How Mushrooms Could Help Solve the Beauty Industry’s Waste Problem

What does it mean to be beautiful on planet Earth in 2020? In search of clear skin, a mellow demeanor, the perfect eyebrows, and a high vibe, what are we reckoning with? From sheet masks to disposable salon sandals to plastic lining in the shipping of even eco-friendly materials, waste permeates the beauty industry in ways that can no longer be overlooked. According to the United Nations, half of all plastic is designed to be used only once, and environmental scientists are suggesting that plastics will serve as a geological indicator of the Anthropocene era, despite becoming ubiquitous only within the past hundred years. It’s not cute that Styrofoam takes up an estimated 30% of space in landfills and lingers for about 500 years, that trash floats in the oceans, and that microplastics exist in our food supply. With packaging accounting for 40% of plastic usage, beauty brands are turning to a natural solution: mushroom mycelium.

“Mycelium is the root structure of mushrooms,” explains Loney Abrams, florist, artist, and co-owner of Wretched Flowers. “Mycelium networks can take on any form and once they colonize a form, it’s incredibly durable, insulating, and flame resistant”—properties which make mushrooms an ideal substitute for Styrofoam and plastic. Abrams and her partner, Johnny Stanish, have considered mycelium in a variety of settings. It was the material that made up their Bondage vases (also designed in special colors for a collaboration with the sustainable clothing brand Eden), which function conjunctly as vessels and shipping containers. Stanish and Abrams dream of a day when mycelium can replace Styrofoam in the shipping of large pieces of art, and make the case that mycelium could benefit myriad industries, from art and flowers to beauty. Wretched Flowers sources from and is inspired by Ecovative Design, the company that has been growing mycelium in the U.S., Europe, and New Zealand to combat single-use plastics since 2007.

“Mushrooms are nature’s recycling system,” explains Gavin McIntyre, cofounder of Ecovative Design. “They’re decomposers. Mycelium grows really quickly, and for the industrial process, [we’re able to grow it] in days.” Many compostable products, such as the compostable cups that you see at coffee shops, are made from polylactic acid (PLA), a corn sugar fermented by bacteria, and are only industrially compostable. Mycelium products biodegrade within a month in a home compost, meaning they don’t need to be sent out to a facility. I asked McIntyre about composting in New York City, where the mayor has recently suspended the composting program, and he pointed out that you could technically cut up the packaging and put it out next to a tree or—though he doesn’t recommend this—a local body of water, as the product is safely marine compostable and used to protect scientific buoys in oceans around the world by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mycelium acts like a glue and is grown into molds (no pun intended) fitting any shape, from packaging inserts to sculpture to beauty applicators. Ecovative Design grows mycelium beauty and skin-care products, including eye masks, sheet masks, and makeup wedges. They are also partnering with beauty, fashion, art, and technology brands to customize packaging.

One such brand is Hudson Hemp, a farm and CBD company built on land owned by Abby Rockefeller and her family in the Catskill mountains. I spoke with cofounder Melany Dobson about how and why she decided to integrate mycelium packaging into Hudson Hemp’s CBD line, Treaty. Dobson’s team grows hemp as part of a dynamic crop rotation alongside grains that supply flour to local bakeries, livestock feed for dairy farms, and rye and hops for brewers and distillers. Part of the mission of Hudson Hemp is to develop soil that relies on nutrients that come from the farm itself; since mycelium goes hand in hand with soil health, it was already in mind. “I learned about Ecovative through Seed—a probiotic brand that has used Ecovative since 2018 in their original packaging—and decided to go for it,” Dobson says. This ethos of open-source sharing when it comes to sustainability is one that is inevitably moving the industry forward. Since its launch, all Hudson Hemp CBD has been shipped in custom Ecovative packaging.

How does change happen in the beauty industry? I think about my own brand, Masha Tea, and how the transition to more thoughtful packaging finally happened when I saw an Instagram post by Nu Swim (which, incidentally, fills my bathing suit collection with perfect fits made from regenerated ocean waste) about the biodegradable packaging company Ecoenclose. The fact of the matter is, companies are always looking to one another to see how they can improve. On a larger scale, as Dobson notes, “Multinational companies [look to] small brands once they get attention. It helps set trends. If Treaty uses Ecovative, L’Oréal starts thinking about it too.”

This idea was at the heart of my conversation with Rodrigo Garcia Alvarez, founder of Amen, a vegan line of candles produced in the historic fragrance capital of Grasse, France. “The new luxury is when things are done by ethical and sustainability standards and not just by how things look,” he says. Amen candles, which are sold at Dover Street Market, 10 Corso Como, and The Conservatory, are all shipped in mycelium grown in Amsterdam. In fact, Garcia Alvarez sees mycelium as the future of luxury, with the goal of inspiring 10 major brands to incorporate mushroom materials, then 100, and eventually a world in which mycelium can “reach the economics of scale and efficient cost,” making mushrooms more accessible in the way that plastics are today.

Eyes are on mushrooms as the future of our reckoning with waste. “Why is CBD a beauty product?” I asked Dobson toward the end of our conversation about Hudson Hemp. “Because it brings the inner-outer beauty conversation full circle,” she answered. “If you’re feeling how you need to feel in the moment you’re in, that is beautiful.” As beauty brands consider how best to meet the needs of the earth alongside those of their consumers, mycelium reminds us that there are exciting alternatives to a wasteful existence.

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16 of the Best Under-Eye Patches to Banish Puffiness Once and for All

As it turns out, that extra glass of Gut Oggau rosé may not be the only reason your morning eyes resemble those of Bridget Jones after a bender. Pollution, poor sleep, inadequate makeup removal, and hot, dry indoor air are all among the root causes of puffiness, says Hollywood facialist Mila Moursi.

So, too, are heavy eye creams, which can overburden skin at night and lead to swelling the next day. “The skin around the eyes is so thin and fragile, but sometimes people treat it like it’s leather,” explains Moursi, who suggests applying a light, breathable, gel-based formulation in the morning with a gentle massage.

Yet the real “cure,” she continues, is one that’s also an Instagram phenomenon: eye masks. Though not intended for everyday use, they offer a “boost” to the under-eye area on especially swollen mornings, Moursi notes. The latest wave of products pack a host of depuffing, fine-line–plumping actives, from caffeine and rejuvenating rose quartz to 24-karat gold.

Here, the best under-eye patches to stock up now.

BeautyBio Bright Eyes Collagen-Infused Brightening Colloidal Silver Eye Masks

A pair of eye masks that de-puffs and brightens the look of eyes while diminishing the appearance of fine lines. A favorite in the Vogue office, BeautyBio’s collagen-infused gel masks—made with illuminating pearl and colloidal silver—fake the appearance of a full-night’s rest, even if life is running at a breakneck pace.

Buy at Sephora $40

Chanel Le Lift Firming Anti-Wrinkle Flash Eye Revitalizer

A two-step eye care system that starts with an intense roll-on serum followed by hydrogel patches for immediate revitalization and radiance. Consider Chanel’s luxe firming two-step system—a roll-on serum and hydrogel patches stamped with the French house’s logo—the 2.55 of eye care.

Buy at Nordstrom $130

Knesko Skin Rose Quartz Eye Mask

Rose Quartz Antioxidant Eye Mask Collection use GEMCLINICAL® technology which blends the special properties of precious minerals and gemstones with proprietary skincare formulas packed with active and clean ingredients. All the products are then charged with loving, healing Reiki energy promoting a state of total relaxation and well-being. Who could say no to these pretty-in-pink eye masks that target dark circles and dryness while simultaneously opening the heart chakra with their Reiki-charged rose quartz?

Buy at Neiman Marcus $48

Joanna Vargas Bright Eye Firming Mask

A soothing eye treatment that revives the delicate skin under your eyes. Experience celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas’s sought-after touch from the comfort of your own couch with these brightening eye patches, which are the go-to among many a Hollywood starlet.

Buy at Dermstore $60

KNC Beauty Retinol Infused Eye Mask

A eye mask set that will give you hydrated, de-puffed eyes without all the harsh chemicals. Free of sulfates and parabens, these all-natural eye stickers—shaped like shooting stars and infused with gold, rose flower oil, and bitter cherry extract—deliver a double-tap-worthy glow.

Buy at Sephora $25

Klorane Smoothing and Relaxing Patches

Once carried back from Parisian pharmacies by the trunk-full, Klorane’s petite patches, laced with anti-inflammatory cornflower, are the not-so-secret weapon of French girls (and those who aspire to be).

Nannette de Gaspé Eye Masque

Don’t let Nannette de Gaspé’s dry mask fool you: the patterned woven fabric, which slips over ears and extends across the face, may be made for Instagram, but its active blend also delivers real-life results—no filter required.

Verso Eye Reviving Mask

A moisturizing hydrogel mask with Retinol 8 that provides energy to the skin area around the eyes. Erase last night’s sins with Stockholm-based Verso’s moisturizing mask, which is formulated with a unique retinol complex to supercharge the delicate area around the eyes.

Buy at Nordstrom

Shiseido Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Pure Retinol Express Smoothing Eye Mask

A set of powerful eye masks that hydrate, brightens the appearance of dark circles, and smooths the appearance of fine lines in as little as 15 minutes. Shiseido’s Benefiance pads pack a one-two punch: In addition to smoothing the appearance of wrinkles near the eyes, they can also target laugh lines when placed around the mouth.

Buy at Sephora $70

Wander Beauty Baggage Claim Eye Masks

Shine bright with Wander Beauty’s gold foil eye masks, which reduce dark circles with the help of jojoba seed and lavender oils—and zero slip.

Buy on Amazon

Mila Moursi Triple Action Eye Contour Mask

Stay red-carpet-ready thanks to Jennifer Aniston’s facialist, Mila Moursi, whose bio cellulose patches are made with apple stem cells, royal jelly, and calming ginger root to naturally lift the under-eye area.

Buy at Neiman Marcus

100% Pure Bright Eyes Mask

A hydrogel eye mask that brightens, revitalizes and hydrates the delicate eye area. Packed with organic aloe, cooling cucumber, and vitamin C to instantly quench dehydrated cells, 100% Pure’s verdant biodegradable mask is a green juice for the eyes.

Buy at Dermstore $7

Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels

Infusing skin with Icelandic glacial waters and advanced antioxidants, these crescent-shaped masks deliver a blast of cool for rested and refreshed eyes.

Buy at ULTA $32

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Concentrated Recovery Eye Mask

An intensely concentrated eye mask to rejuvenate eyes after life’s stresses and instantly reveal a fresh, more rested, luminously youthful look. Stave off signs of aging with Estée Lauder’s celebrity-approved reparative eye treatment, a must-have for frequent travelers and evening revelers alike.

Buy at Sephora $42

Kat Burki KB5 Eye Recovery Masks

A pre-moistened eye mask that calms and soothes skin while decreasing puffiness and lightening undereye circles. Made with cold processing technology, Kat Burki’s KB5 Recovery Mask—with its anti-aging blend of smoothing silk amino acids and protective avocado oil—is the perfect treat for tired eyes.

Buy at Nordstrom $90

Boscia Vegan Collagen Microcrystal Eye Mask

Two sets of hydrating microcrystal eye masks, that contain approximately 900 crystals each, help visibly plump and reawaken fatigued eyes while diminishing the look of fine lines and wrinkles. The microcrystals are enriched with a super-blend of Vegetable Collagen, Hyaluronic Acid, and Argireline® Peptide that dissolve deep into the skin’s surface to deliver a targeted dose of visibly restoring, plumping and youth-enhancing benefits for eyes that look well-rested and renewed. Boscia’s new vegan plumping patches—dotted with nearly 900 crystals—offer a fast fix after a long night out. Pro tip: Store them in the fridge for an instant chill upon waking.

Buy at Neiman Marcus $28

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