Fading Hyperpigmentation With Licorice Root Extract (Does It Actually Work?)

licorice root extract for hyperpigmentation korean skincare skin brightening

There are many ingredients available to help fade hyperpigmentation. Some of these are naturally-derived plant extracts, while others are synthetically-derived compounds. Each ingredient works in a slightly different way: by preventing either melanin synthesis or melanin deposition within melanocytes; or by increasing the turnover rate of skin cells to shed pigmented skin cells faster.

Dermatological studies have shown that the most effective ingredients for fading hyperpigmentation are retinol (and other retinoids), vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid in particular) and hydroquinone. However, due to the potential side effects of these powerful ingredients (such as skin sensitization, irritation and dryness), there is a rising trend towards the use of naturally-derived extracts for hyperpigmentation.

Licorice root extract (scientifically known as Glycyrrhiza glabra) is becoming a frequently used plant extract in skincare products today because of its fantastic ability to both prevent skin hyperpigmentation AND fade existing hyperpigmentation – all while soothing your skin and providing it with antioxidants.

In this article, I’d like to go over some of the science behind licorice root extract since we see this ingredient in so many Korean skincare products. In particular, I want to answer two common questions: How effective is licorice root extract at fading hyperpigmentation? And, how does it actually work on your skin?

Before I go any further, if you haven’t read my main article on fading hyperpigmentation, then I recommend you check it out first. In that article, I go over the different types of hyperpigmentation and give some information about all the powerful ingredients I listed above – plus more (including niacinamide, arbutin, azelaic acid, kojic acid, natural oils and chemical exfoliants).

What Is Licorice Root Extract?

Licorice root extract is derived from a group of perennial flowering shrubs with horizontal underground stems (rhizomes) known as the genus Glycyrrhiza. These plants are native to the Mediterranean region (species name Glycyrrhiza glabra) and parts of Asia (species names Glycyrrhiza uralensis and Glycyrrhiza inflata). Today, licorice is cultivated worldwide, in countries including China, India, Italy, Pakistan and Turkey.

licorice root extract skincare benefits skin brightening hyperpigmentation
This is what the licorice plant and root looks like. The root is quite large and woody.

Licorice root extract has been used in traditional medicine (both in southern Europe and Asia) for more than 4000 years. In Chinese medicine, licorice root extract (known as Gan Cao, 甘草) is combined with other herbs to increase the effectiveness of other herbal ingredients, reduce their toxicity and to improve the flavor of herbal formulations. Licorice root also has many uses in the food, confectionery, and tobacco industries – where it’s used as a flavor and moisture enhancer.

Many skincare and cosmetic products contain licorice root extract (or it’s active constituents) for its skin brightening, soothing, antioxidant, and natural fragrance properties. It has become a particularly popular ingredient in Korean skincare, due to the growing preference of natural and gentle ingredients as well as skin-brightening products. In 2008, a survey conducted by the Personal Care Products Council (in the United States) found that licorice root extract is used at concentrations ranging from 0.0001 to 0.4% in skincare and cosmetics products.

How To Identify Licorice Root Extract In Product Ingredient Lists

I’ll be focusing on licorice root extract in this article (as scientific research suggests that the root of the licorice plant contains the highest concentration of ingredients with skin-benefiting compounds). However, I’d like to point out that other parts of the licorice plant are also sometimes used in skincare products – namely:

  • Licorice root water
  • Licorice root juice
  • Licorice root powder, and
  • Licorice leaf extract

The chemical composition of these licorice-derived ingredients differs from that of licorice root extract, giving them different properties when it comes to skincare. For example, licorice root water is an aqueous solution of the steam distillate obtained from the roots of Glycyrrhiza glabra. This is one of the chemical processes used to extract essential oils from plants, and licorice root water is in fact classified as an essential oil and astringent.

Most products will list the name “licorice root extract” or “Glycyrrhiza glabra root extract” in their ingredients list if the product contains licorice root extract.

However, other names are sometimes used instead – including:

  • Licorice root
  • Glycyrrhiza uralensis root extract (if the root of the G. uralensis species is used instead of the G. glabra species)
  • Glycyrrhiza inflata root extract (if the root of the Chinese species G. inflata is used)

To make things a little more confusing, some products contain active constituents known as glycyrrhizic acid or glycyrrhetinic acid (or their salt and ester derivatives) that are found in licorice root extract.

However, there is little scientific evidence (to date) that these compounds have skin-lightening effects. Instead, they are used as skin-conditioning agents in skincare and body care products due to their soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. Names to keep an eye out for on ingredient lists include:

  • Glycyrrhizic acid – this is the main chemical component of licorice root and it is also the main component responsible for the sweet taste that licorice has (it is 50 times sweeter than sugar). It is present in concentrations of 1% to 24% in the root of the licorice plant (depending on growing conditions and area of origin). Although glycyrrhizic acid is an antioxidant and may play a role in brightening the skin, it is mainly known for its abilities to help calm the skin and decrease sensitization. Glycyrrhizic acid is used at 0.1% in skincare products.
  • Glycyrrhetinic acid – This ingredient is derived from glycyrrhizic acid or from shredded licorice shoots. It has strong soothing and anti-irritant properties and has also been shown to calm skin sensitization caused by sunburn and insect bites. It works by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and maintaining cortisol (an anti-inflammatory naturally present in the skin) in its active form. Glycyrrhetinic acid has been shown to weakly inhibit melanogenesis and tyrosinase activity (its derivatives have been found to have a stronger inhibitory effect). This ingredient is used at a maximum concentration of 2% in skincare products.
  • Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate – this is a salt derived from the licorice root. It is a great anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory and is used in skincare products to improve the appearance of dry and damaged skin, soothe and calm irritated skin. Studies have shown that it may be an effective treatment for atopical dermatitis and it also helps to reduce the redness and irritation associated with rosacea, psoriasis and acne. I couldn’t find any studies that suggest that dipotassium glycyrrhizate is an effective skin brightening agent. It is used in skincare products at a maximum concentration of 1%.
  • Stearyl glycyrrhetinate – this compound is the ester of stearyl alcohol and glycyrrhetinic acid. It also has strong soothing and anti-inflammatory properties and is preferred by skincare brands over glycerrhetinic acid as it contains an oil-soluble molecular group that easily dissolves in lipid environment. It is used at maximum concentrations of 0.1% in skincare products and I also couldn’t find any studies that suggest that this ingredient is effective at fading hyperpigmentation.
  • Ammonium glycyrrhizate – this compound is the ammonium salt of glycyrrhizic acid. It is also a soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredient and is used at maximum concentrations of 5% in skincare products. I found that this ingredient is added a lot to lipsticks, lip balms, toothpastes and other dental hygiene products to mask unpleasant flavors. It is even used in baby care products and shampoos. Again, I couldn’t find any research that investigated its effects on hyperpigmentation.

How Does Licorice Root Extract Fade Hyperpigmentation?

I’ve talked about glycyrrhizic acid above, which is the main component found in licorice root. Although this compound and its derivatives do have benefits for the skin, there is little evidence that it has any skin-brightening properties.

Licorice root does contain many other compounds though, with the most concentrated ones being proteins, sugars, fats, starch and gums, phenols (especially flavonoids) and saponins.

There are a handful of flavonoid components of licorice root that have been shown to have skin-whitening properties:

  • Glabridin, and
  • Liquiritin (plus chemically-similar compounds, including isoliquiritigenin and liquiritigenin)
chemical constituents of licorice root extract glycyrrhetinic acid glabridin liquiritin
A look at the chemical structure of some of the chemical constituents found in licorice root extract which I talk about in this article.

Components Of Licorice Root: What Is Glabridin?

Glabridin is probably one of the most intensely studied licorice flavonoids. It was first isolated and characterized in 1976 and every year, the number of scientific publications dealing with its chemical and biological properties increase exponentially.

It is localized only in the cork layer and the decayed part of the roots of Glycyrrhiza glabra, making up a total of 0.08 to 0.35 percent of the roots’ dry weight (once moisture is removed).

Over these years, studies have found that glabridin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-atherogenic, energy metabolism regulation, anti-tumorigenic, anti-nephritic, antibacterial AND skin-whitening properties!

Its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and skin-whitening properties in particular, make licorice root extract (or glabridin-enriched licorice root extract) an attractive ingredient to include in skincare products. In fact, there are currently almost 200 patents associated with the isolation, synthesis, formulation and applications of glabridin (with 70% having a cosmetic or dermatological application).

How Does Glabridin Fade Hyperpigmentation?

Numerous studies have found that glabridin is able to prevent UVB-induced melanin synthesis by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, however most of these studies are in vitro (test tube experiments) only.

One study, found that glabridin is better at inhibiting tyrosinase than kojic acid (another popular skin-whitening ingredient). Another study found that topical application of 0.5% glabridin to the skin of guinea pigs reduces UVB- induced erythema and hyperpigmentation.

Synthetic glabridins as well as chemically modified versions of glabridin (called glycosides) have also been found to have tyrosinase-inhibiting effects. There are many patents dedicated to the formulation of glabridin for skin-whitening effects.

Although the research sounds promising, it has to be noted that the studies above used relatively high concentrations of glabridin (around 0.5%), whereas this compound has only been localized only in the cork layer and the decayed part of licorice roots and only comprises a total of 0.08 to 0.35 percent of the dry weight (once moisture is removed). While many of the patents I mentioned are dedicated to finding the optimum glabridin extraction methods, so far they have all been time-consuming (with many steps involved), expensive (as many inorganic solvents are needed), with the purity of the end product being questionable and not safe for cosmetic use (see an in-depth study here).

Components Of Licorice Root: What Is Liquiritin?

Some studies that have investigated the inhibitory effect of licorice root extract on tyrosinase activity, have found its effect to be higher than is expected from the level of glabridin in the extract alone – suggesting that there is another compound that is able to inhibit tyrosinase.

Licorice root extract has been shown to contain other beneficial flavonoids besides glabridin, however there is one in particular that has been found to have the ability to fade hyperpigmentation: liquiritin.

Liquiritin is actually a similar compound to liquiritigenin, which is also found in licorice root extract.

In contrast to glabridin, which has only been detected in the roots of one species of licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra), liquiritigenin and liquiritin have been detected in all 3 major species (Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis and Glycyrrhiza inflata).

How Does Liquiritin Fade Hyperpigmentation?

Not much research has been conducted on the ability of liquiritigenin or liquiritin to fade hyperpigmentation. However, one study conducted in Pakistan showed that a solution containing 2% liquiritin was significantly more effective at fading melasma than a 4% hydroquinone solution when applied topically for 8 weeks.

One other study (conducted in Egypt) asked subjects to apply a 20% liquiritin cream on one side of the face (and a control cream on the other side) twice daily for 4 weeks. The results showed that the majority of subjects had an “excellent response” to the side of the face treated with the liquiritin cream (whereas the control side of the face exhibited no response).

So how do these flavonoids actually work?

The tiny bit of research available at the moment suggests that these compounds inhibit tyrosinase activity, thereby helping to prevent the production of melanin (and therefore pigmentation of the skin).

But Liquiritin May Also Increase Skin Pigmentation

I couldn’t believe it when I came across 2 studies (here, and here) that report on the ability of liquiritin and/or liquiritigenin to actually promote melanogenesis by upregulating melanogenesis-related genes!

What the researchers found was that as the dose of liquiritin and liquiritigenin were increased (in their in vitro studies), the tyrosinase activity increased too. In other words, liquiritin and liquiritigenin were found to increase melanin formation.

The authors of one of the studies even suggested that these flavonoids (and possibly similar flavonoids found in licorice root extract) may be used as ‘potentially potent and safe’ tanning agents!

liquiritin skin hyperpigmentation licorice root tyrosinase activity
The effects of liquiritin (LQ) and liquiritigenin (LQG) on mushroom tyrosinase activity (A) and intracellular tyrosinase activity of mouse melanoma cells (B). As the concentration of LQ and LQG are increased, the tyrosinase activity was seen to increase in both tests compared to the control (in white).

So, How Effective Is Licorice Root Extract At Fading Hyperpigmentation?

If you’re confused now, that’s okay – because I’m confused too. Does this mean that licorice root extract isn’t a good ingredient for fading hyperpigmentation?

Personally, I think more research needs to be done in this area to know for sure how effective licorice root extract is at fading hyperpigmentation. A lot of the research so far has focused on the antioxidant and skin-calming effects of glycyrrhizic acid (the main constituent of licorice root extract).

The studies that have investigated the tyrosinase-inhibiting effects of licorice root extract have only focused on particular compounds on their own – and at concentrations that are much higher than those found naturally in licorice root. We therefore don’t know for certain if the minute amount of tyrosinase-inhibiting flavonoids present in our skincare products is enough to have an effect.

The two studies that found that liquiritin is able to increase melanin formation also used concentrations much higher than those found in licorice root. In other words, we really don’t know if licorice root extract has the ability to increase hyperpigmentation since it only contains minute amounts of liquiritin.

I’ve decided to continue to use skincare products that contain licorice root extract as I haven’t noticed an increase in hyperpigmentation on my skin. Even if licorice root extract isn’t helping to fade my hyperpigmentation, my skin still benefits from it’s soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.

If you are worried about using liquiritin on your skin, then you could still benefit from the soothing effects of licorice root by using skincare products that contain glycyrrhizic acid, glycyrrhetinic acid, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, stearyl glycyrrhetinate, and ammonium glycyrrhizate. These are all compounds derived from licorice root extract (which I listed at the start of this article).

Licorice Root Extract Is Great For People With Sensitive Skin

If you’re wanting to fade hyperpigmentation or brighten your skin, then licorice root extract may be a good ingredient to include in your skincare routine if you have sensitive skin or suffer from rosacea, psoriasis or acne. This is because it’s extremely effective at calming and soothing the skin and doesn’t cause irritation and other side effects that are so often associated with other ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C and hydroquinone.

Licorice root extract would be a great ingredient to combine with niacinamide (vitamin B3) if you have sensitive skin. Niacinamide is a well-researched ingredient that has been shown to be almost as effective as hydroquinone at fading hyperpigmentation (plus it has loads of other skin benefits).

Niacinamide works a bit differently to the compounds found in licorice root extract (it inhibits the transfer of melanin to the skin cells of the epidermis rather than inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase). It’s also a very popular ingredient in Korean skincare products as it’s very gentle on the skin and doesn’t cause any irritation.

I Want To Give Licorice Root Extract A Try. What Are The Best Korean Products?

Although licorice root extract has become a well-known natural ingredient, it’s still difficult to find many Korean skincare products that contain it in their formulations. What I found was that instead of using licorice root extract, many products contain one of the soothing compounds found in licorice root. In particular, I found that many products contain dipotassium glycyrrhizate (which I mentioned towards the start of this article).

If you are wanting to include licorice root extract in your skincare routine, then I highly recommend trying one of the following three Korean skincare products:

best korean skincare products with licorice root extract skin brightening soothing hyperpigmentation

1. COSRX Triple C Lightning Liquid

What it’s for:  This vitamin C serum was born out of a special collaboration between Charlotte Cho (the founder of SokoGlam) and COSRX. It’s a powerful skin-brightening serum as it contains 20.5% pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid).

Full ingredients list: Aronia Melanocarpa fruit extract (Black Chokeberry), Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), Butylene glycol, Sodium lactate, Licorice root extract, 1,2- Hexanediol, Pullulan, Sodium hyaluronate, Cassia obtusifolia seed extract, Allantoin

Other notable ingredients (besides licorice root extract): This vitamin C serum contains 72% black chokeberry, a fruit extract that stabilizes the high concentration of vitamin C. It also contains sodium hyaluronate (which helps to keep your skin hydrated) and allantoin (which is a by-product of uric acid that has many skin benefits, mainly helping to soothe and heal the skin).

Texture and fragrance: This vitamin C serum is fragrance free, however it has a slight citrus scent from the ascorbic acid. It’s a very runny serum, which does make it a bit more difficult to apply, but it does sink into the skin very quickly and doesn’t leave a sticky residue.

Who Should Use It: This serum is suitable for all skin types. It’s great for people wanting to fade hyperpigmentation such as sun spots, acne scars (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) or melasma.

Where to buy: SokoGlam

2. Danahan Ginseng Seed Secret Essence

What it’s for:  This is a powerful nourishing, moisturizing and anti-aging hanbang (herbal) essence that helps to brighten the skin and give your skin a healthy glow.

Full ingredients list: Panax Ginseng Root Water, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Dimethicone, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Glycerin, PEG-10 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Betaine, Niacinamide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Sodium Polyacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Fragrance, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Trideceth-6, Panax Ginseng Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Camellia Japonica Seed Extract, Camellia Sinensis Seed Extract, Isostearyl Palmitate, Polysilicone-11, Xanthan Gum, Chrysanthellum Indicum Extract, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Water, Butylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Extract, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Stearate, PVM/MA copolymer, Hydrolyzed Ginseng Saponins, Isohexadecane, Ceteth-7 PEG-5 Rapeseed Sterol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Seed Extract, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Extract, Prunus Mume Seed Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Seed Extract, Pinus Koraiensis Seed Extract, Cholestero,l PEG-100 Stearate, Disodium EDTA, Sorbitan Stearate, Brassica Campestris (rapeseed) sterols, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl taurate, Dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline, Phytosterols, Panax Ginseng Seed Oil, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Caprylyl Glycol Magnolia Officinalis Bark Extract, Honey Extract, Sucrose Cocoate, Poria Cocos Extract

Other notable ingredients (besides licorice root extract): This essence contains a complex of ginseng extracts – Panax ginseng root extract, Panax ginseng extract, Panax ginseng root water, Panax ginseng seed oil, and hydrolyzed ginseng saponins . Ginseng is a powerful anti-aging ingredient that has been used in traditional Korean medicine for centuries. It’s quickly become one of the most popular plant-derived ingredients in Korean skincare – especially for skincare lines with a hanbang (traditional herbal medicine) focus.

This essence also contains niacinamide for skin brightening, as well as many humectant ingredients (including butylene glycol, glycerin, sodium hyaluronate and panthenol). It also contains many other nourishing plant extracts (that provide the skin with powerful antioxidants), as well as rice extract, beneficial plant oils and honey extract.

Texture and fragrance: The texture of this essence is a little different to most other Korean essences, in that it is thicker. However, it’s not sticky or greasy and it feels lightweight on the skin. This essence is scented, however it’s not overpowering and is an earthy-natural scent.

Who Should Use It: I think this essence would be great for dry to combination skin types, especially for anyone in their 30’s or older who are looking to incorporate some anti-aging skincare products into their routine.

Where to buy: SokoGlam

3. I’m From Mugwort Mask

What it’s for:  The I’m From Mugwort Mask is a gentle wash-off mask made with the highest quality mugwort from Ganghwa County in Korea to calm and soothe irritated, red or sensitive skin.

Full ingredients list: Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Artemisia Princeps Leaf Powder, 1,2-Hexanediol, Cordyceps Sinensis Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Methylpropanediol, Ligularia Fishceri Leaf Extract, Rosa Davurica Bud Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Sodium Polyacrylaste, Carbomer, Arginine, Phenoxyethanol, Allantoin, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA

Other notable ingredients (besides licorice root extract): As the name suggests, this mask contains mugwort (which is often listed on skincare products as artemisia), an ancient Korean herb that has been used for centuries for it’s soothing, healing and nourishing properties.

It contains Centella asiatica extract, allantoin, and dipotassium glycyrrhizate, which all help to soothe inflamed, irritated and sensitized skin. Also included in this mask are plenty of hydrating (humectant) ingredients, such as butylene glycol, glycerin, and panthenol.

Texture and fragrance: This mask is a little different to what many people might be used to. It’s a brown jelly-like mask with many fine (yet very soft) pieces of mugwort dispersed within it. Because it contains so many hanbang ingredients, it has a natural earthy scent. It doesn’t contain any artificial fragrance or essential oils.

Who Should Use It: This mask is suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin (and it’s gentle enough to use daily). People with acne may also benefit from this mask due to mugwort’s healing properties.

Where to buy: Yesstyle and Amazon

The Best Western Skincare Products With Licorice Root Extract

Many people use a mix of Korean and Western products in their skincare routine -and that’s really okay (I do it too). It all comes down to knowing what your skin needs and which ingredients to include and avoid to get the best results.

There are 2 Western skincare products that I’d really like to mention here as they are absolutely wonderful products to include in your routine (and they contain licorice root extract of course):

best skincare products with licorice root extract skin brightening hyperpigmentation paula's choice niacinamide booster drunk elephant c-firma day serum

1. Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster

What it’s for: This serum contains the highest concentration of niacinamide available in any skincare product on the market. It’s an amazing serum for improving uneven skin tone and brightening hyperpigmentation. Niacinamide also helps to reduce pore size and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles!

Full ingredients list: Water (Aqua), Niacinamide, Acetyl Glucosamine, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Butylene Glycol, Phospholipids, Sodium Hyaluronate , Allantoin, Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract, Glycerin, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract, Ubiquinone, Epigallocatechin Gallate, Beta-Glucan, Panthenol, Carnosine, Genistein , Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol

Other notable ingredients (besides licorice root extract): The ingredients list of this niacinamide booster is amazing (yes, I nerd-out on ingredients lists all the time!). It contains so many humectant ingredients (such as butylene glycol, sodium hyaluronate, glycerin, beta-glucan and panthenol). It also contains many antioxidants and ascorbyl glucoside (a vitamin C derivative that helps to fade hyperpigmentation too). It also contains allantoin, dipotassium glycyrrhizate and Boerhavia diffusa (punarnava) root extract to help soothe the skin.

Texture and fragrance: This serum is extremely lightweight. It’s clear and sinks into the skin immediately without leaving a sticky residue, and it’s fragrance-free. It only has a very mild scent (from the ingredients it contains), however it’s hardly noticeable at all.

Who Should Use It: This serum is suitable for all skin types and I think anyone can benefit from it since niacinamide is such a versatile ingredient with so many benefits.

Where to buy: Paula’s Choice and Amazon

2. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

What it’s for: This is a potent skin-brightening and skin-firming day serum containing 15% L-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C).

Full ingredients list: Water/Aqua/Eau, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ascorbic Acid, Laureth-23, Glycerin, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Tocopherol, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Phytosterols, Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Ferulic Acid, Acetyl Glucosamine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tetrahydrobisdemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane, Glycine, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbitan Isostearate, Propanediol, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Chlorphenesin, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Potassium Sorbate, Sorbic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin

Other notable ingredients (besides licorice root extract): This serum is packed full of potent antioxidants. It also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid, which increase the effectiveness of vitamin C. It contains many plant extracts whose antioxidant properties help to neutralize pollution, environmental stressors and the damaging effects of free radicals. It also contains sodium hyaluronate and butylene glycol to help keep your skin hydrated and pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract which help to exfoliate dead skin cells.

Texture and fragrance: This serum contains no essential oils or artificial fragrances and it has a slight golden color due to the curcuminoids it contains. It does feel a little sticky when applied to the skin, but sunscreen and makeup still wear well over the top of it.

Who Should Use It: Anyone looking to fade hyperpigmentation or prevent photo-aging would benefit from this serum. However, if you have oily skin, you may not like the somewhat sticky texture.

Where to buy: Amazon and Sephora


Although licorice root extract is definitely an effective ingredient for soothing and calming the skin, I think more research is needed to determine how effective it is at fading hyperpigmentation.

Yes, research has shown that some of the compounds found in licorice root (glabridin in particular) are able to prevent pigmentation from occurring. However, most of these studies have been in vitro (test tube studies) only, with much higher concentrations of glabridin used than is naturally present in licorice root extract.

That being said, I think licorice root extract is still a worthwhile ingredient to include in your skincare routine, especially if you have sensitive skin that can’t tolerate other skin-brightening ingredients (such as retinoids, vitamin C and hydroquinone).

Currently, it appears that licorice root extract is more often used in skincare products as a calming and soothing ingredient, rather than a brightening ingredient. Even more so, some of the active constituents found in licorice root (such as glycyrrhizic acid or dipotassium glycyrrhizate) are added to skincare products for their soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.

I hope I’ve answered all your questions about licorice root extract and how effective it is at fading hyperpigmentation. Are you using any products with licorice root extract or do you want to try incorporating licorice root extract into your routine? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!