I don't know why anyone would eat it, but my mum loves liquorice. I find it revolting. However, I have recently discovered the powers of liquorice in skincare. One such power: its ability to even out the skin tone by reducing dark marks on the skin caused by melasma/hyper-pigmentation or old acne scars. And just like that I have a new found love for liquorice!
If you subscribe to my mailing list then you will know about my melasma struggle. Which led me to Eminence Organic's Bright Skin Liquorice Root Booster Serum. Which I absolutely love! I found it worked really well for me.. but I definitely think you need to adopt a regimented skin care system that includes some form of Alpha-Hydroxy Acid and or Beta-Hydroxy Acid to get the best results.
Liquorice comes from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant which means "sweet root" in Greek. Its use as a medicinal herb has been widely studied for its various bioactive components linked to anti-toxic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and neuroprotective effects.
The medicinal properties of liquorice are mostly due to the presence of powerful phytochemicals (plant chemicals), like flavonoids, chalcones, saponins and xenoestrogens.
Be sure to choose a serum with natural ingredients. I recommend a few at the end of the post, but first.. a little bit of liquorice history.
The Original Health Drink
Liquorice, or Mulethi Root as it's known in Ayurvedic Medicine has a very interesting history spanning back thousands of years. Still used today in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Indian households for its multiple health benefits from digestion, liver protection and hormonal regulation
But, perhaps the most interesting part about liquorice roots extensive history can be traced back to the ancient civilizations. The Babylonians used it some 4,000 years ago to strengthen the body and the immune system. A cup of liquorice juice on a hot summers day was said to restore the body's lost minerals and water.
Egyptians have been drinking an ice-cold liquorice juice called 'erk sous' from street vendors for generations. Ancient Egyptian doctors would mix erk sous with various medicines to treat stomach and liver problems.
Later on, the Romans and the Greeks used it to treat coughs, indigestion, stomach pains and general digestive ailments. Its health benefits have been mentioned in various scrolls.
Raw liquorice root was discovered in the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. It's believed that liquorice was used in rituals by the ancients, they would prepare a liquorice drink to honour the spirits of the Pharaohs.
A cup of liquorice juice on a hot summers day was said to restore the body's lost minerals and water
Research has shown that flavonoids found in natural ingredients like liquorice, mulberry, arbutin, green tea, tumeric and ascorbic acid, among others can have significant effects on uneven skin tones caused by hyperpigmentation/melasma, acne scars or sunspots.
Glabridin, is one of the flavonoids which gives liquorice its reputation as a skin whitening agent because it is a known tyrosinase inhibitor. Tyrosinase is a key enzyme that causes pigmentation in the skin after sun exposure.
Another helpful flavonoid liquorice contains is called liquiritin, which has depigmenting properties. It has shown to disperse melanin build up in the skin causing dark marks after sun exposure or hormonal imbalance. It also helps to reduce inflammation and sunburn. In a 4 week study liquiritin (in a 20% concentration) showed excellent results in 80% of patients with melasma.
All of these fun facts mean liquorice is a natural alternative to hydroquinone, a chemical compound used in skin lightening products to target hyper-pigmentation. Incorrect usage/dosage can result in terrible side effects.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the safety of hydroquinone in recent years, and it's a debatable topic seeing as the FDA proposed to ban it in 2006. And it is banned in the EU in concentrations greater than 1%.
But, many board-certified doctors stand by hydroquinone, and highly recommend it when used properly and in the correct concentrations. And I know that lots of women get great results with 2-4% hydroquinone prescription products, and no side effects (yet!).
If you are unfamiliar with prescription hydroquinone skin products, they are commonly used as part of a system and can be very pricey. Obagi's Nu-Derm 6 Step System will set you back over £400!
I'm not knocking these products because they are proven to work, all I'm saying is, there are cheaper, more natural alternatives out there that are also proven to work with no dangerous side effects.
Oily & Acne-Prone Skin Type
Liquorice can be a great addition to your skincare regime if you have an oily or acne-prone skin type. This is due to another very helpful flavonoid called licochalcone.
This flavonoid has 3 'super powers' when it comes to this skin type. The first one is balancing. It helps to regulate excess sebum production which can block pores causing breakouts. Secondly, it has antimicrobial properties that can stop the growth of acne-causing bacteria on the skin.
And lastly, it also acts as an anti-inflammatory to calm acne breakouts and also eczema related skin conditions caused by dermatitis.
Products I recommend
Eminence Organics Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster-Serum was my first introduction to liquorice for hyper-pigmentation, I really like this serum, it also contains Coenzyme Q10 and Vitamin C ester.
Facetheory's Regenacalm Pro Serum is a cheaper alternative that contains Retinol and Vitamin C.
Biovea's Brightening Face Serum is on my list to try. It has a great, all-natural ingredients list that includes Kojic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid.