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What You Should Know About Licorice Root Extract

What You Should Know About Licorice Root Extract

Licorice belongs to the large family of Fabaceae. It is a relative of wisteria, clover and peas. From its root is extracted a compound also known as licorice, which contains several molecules that are good for the skin due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Licorice Root Extract – A Brief History

Licorice root, with the botanical name Glycyrrhiza glabra, is best known for its aromatic roots. It originated in southern Europe and Asia and now grows in various regions of the world (Mediterranean, southern USA, Middle East, North Africa, Mauritius). In traditional medicine, licorice was a plant known for its ability to treat colds, relieve heartache, aid digestion and relieve coughing fits. Licorice is consumed as a tea, but also in the form of sticks.

Licorice root extract is now a common ingredient in cosmetic formulations. It is hidden behind the following I.N.C.I. names: Ammonium glycyrrhizate, dipotasium glycyrrhizate, glycyrrhetinic acid or glycyrrhiza glabra root extract. The recommended dosage is between 2 and 5%.

To obtain this extract, the roots are dried, peeled and then ground into powder. The compound obtained contains mainly glabridin (more than 95%). It also contains glycyrrhizic acid, which is considered anti-inflammatory, and flavonoids and isoflavonoids (glabrene, isoliquiritigenin), which are able to inhibit tyrosinase, which is involved in melanin synthesis.


Note: In Typology we use the "Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract". It is more than 95% rich in glabridin and inhibits melanin, which explains its anti-stain properties. Nevertheless, glycyrrhetinic acid (INCI name: Glycyrrhetinic Acid) can also be obtained from licorice. This compound has contradictory properties compared to the "Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract". Namely, it is called pro-melanin, meaning that it stimulates melanogenesis, which is responsible for tanning. That is why it is often found in self-tanning care products.

Licorice Root Extract To Fight Pigmentation Spots

Pigmentation spots or hyperpigmentation are due to a disorder of the pigmentation process. Melanin is overproduced in certain areas, resulting in spots that affect an even complexion. These spots can be divided into three categories: Melasma or pregnancy mask, which is related to hormonal imbalances; Lentigo or sun spots, which are caused by excessive and repeated sun exposure; and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is due to overproduction of melanin following inflammation (injuries, burns, blemishes, acne breakouts).

Licorice root extract is often compared to hydroquinone due to its pigment regulating properties. It has the advantage of being gentler and more skin-friendly than hydroquinone, which has been banned in all cosmetic products by EU regulation since 2001. The effectiveness of licorice root extract is due to the presence of glabridin, a powerful depigmenting agent known for its lightening effect and its action against pigmentation spots. It is able to inhibit tyrosinase, which is responsible for melanin production. The equation is simple: less melanin means less pigment, fewer brown spots and a more even complexion.

Licorice Root Extract To Limit Skin Aging Due to Oxidative Stress

Licorice root extract is rich in glabridin, a polyphenolic flavonoid with antioxidant properties, and an excellent ally to protect the skin from free radicals. As a reminder, the latter are reactive oxygen species naturally produced by the body. However, when cells are faced with stress, they produce many of them. There are many sources of stress, the main ones being UVA radiation, pollution, smoking and a diet too rich in fat and/or sugar. Free radicals are molecules that are particularly unstable because of their single electron. They tend to react with other molecules to form an electron pair and then cause damage to the body's cells, DNA and proteins. This accelerates the aging process and wrinkles form on the surface of the skin. The flavonoids in licorice root extract specifically neutralize the superoxide anion, denoted O₂.-, preventing it from harming the healthy molecules in the skin. Thus, this herbal agent delays skin aging and protects the skin from external influences.

Licorice Root Extract To Relieve Skin Irritation.

Glycyrrhizic acid gives this extract an anti-inflammatory effect. Thus, it soothes irritated, red and itchy skin. It works particularly well on atopic skin. It is called a natural cortisone: it effectively relieves eczema.

In Which Skin Care Products Can You Find Licorice Root Extract?

Due to its soothing properties, licorice root extract is recommended for itchy skin, skin prone to atopic dermatitis, skin stressed by cold, UV rays and pollution, and sensitive skin. To reduce the appearance of age-related skin spots, mature skin types can also use skin care products containing licorice root extract. This compound is therefore included in brightening serums and soothing creams.

Our serum against skin marks contains licorice root extract in combination with other brightening and repairing active ingredients such as gluconolactone from the category of P.H.A. and Centella asiatica extract. To fade acne scars, apply a drop locally to the affected areas in the evening only.

Sources :

  • SARKAR R. & al. Cosmeceuticals for hyperpigmentation: what is available ? Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery (2013).

  • FRATTARUOLO L. & al. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of flavanones from Glycyrrhiza glabra L. (licorice) leaf phytocomplexes: identification of licoflavanone as a modulator of NF-kB/MAPK pathway. Antioxidants (Basel) (2019).

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