Do you have old acne scars or pigmentation marks that just won't budge?
Well, you're in the right place then, 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 now be aware of the proven skin whitening benefits of licorice extract.
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 promised as natural treatments to get rid pigmentation.
WHERE DOES LICORICE COME FROM?
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 liquorice 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 honour the spirits of the Pharaohs.
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. 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 liquorice, 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 liquorice 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 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 VERSUS HYDROQUINONE
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
Liquorice can be a great addition to your skincare regime if you have an oily or acne-prone skin. 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 block 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 make it helpful for eczema related skin conditions too.
BEST LICORICE SERUMS
Eminence Organics Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster-Serum was my first introduction to licorice for skin 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.
*This Post contains affiliate links
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