

What are your hopes for the future of sustainable beauty?

That sustainability, environmental awareness and blue/green beauty becomes table stakes. Producing new goods isn’t sustainable and we don’t pretend that it is. Since we are in the business of beauty, we have a responsibility to offset and understand the scope of our environmental impact. We can do far more together than we can alone, so we truly hope that more brands and organisations come together to share knowledge, improve and participate in a more sustainable and less impactful beauty industry.