Do you have old acne scars or pigmentation marks that just won't budge?
Then you're in the right place, because I may have an all-natural solution for you.
You're probably aware of licorice as either a delicious or disgusting treat because typically people love or hate it. However, you might not be aware of the proven skin whitening benefits of this strange candy.
In the last couple of years, facial serums containing licorice extract have become very popular for post-acne and hyperpigmentation treatment. And thanks to studies like this the benefits of licorice powder for the skin proved to be a highly effective depigmenting agent, capable of evening out the skin tone by reducing dark marks.
Other natural ingredients mentioned in the same study were; azelaic acid, arbutin, turmeric, green tea, niacinamide, and mulberry. All of which showed promise as natural treatments to get rid of pigmentation.
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Table of Contents
Licorice For Skin Lightening
What Is Licorice?
Licorice 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 components linked to anti-toxic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and neuroprotective effects.
The medicinal properties of licorice are mostly due to the presence of powerful phytochemicals (plant chemicals), like flavonoids, chalcones, saponins, and xenoestrogens.
A Little Bit of History
Licorice or mulethi root as it's known in Ayurvedic Medicine has a very interesting history spanning back thousands of years. Known for its multiple health benefits from digestion, liver protection, and hormonal regulation. It is still popular today in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Indian households.
But, perhaps the most interesting part about licorice is that it can be traced back some 4,000 years. Raw licorice root was discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun. It's believed that the ancients would prepare a licorice drink to honor the spirits of the Pharaohs.
Egyptians have been drinking an ice-cold licorice 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. A cup of licorice juice on a hot summer's day was said to restore the body's lost minerals and water.
Licorice Benefits For Skin
Research shows that certain flavonoids found in natural ingredients like licorice, mulberry, arbutin, green tea, and turmeric have significant effects in treating hyperpigmentation and dark marks on the skin.
Glabridin is one of the flavonoids which gives licorice its reputation as a skin whitening agent. This powerful phytochemical is a tyrosinase inhibitor. Tyrosinase is a key enzyme that causes pigmentation in the skin after sun exposure.
Another helpful flavonoid that licorice contains is called liquiritin, which has depigmenting properties. It has been 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 as a melasma treatment.
LICORICE FOR SKIN LIGHTENING
All of these fun facts mean licorice is a natural alternative to hydroquinone. A chemical compound used in skin-lightening products to target hyperpigmentation. But, incorrect usage and dosage of hydroquinone can result in bad 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 with 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. I'm just saying there are cheaper, more natural alternatives out there that are also proven to work. With no side effects.
LICORICE EXTRACT FOR OILY + ACNE-PRONE SKIN
Licorice can be a great addition to your skincare regime if you have oily or acne-prone skin. This is due to another very helpful flavonoid called licochalcone.
This flavonoid has 3 'superpowers' when it comes to this skin type. The first one is balancing. It helps to regulate excess sebum production which blocks pores causing breakouts. Secondly, it has antimicrobial properties that can stop the growth of acne-causing bacteria on the skin.
And lastly, it acts as an anti-inflammatory to calm acne breakouts. This makes it helpful for eczema related skin conditions too.
5 Best Clean Beauty Licorice Extract Serums
Eminence Organic Skin Care Bright Skin Licorice Booster Serum
One of our favorites, this serum lightens and brightens the skin tone. It's a powerful, natural alternative to Hydroquinone that inhibits the production of melanin to treat dark marks and pigmentation. Suits all skin types especially oily and mature.
100% Pure Fermented Rice Water Toner
Fermented rice water (Sake) is rich in enzymes, amino acids, malic acid, minerals, and vitamins to soften and nourish the skin. A concentration of White Mulberry, Shiitake Mushroom, and Licorice to reduce the appearance of dark spots, and even the skin tone. It also contains hyaluronic acid and vegetable glycerin to promote skin hydration and plumping. Suits Normal, Dry, Oily & Combination skin types.
ACWELL Licorice pH Balancing Advance Serum
This serum is packed full of potent ingredients to brighten skin and boost collagen production. It features the star ingredient Licorice Water (66%) and Pycnogenol to instantly hydrate and brighten skin. Suitable for all skin types.
100% Pure Dark Spot Remover
An effective serum for visibly reducing dark spots and age spots, without the use of chemical lighteners or bleaching agents. Evens skin tone with safe and natural ingredients like Licorice Root Extract, Sake, Matsutake Mushroom, Lime, Papaya and Rosehip Oil. Suitable for all skin types.
Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster
A highly effective serum contains Azelaic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Licorice, all known to reduce the look of blemishes and acne, while also helping to fade brown spots and marks from previous acne breakouts. Suitable for Normal, Oily & Combination skin types.
PRINTABLE SKINCARE PLANNERS
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Hollinger, Jasmine C et al. “Are Natural Ingredients Effective in the Management of Hyperpigmentation? A Systematic Review.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 11,2 (2018): 28-37.
Ciganović, Petar et al. “Glycerolic Licorice Extracts as Active Cosmeceutical Ingredients: Extraction Optimization, Chemical Characterization, and Biological Activity.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 8,10 445. 1 Oct. 2019, doi:10.3390/antiox8100445