Let’s talk licorice! Licorice root extract, that is. According to dermatologists, the use of licorice extract can fade dark spots and brighten your skin. I’m in!
In the quest for flawless skin, few things are as annoying as dark spots. Be they from sun damage, hormonal conditions such as melasma, nothing ruins complexion perfection as much as discoloration.
Medicinal use of licorice dates back to ancient Egypt, where the root was made into a sweet drink for pharaohs and was used as a pharmaceutical. In fact, when King Tut’s tomb was uncovered, licorice root was found right next to his valuable treasures. Today, the use of licorice extract is popular in skincare products, particularly on the Korean market.
Extract Form of Licorice to Fade Age Spots
Yes, this is the same licorice you’ll find in the candy aisle. However, in an extract form, licorice has many medicinal uses like brightening your skin. Licorice root extract acts slower than a prescription-strength lightener like hydroquinone, but it is much gentler without the side effects of irritation and burning that hydroquinone may cause.
Licorice Plant Explained
The licorice plant (technical name Glycyrrhiza glabra) comes from different regions of Europe and Asia. All the good stuff is found in the root of the licorice plant, which has been used for thousands of years to treat everything from stomach ulcers to hepatitis to diabetes.
You’ll find licorice extract by itself in your products, or you may find one of its three key components:
Licorice Extract Explained
New York dermatologists Rita Linkner, MD, of Spring Street Dermatology, and dermatologist Jennifer Chwalek, MD, of Union Square Laser Dermatology explains licorice extract and how it gets the job done.
TYPE OF INGREDIENT: Skin brightener
MAIN BENEFITS: Inhibits the production of an enzyme needed to produce melanin (pigment) in the skin, helps remove excess melanin, has anti-inflammatory benefits.
WHO SHOULD USE IT: Anyone looking to reap the spot-fading, skin tone-evening benefits, as well as those looking to soothe irritated skin. Plus, unlike many other similar ingredients, it’s a good option for pregnant women looking for a safe way to treat melasma.
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU USE IT: This largely depends on the particular product formulation, but in most cases, once or twice a day, maximum, says Chwalek.
WORKS WELL WITH: Because of its main benefits, it’s often mixed with other antioxidants and skin brighteners, such as niacinamide and vitamin C.
DON’T USE WITH: Because it does have the potential to be somewhat irritating, Linkner advises not using it in conjunction with retinol and/or hydroquinone.
Licorice root contains over 300 compounds, some of which demonstrate potent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral effects. In particular, animal and test-tube studies link glycyrrhizin to anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits.
As a result, licorice root extract is used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including acne and eczema. In a 2-week study in 60 adults, applying a topical gel containing licorice root extract significantly improved eczema.
How to Apply Licorice Extract To Fade Age Spots
Most licorice extracts are available in a 1 oz or 2 oz bottle with a dropper. With consistent use, you will see fading of age spots after three to four weeks.
- Choose an extract form of licorice root extract (Amazon)
- Cleanse the area you wish to treat
- Apply a thin layer to the cleansed area (a Q-tip works well for small spots)
- Allow time to dry
- Apply twice daily
You can consume licorice root as a tea, tincture, powder, or supplement. It is especially useful when applied topically to fade age spots, as noted above. While there’s no standard dosage for licorice root, you should limit your total glycyrrhizin intake to no more than 100 grams per day.
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