If your mind goes straight to candy when you hear the term Licorice, you are absolutely right! The root of the Licorice plant has multiple medicinal benefits and it is also where the pungent black licorice candy comes from but it is also a wonder ingredient for spot fading and skin brightening.
What is Licorice Root Extract?
The Licorice plant extract (botanical name Glycyrrhiza glabra) is filled with a variety of beneficial compounds, which have skin-soothing properties, deliver antioxidant effects to fade dark spots and licorice root helps in improving an uneven skin tone. Being rich in antioxidants, it also has skin brightening benefits along with reducing inflammation. You will often find this ingredient in products meant for sensitive skin because unlike its counterparts, Licorice refines skin tone without irritating the skin.
Licorice extract contains an active called Glabridin, which minimises the production of tyrosinase, an enzyme needed to produce melanin (pigment or colour) and this in turn inhibits the production of dark spots. It works essentially by inhibiting tyrosinase, the enzyme that causes pigmentation when our skin is exposed to the sun.
Though Hydroquinone is the go-to ingredient for many when it comes to addressing dark spots but since it is a highly potent ingredient, more skincare brands are opting for natural alternatives and Licorice extract is one of the best.
Skin Benefits of Licorice Extract
1. Anti-Inflammatory Agent
The Glycyrrhizin found in Licorice extract has anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce itchiness, redness and irritation. It is also used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and rosacea. We recommend trying the Aminu Cream Cleanser, this lightweight cleanser cleans makeup, dirt, and impurities without drying the skin, leaves skin feeling balanced, refreshed, radiant and has calming and hydrating powers making it ideal to help soothe skin.
2. Fades Dark Spots
Dark spots are caused by hyperpigmentation which is a result of overproduction of melanin in certain parts of the skin and by inhibiting melanin production, Licorice extract helps control dark spots whereas liquiritin, another compound in Licorice root extract, disintegrates excess melanin to lighten existing spots and reduce skin pigmentation. Our product pick for tackling pigmentation is the Organic Riot Dazzle - Anti Pigmentation Serum. A potent serum that targets pigmentation and uneven skin. If dark spots are a concern for you, it could be your new best friend. This face cream is also a generous glow giver which is a great plus point if you ask us. If your concern is dark circles and puffiness around the eyes, then try the Kal Hans Under Eye Cream, multifunctional hydrating eye cream that tackles the 3 major problem areas faced in the under eye region - dark circles (hyper-pigmentation), wrinkles and puffiness.
3. Combats discolouration
Licorice extract contains a flavonoid called Glabridin, an antioxidant rich component that prevents skin discolouration while liquiritin, another active compound works to fade existing spots which further evens out the skin tone. Research also suggests that glabridin is also effective in preventing ultraviolet b-induced pigmentation from sun exposure.
4. Overall Skin Protection
Licochalcone A, an active molecule in Licorice root extract, protects against free radicals and aids the skin in producing higher levels of antioxidants which further protects the skin from UV damage.
Who Should Use Licorice Extract?
If you are struggling with sun damage or hormone induced dark spots then you should definitely consider introducing Licorice extract in your skincare. If dark spots are not your concern but you are seeking an even and bright skin tone then too the plant-based extract is the solution you are looking for. Licorice extract is a great natural alternative if you are looking to soothe irritated or itchy skin and to top it all, it is a safe option for pregnant women. Due to its soothing properties, Licorice extract is great for all skin types, especially acne-prone and sensitive skin.
How to Use Licorice Extract?
Licorice extract is a popular ingredient in skin care products, particularly in brightening serums, toners, moisturisers and face masks.
If you are specifically looking to fade spots then opting for a Licorice extract serum will get you closer to your targeted result as serums are more concentrated and contain higher amounts of the ingredient. If you are new to serums, read our guide on using a serum the right way. As a thumb rule, always start out with a lower concentration of the ingredient before your skin gets accustomed to it. Our pick is the Shankara Brightening Serum which supports an even skin tone, reduces discoloration and brightens the skin naturally.
2. Face Masks
For an even and bright skin, using a Licorice extract based mask once or twice a week is a good option to achieve your over skin radiance goals. Our favourite is the Bliscent Chocolate & Licorice Face Mask which is loaded with antioxidants, the cocoa powder helps brighten the skin giving you plump and soft skin while the Licorice extract helps promote skin radiance as well as lighten dark spots over a period of time.
If you are looking to soothe irritated skin, topical gels with Licorice extract are a good choice. We like the Arata Hydrating Face Gel, enriched with aloe vera, turmeric, matcha green tea, and licorice extracts, that revitalise your skin and restores its natural radiance.
4. Don’t forget your Sunscreen
If you are planning to introduce Licorice extract in your routine, be extra diligent about sun protection and SPF. This holds true for any ingredient that targets hyperpigmentation. Prolonged sun exposure can adversely impact all your skin brightening efforts with Licorice extract. Our recommendation is the Kal Hans Sun Protection Lotion for its 3-in-one action that protects, brightens and moisturises the skin.
5. Use with Vitamin C
For best results, mix it with other skin brighteners and antioxidants, such as Niacinamide and Vitamin C. Using Licorice extract with Vitamin C can significantly reduce pigmentation but make sure you apply it before putting on sunscreen.
6. Don’t Use with Retinol or Hydroquinone
In order to steer clear of allergic reaction or skin irritation, avoid using Retinol and Hydroquinone based products with your Licorice extract formulation.
7. PM Skincare
Licorice based products are better suited for night time routine and as a good practice, read the instructions carefully on the label. If you are unsure about when to use an ingredient, read our AM and PM guide on ingredients. Licorice extract based products can usually be used once or twice a day however, check with your dermatologist if it is a medicated gel or cream.
8. Patch Test
As always, it is recommended to do a patch test on your skin before introducing any new ingredient or product in your daily routine. Not sure if you are doing the patch test right? We’ve got you covered, read here.
Licorice extract has been a staple in traditional medicine across cultures, especially in Chinese herbal remedies to treat a variety of skin conditions. In our quest for healthy and flawless skin, dark spots and discolouration can become persistent hurdles but this natural ingredient has stood the test of time to become one of the best spot fading and skin brightening solutions. Whether you are struggling with sun spots, acne scars, an uneven skin tone or simply want your skin to look a little brighter, it is hard to beat the gentle but impressive Licorice extract.
- Srishti Mehra