Ingredient highlight – Licorice Root extract

Hyperpigmentation can be difficult to treat. No matter the source of the problem (sun damage, hormones, or squeezing spots), it takes time and patience to see the results. But conventional treatments prescribed by dermatologist (like Hydroquinone) can sensitise the skin. A natural alternative is licorice root extract.

What is licorice root extract?

Glycyrrhiza glabra is a legume and the source of licorice root extract. In traditional Chinese medicine, practitioners used licorice root extract to treat various conditions: asthma, ulcers, gastritis, and gingivitis (among others). The plant is native to Asia and some parts of southern Europe.

What are the benefits of licorice root extract for the skin?


Licorice root extract has a few notable compounds that are beneficial for the skin.

  • Glycyrrhizin is a rich source of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Studies suggest it is an effective ingredient in treating skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and acne. It also relieves redness and swelling.
  • Glabridin is another active ingredient in licorice root extract. It inhibits the production of the enzyme tyrosinase and prevents excessive melanin production triggered by sun exposure. And, as we know by now, this is the primary source of sun spots. Conventional treatments for hyperpigmentation include Hydroquinone, an ingredient that can sensitise the skin. Licorice root extract is a good alternative if your skin is sensitive and can’t tolerate harsher treatments.
  • Liquiritin works on melanin by removing it from the skin, which means licorice root extract can help fade existing sun spots.
  • Licochalcone A is a compound that helps the skin produce more antioxidants. By doing this, it strengthens the skin’s defences, and the skin is better equipped to deal with environmental stressors we are exposed to daily.

Who can use licorice root extract?

Licorice root extract is a potent ingredient and well-tolerated by most skin types. It can work on its own or used in conjunction with other brightening ingredients like vitamin C or Niacinamide. It is for you if you want to target hyperpigmentation, soothe inflammation, or brighten and replenish dull skin. Likewise, because it is a potent antioxidant and it strengthens the skin, even if you don’t have a problem with hyperpigmentation, your skin will still reap the benefits. That said, if your skin is sensitive and you haven’t used licorice root extract before, patch test first.

What type of products contain licorice root extract?


It is a widely available ingredient and can be found in serums, essences, masks, eye creams, and moisturisers. Since serums contain a higher percentage of active ingredients, these are probably your best bet, if you want to see the results quicker.

If you are keen to try out licorice root extract to treat hyperpigmentation, have realistic expectations – nothing will give you results overnight. It takes time, patience, and persistence with your skincare routine to treat it successfully. Also, bear in mind while licorice root extract doesn’t make your skin more sensitive to the sun, you still need to use sunscreen daily to prevent new sun damage.

Have you used a product with licorice root extract? Are you happy with the results?

Roberta Striga