When I was younger, I loved licorice candy. It’s delicious. Plus, my sister never liked it, so I didn’t have to share. 😉 Now that I’m older, I’m even a bigger fan of licorice. Now it’s not for my taste buds only. My skin wants its fix, too. Wait, what? Licorice is one of those unassuming ingredients you may be forgiven for thinking it doesn’t much of anything. Turns out, it’s one of the most powerful alternatives to treat dark spots and soothe irritations. Pretty impressive, right? If you’re looking for a natural remedy to brighten your complexion and keep wrinkles at bay, read on to find out everything you need to know about liquorice for skin:
- What Is Licorice Extract?
- Benefits Of Licorice For Skin?
- How To Use It
- Side Effects Of Licorice Extract
- What Are The Best Skincare Products With Licorice Extract?
- The Bottom Line
What Is Licorice Extract?
Licorice is the root of the Glycyrrhiza Glabra plant, a herbaceous perennial legume that’s native of Southern Europe and Asia. To get the extract, you simply boil the root and let most of the water evaporate. What’s left is a syrup that has lots of brightening, soothing and moisturizing properties for your skin.
By the way, you won’t find licorice on the labels of your lotions and potions. Instead, you’ll find one of its many forms (yep, they all have absurdly complicated names to confuse you more):
- Glycyrrhiza glabra
- Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate
- Anything that ends in “Glycyrrhizate”
So, what does liquorice do for skin?
Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):
Benefits Of Licorice For Skin?
Now you know what it is, here’s all the benefits of licorice for skin and why you may want to add it to your skincare routine, especially if you need to fade away dark spots or your skin is easily irritated:
1. Licorice Fades Away Dark Spots
I’m still too young to have dark spots (gosh, I hope I haven’t jinxed it now!) but if I had, licorice would help me get rid of them. Licorice is a natural and gentler alternative to traditional remedies such as hydroquinone. Not that there’s anything wrong with hydroquinone. It’s the gold standard for treating hyperpigmentation. But it can be quite harsh if you have sensitive skin. If your skin’s prone to irritation, you may want to try licorice first. Here’s why.
Licorice root fades away dark spots in two ways. It‘s loaded with glabridin, a substance that inhibits tyrosinase, an enzyme that’s necessary to produce melanin. Basically, it stops the dark spots in their tracks and makes them lighter, too. Plus, “It contains liquiritin, an active compound that helps to disperse and remove existing melanin in the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Jennifer Chwalek. Translation: it fades away the dark spots you already have and prevents new ones from forming.
Related: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Hydroquinone In Skincare
2. Licorice Soothes Skin
Licorice is also a rich source of glycyrrhizate, a group of substances that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It can soothe contact dermatitis, psoriasis, irritations. It works by reducing hyaluronidase, one of the MMP enzymes that break down healthy tissue when your skin is inflamed. Plus, Dr Chwalek points out that another compound found in licorice extract, licochalcone A, inhibits two inflammatory markers that trigger the inflammatory cascade, thus further helping soothing skin. If your skin needs a little soothing, licorice root is the one to call.
Related: 9 Soothing Ingredients That Can Calm Down Sensitive Skin
3. Licorice Is A Powerful Antioxidant
Oh my, is licorice full of good stuff. It has glabidrin as well. That’s an antioxidant that fights the free radicals that cause premature wrinkles. It works like this: Glabidrin patrols your skin looking for free radicals. When it spots on, it deactivates it before it can initiate its destructive chain reaction and give you wrinkles (and dark spots too).
The catch? As powerful as licorice is an antioxidants, it can’t fight every type of free radical (yes, there are more than one!) on its own. The more antioxidants you use in your skincare routine, the better. So, if you’re already using it to fade away dark spots or soothe irritations, you just get its added antioxidant benefits too.
Related: Common Antioxidants Used In Skincare Products
How To Use It
Unfortunately, most products on the market don’t contain enough licorice to single handedly reduce dark spots. Look for products that have licorice extract as high up as possible on the ingredient list. The more it’s in it, the better and faster it will work. I recommend serums as they usually use higher concentrations of active ingredients. Follow the instructions on how to use it properly.
Who Should Use It?
Everyone can use licorice extract, but it’s best suited for people who want to fade away dark spots, even out the skin tone, or have sensitive skin that gets easily irritated. It’s also a safe option for pregnant women who want to treat melasma, but can’t use harsher alternatives like hydroquinone (it’s not safe in pregnancy).
How Often Can You Use It?
It really depends on the product you use and what else is in it. Without any harsher actives, like retinol, you can use licorice extract once or twice a day.
Side Effects Of Licorice Extract
Licorice extract is generally considered safe for skin. Said that, there are people who allergic to water. So, it’s possible to be one of the very few who is allergic to licorice. Very, very rare, but possible. As always, do a patch test before using any new ingredients.
What Are The Best Skincare Products With Licorice Extract?
- Neostrata Dark Spot Corrector ($30.00): A powerful exfoliant with 1% Kojic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Pure Vitamin C), and Licorice Root Extract to brighten skin and fade away dark spots. It’s best suitable for dry skin. Available at Dermstore and Look Fantastic.
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00): This powerful Vitamin C serum includes a bunch of antioxidants, including licorice extract, to fight wrinkles and brighten the complexion. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, and Ulta.
- Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Serum ($34.00): A soothing serum with every anti-inflammatory ingredient you can think of. Ideal for sensitive skin that gets easily irritated. Available at Cult Beauty, Paula’s Choice, Sephora, SpaceNK.
The Bottom Line
Licorice doesn’t just satisfy your sweet tooth. It also soothes your skin, gets rid of those pesky dark spots, and even helps to keep wrinkles away. If you’re looking for a gentle alternative to hydroquinone to treat your dark spots or simply have sensitive skin that gets irritated easily, licorice is a great option to consider.