Licorice Oil

For additional information, please review the following:

Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Dec 27;19(1). pii: E70. doi: 10.3390/ijms19010070. Review. PMID: 29280987

Overview of licorice for skin

Licorice is popularly known as a very dark if not black-colored candy, or dark after-dinner liqueur. Sometimes referred to as anise, licorice is found side-by-side in the kitchen next to other extracts such as peppermint or vanilla. Less known is licorice’s role as a key ingredient in skincare products. Licorice for skin is used to brighten skin and regulates sebum production to prevent acne. Licorice is used worldwide to treat skin maladies. For example, in Chinese medicine, licorice is used as an anti-inflammatory. According to surveys, Western medical herbalists consider licorice among the ten most important herbs used in clinical practice. In Ayurvedic medicine, licorice has been used lighten dark spots for hundreds of years. Licorice originates from the Mediterranean and European areas, the Middle East, Asia, Russia and Iran. Licorice comes from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant which is a legume related to peas. A perennial, the plant grows to three to seven feet in height. Harvesting occurs up to 3 years after initial planting. The health and skincare benefits originate in the root. The root is boiled to produce the licorice extract which is used in skincare products. Glycyrrhizin is licorice’s principal constituent, and its concentrations in licorice range from 5 to 25 percent. Used in skincare products: toners, cleansers, skin creams, serums, moisturizers and spot treatments. Used to treat: hyper- pigmentation, sun damage, acne, dry skin, redness, dull complexion, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. Benefits of licorice for skin: brightens, smooths, moisturizes, blocks melanin production, and blocks UVA/UVB rays. It is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial. Effective on skin types: normal, oily, or combination. Non-skincare related applications of licorice include its use as a flavor ingredient in confections, treatment of common colds (i.e. expectorant to remove phlegm and mucus), treatment of respiratory problems (allergies, asthma and bronchitis) and treatment of gastrointestinal issues (acid reflux, heartburn and inflammation in the digestive tracts). Scientific name: Glycyrrhiza glabra Skincare products with licorice: Amla Skin Brightening Lotion, Black Tea & Licorice Root Brightening Cleanser, Mango Butter Eye Treatment. These products are developed by Dr. Nina S. Naidu, Chair of the Women Surgeons Committee in the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, and Fellow, American College of Surgeons.    [Information provided by JustDerma]

Benefits of licorice for skin

1. Natural skin lightener

Especially when used consistently over time, licorice fades dark spots, resolves blemishes, lightens skin and minimizes appearance of scars. Dark spots occur as a result of hazards including sun damage, excessive sugar consumption, pollutants, and the aging process. Licorice lightens skin and treats hyperpigmentation safely and naturally. It is a natural alternative to hydroquinone which, according to the National Toxicology Program, is a possible carcinogenic and has genotoxic effects. As a skin whitener, research shows licorice is more effective than kojic and ascorbic acids. Licorice contains a number of compounds that enable it to lighten skin. It has liquirtin which treats melasma, and glabridin which inhibits melanin synthesis (i.e. reduces the volume of melanin in skin cells). In particular, glabridin inhibits tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is an enzyme that sends signals to create pigmentation when the skin is exposed to the sun. This is an important process by which the body protects the skin from sun damage. However, dark spots occur when pigmentation occurs unevenly over the skin. When glabridin inhibits tyrosinase production, melanin production is slowed. The result is fewer dark spots. Additionally, glabridin contains flavonoids that depigment and lighten the skin. Another way that licorice lightens skin is by controlling levels of endothelin-1 (a peptide), and Phospholipase A2 (an enzyme). These elements are responsible for dark spots and uneven skin tone. Licorice’s effectiveness as a lightener is heightened when combined with retinoic acid and betamethasone.  

2. Anti-inflammatory

Skin becomes inflamed in its attempt to repel irritants and infection from the body. Symptoms include unpleasant itching, redness, rash and swelling. With several of its anti-inflammatory properties, licorice is used to relieve these undesirable symptoms. Licorice contains stearyl glycyrrhetinate which is an anti-inflammatory property that mimics cortisol. In other words, it behaves like corticosteroids which are naturally produced by the body and that work to reduce inflammation. Other anti-inflammatory properties include saponins, glycyrrizinic, and glycyrrhizing acids. Glycyrrhizin acid increases steroid hormones that occur naturally in skin. Glycyrrhizin also works to reduce tissue inflammation by reducing the production of ROS, or reactive oxygen species. The Journal of Drugs in Dermatology reports licorice’s role in treatment of atopic dermatitis, rosacea, and psoriasis.  

3. Regulates sebum production and fights acne

Licorice contains licochalcone which is natural compound that helps the skin to regulate sebum production and it inhibits bacterial infection. Less sebum oil on the skin results in fewer clogged pores. Fewer clogged pores result in less acne. This makes it effective in the treatment of acne. It also helps resolve combination skin.  

4. Antioxidant

Licorice contains seven constituents that have antioxidant properties. They are hispaglabridin A, Hispaglabridin B, Glabridin, 4'-O-Methylglabridin, Isoprenylchalcone, Isoliquiritigenin and Formononetin. The antioxidant properties in these constituents enable the skin resist oxidative stress responsible for breaking down the collagen layer and aging skin. Specifically, antioxidants neutralize free radicals that cause oxidative stress as well as cellular mutations that compromise skin elasticity. The result is a slowing down of the aging process that create wrinkles and fine lines.   

Warnings and safety information

Applied topically, licorice for skin is safe on all skin types including mature, oily and uneven skin. Licorice is natural and extremely gentle. It is appropriate for sensitive skin, and as a skin lightener, suitable for skin of all shades. Avoid use of licorice in the eye area where it can get into the eyes. Note that licorice may be listed as dipotassium glycyrrhizate on product labels.

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