If you think that Licorice can only be used as a candy flavour, then you're mistaken. Even though its existence in the confectionary world is somewhat questionable, licorice extract surprisingly makes a fantastic skincare ingredient that is loved by many. If you're dealing with post-acne hyperpigmentation or uneven skin tone, Licorice can be an excellent addition to your skincare line-up.
What is Licorice root extract?
Licorice is a plant that grows mainly in northeast China to mid-Asia and southern Europe. Licorice root extract is derived from Glycyrrhiza genus of plants. Among the Glycyrrhiza genus, the most commonly used species are Glycyrrhiza glabra and Glycyrrhiza uralensis.
It has long been used as a herbal remedy for various diseases, from heartburn and stomach issues to sore throats and coughs. Over the years, its usage evolved to make sweet treats. And nowadays, we can also find it inside our skincare cabinet.
Licorice contains various natural bioactive components, such as glycyrrhizin, liquiritin, glabridin, licochalcone A, etc., which are known to benefit our skin.
Licorice skincare benefits
Licorice reduces the production of melanin
Licorice root extract is a natural tyrosinase inhibitor. It has a component called glabridin that plays a vital role in inhibiting tyrosinase activity and therefore provides skin brightening effects. It can also reduce pigmentation induced by UVB.
Removes existing dark spots
Dark patches on our skin surely aren't flattering. However, they do appear from time to time. The culprit is excess production of melanin which can be caused by injury/inflammation (PIH), hormonal changes (melasma), sun exposure (sunspots), etc. Licorice extract contains an active compound called liquiritin that helps clear out existing dark spots and evens skin complexion by dispersing the melanin.
Licorice has anti-inflammatory properties
For centuries, licorice root extract has been used topically in herbal medicine to ease inflammation. Studies have shown that glycyrrhizin and licochalcone A are beneficial in treating atopic dermatitis (eczema) by suppressing the effects of proinflammatory mediators. Licorice root extract can also soothe inflammation and calm irritated skin.
Licorice acts as a potent antioxidant
Plant-based extracts are famous for their antioxidant-rich components. Licorice root extract is no different. Glycyrrhizin in licorice root extract offers free-radicals scavenging ability. Also, it has the ability to tighten the skin and improve its firmness—preventing ageing of the skin.
Licorice root extract benefits for all skin types
Licorice root extract is generally well tolerated. It is suitable for all skin types whose primary concerns are hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, and sensitive skin.
Tips on how to include Licorice into your skin care routine
It is typically safe to apply licorice root extract daily, both day and night. If used in the AM, make sure to follow up with SPF (technically, you have to apply SPF every day with or without licorice root extract). It takes approximately four weeks to see a significant improvement. Another one of the many great benefits of licorice root extract is that it works well with other brightening ingredients—kojic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C.
7 Licorice root skincare product recommendations
Bestselling Licorice skincare:
Besides Licorice and its skin's brightening benefits, this lightweight serum contains methylpropanediol and polyglycerin-3 that combat dryness and provide longer-lasting moisture—keeping your skin plump and hydrated around the clock. In addition, it is packed with Pteris Multifida extract (also known as Spider Brake), an antioxidant to protect our skin against free radical damage.
After pulling an all-nighter, you might want to apply an eye cream to combat any sign of fatigue. This eye cream's formula features Licorice to brighten and soothe any redness and caffeine to improve blood circulation and reduce puffiness around the eyes. It is also packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients like glutathione, Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry) Fruit Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, and Malpighia Glabra (Acerola) Fruit Extract that further boost this formula's de-puffing prowess.
This gentle cleansing toner works to brighten and ward off any unwanted dark spots. It also removes any last traces of makeup, dirt, grime and impurities after you wash your face. Not only that, but it's got Psidium Guajava Leaf Extract to clear clogged pores, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract to improve cell turnover, and Rosa Hybrid Flower Extract to strengthen the skin barrier. It helps to prepare the skin to drink up the rest of your skincare products better. Plus, its slightly acidic pH helps to rebalance the skin pH post-cleansing.
Need a quick pick-me-up to refresh yourself? You'll love this ultra-fine facial mist. It has a milky texture and is infused with Bamboo Water, Licorice Root Extract, Yeast Extract, and Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate that can boost moisture, soothe, brighten skin and improve the appearance of fine lines. It is also worth noting that it contains Hydrogenated Lecithin, an agent that helps the product penetrate the skin better.
3 spotlight skincare products with Licorice root extract that pack a punch:
Anti-inflammation skincare routine with Licorice
The AXIS-Y Sunday Morning Refreshing Cleanser is packed with several anti-inflammatory ingredients Green Tea, Centella and calendula, offering a gentle cleanse without stripping skin. The creamy cleanser mixes with water to create a foamy lather, getting rid of dirt and excess oils even in the nooks and crannies.
Dark spot correcting skincare routine with Licorice
ACWELL pH Balancing Soothing Cleansing Foam is a multi-functional cleanser. It has chemical exfoliating ingredients (AHA, BHA, PHA) to gently slough dead skin cells. It also contains propanediol to lock in moisture and Licorice to brighten the appearance of PIH. A must-have for those tackling acne and PIH whilst also looking to balance their sebum. Skincare influencer James Welsh reviewed the Acwell Exfoliating cleanser in his latest video.
Takeaway: Licorice can be skipped as a candy flavour, but it cannot be overlooked in skincare. It has brightening, soothing and antioxidant properties; no wonder it is loved by many in the beauty sphere. Let us know below which Licorice products you like/ want to try!
- By Claudia Christin (@funskincare)
MBBS, Ph.D. (Dermatology)
Glycyrrhizin ameliorates atopic dermatitis-like symptoms through inhibition of HMGB1
Comparative trial of moisturizer containing licochalcone A vs. hydrocortisone lotion in the treatment of childhood atopic dermatitis: a pilot study
Licorice in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris and Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation: A Review