You might associate licorice with some of your favorite childhood candy – but did you know that licorice actually contains lots of powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can be transformative for the skin? A traditional Chinese herb, licorice has been in use for over 4000 years in alternative medicine, often used to treat wounds and problems with indigestion. Boasting both skincare benefits and health-enhancing properties, this herb has made a recent comeback in the skincare world, with brands touting its restorative properties both in their topical products as well as in licorice herbal teas. Licorice is now even being touted as an effective acne treatment, so we knew we had to investigate.
As I explain in my guide, Unmasking Acne, most forms of acne can be eliminated completely through nutrition. So, licorice root tea: acne miracle or overhyped? Let’s take a look.
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What Is Licorice Root?
Licorice originates from the Glycyrrhiza glabra flowering plant, which translates literally to “sweet root” in Greek. Native to warmer climates such as Africa, Southern Europe, and India, Licorice’s most potent properties are found in the licorice root. While it was once used to treat wounds, sores, and digestive problems, licorice is now touted as an effective skincare remedy. Advocates of this herb claim that it can help improve the following health and skincare concerns:
- Dark spots
Licorice can be applied topically (when used as a key ingredient in a manufactured skincare product or in a DIY product) or it can be ingested through drinking licorice root tea. You can also buy licorice supplements, although I suggest sticking to a topical application or tea for skincare purposes. In this article, we’re going to cover both types of licorice root and discuss each’s benefits for acne-prone skin.
What Are The Benefits Of Licorice Root For Skin?
At Goodglow, we’ve talked a lot about the benefits of drinking herbal teas for acne. Herbal teas have been proven for decades to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory benefits for the skin, and they help those of us with acne-prone skin keep our skin hydrated and glowing from within.
So, what are the benefits of licorice root tea when it comes to the overall condition of our skin? Licorice root has been scientifically proven to provide various skin and health benefits, including helping visibly improve the appearance of eczema, acne, and skin hyperpigmentation. Here are some of the key benefits of licorice root for the skin:
Licorice Fades Dark Spots and Hyperpigmentation
Licorice root contains an active compound called liquiritin, which helps control any excess melanin in the skin (aka dark spots caused by sun or aging.) Licorice root works by blocking melanin production, while two other active compounds (licochalcone A and Glabridin) actively lighten the skin. If your skin has suffered oxidative damage from exposure to free radicals, you might notice dark spots or skin discoloration; licorice root can help improve its appearance and give your skin a brighter, more even, and uniform look.
Licorice Eases Inflammation
If you’ve got acne-prone skin like me, you’ll know that inflammation is one of the most common triggers for a spontaneous breakout. Whether it be general redness, itchiness, or skin sensitivity, inflammation and acne-prone skin do not pair well together. Fortunately, licorice root is great at providing a natural remedy to skin inflammation: studies have shown that the licorice root helps soothe inflamed skin; even helping bites and mild wounds!
Is Licorice Root Anti-Aging?
Yes! While licorice isn’t a traditional anti-aging ingredient (such as retinol), it works nonetheless to improve the appearance of dark spots, which some consider to be signs of skin aging. Due to the liquiritin in licorice root, the appearance of sun-damaged skin and dark spots will be improved over time and seem less visible, resulting in more youthful-looking skin.
Is Licorice Root Anti-Inflammatory?
Yes, licorice root is anti-inflammatory, which means that it helps the skin fight off damage from free radicals, and, in the case of licorice root, can also help regulate skin discoloration (i.e, sunspots and dark spots.) Licorice root contains an antioxidant flavonoid, as well as licochalcone A, which is also known to be a powerful antioxidant for the skin.
Is Licorice Root Anti-Bacterial?
Like lots of other natural herbs and extracts, licorice contains antifungal and antimicrobial properties. This is great for helping protect your skin’s barrier and preventing bacteria from sitting on the skin and mingling with oil: this excess bacteria, when allowed to linger on the skin’s surface, can clog your pores and trigger spontaneous outbreaks.
Can I Use Licorice Root For Acne Scars?
There are a number of key components in Licorice root that make it ideal for use in an anti-acne skincare routine. Firstly, as I explained above, the anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties help to effectively protect the skin’s barrier, preventing the clogging of pores and subsequent breakouts. Secondly, licorice root contains two active compounds, licochalcone A and Glabridin, both of which are antioxidants with a proven record in brightening and whitening the skin. If you have dark acne scars, incorporating licorice root into your skincare routine (either via licorice root tea or by using a topical product) can be a natural, non-abrasive way to improve the appearance of acne scarring.
Does Licorice Help Acne?
Although the studies on licorice root and acne are minimal, licorice root does contain the compound licochalcone A, as I’ve already explained. This compound has been known to help the production of oil in the skin, which would naturally be beneficial to anyone with acne-prone skin. That being said, studies are limited on whether or not licorice is as effective as other anti-acne ingredients such as retinol or black seed oil.
How To Use Licorice Root
So, now that you know about the benefits of licorice root, how do we get it into our bodies? You have two options: you can obtain the benefits of licorice root either by drinking a licorice root tea or applying a product topically to the skin. In this section I’m going to go over common methods of taking licorice root, some of the best licorice root products for the skin, and alert you to a couple of potential side effects that you should be aware of before trying out this herbal remedy.
Drink Licorice Root Tea
One of the easiest ways to obtain the benefits of licorice root is to drink licorice root tea. Drinking licorice root tea, as opposed to applying it topically to the skin, will provide all-round health benefits and a boost to your system. Aside from skincare concerns, drinking licorice tea can offer the following healthcare benefits:
- Can protect the body against infection
- Digestive aid – can improve digestive troubles such as peptic ulcers, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome
- Can help reduce the symptoms of acid reflux
- Like all herbal teas, licorice root tea offers all-over antioxidant, anti-inflammation properties as well as natural hydration
What Are The Benefits of Herbal Teas for Acne?
Herbal teas are great for acne because they offer natural alternatives to manufactured skincare products. Having suffered with acne for years and overloaded my skin with product after product, I’m now a reformed minimalist when it comes to taking care of my acne-prone skin. There are definitely a couple of skincare products I love (we’ll get to that in a moment) but personally, I find that drinking herbal teas such as matcha green tea and basil tea do more for my skin than certain high-end skincare products have done. My philosophy is simple: problem skin is best treated from the inside out. You can take a look at our eBook, Unmasking Acne, if you’d like to know more about using your diet to treat acne and problem skin.
Use Licorice Root Products for Skin
If you’re not able to get over the licorice root smell and can’t stomach the idea of drinking licorice tea over your morning cereal, you always have the option of using a skincare product that lists licorice root as one of its active ingredients. Using a topical product can sometimes be more effective than ingesting a supplement, as you’re applying the ingredient directly onto the area you wish to treat. Plus, when using topical skincare products, you also have the option of combining it with micro needling to enhance the absorption of the skincare product. Micro-needling is especially effective when combined with a product with scar-healing properties, such as licorice root.
Best Licorice Root Products for Skin
If you’re going to be applying a topical skincare product infused with licorice root, you’re going to want to opt for a toner, cleanser, or serum: these products won’t be overloaded with other ingredients (such as a moisturizer or mask might be) and will therefore offer a higher concentration of the star ingredient without clogging your pores. One licorice root skincare product that I could recommend would be Clearstem’s Antioxidant-Infused Scrub Cleanser: I’ve started exclusively using this cleanser before bed and I love how soothing it is on my skin: despite certain cleansers being too abrasive and causing inflammation (and subsequent breakouts) on my skin, I’ve never had a problem with this one.
Licorice Root DIY Toner
If you want to keep things au naturel, did you know that you can make your own licorice root DIY toner? I completely understand those who want to keep manufactured skincare products away from their acne-prone skin, so I’ve noted down a quick step-by-step guide for making your own licorice root toner. For this toner, you’ll need licorice powder, rose water and lemon water. You can find licorice powder on Amazon for a reasonable price, or at any standard health and wellness store.
- Start by sieving your licorice powder, ensuring a smooth consistency with no lumps
- Mix your licorice powder with the rosewater and lemon juice until a smooth consistency forms – you want to add enough liquid so that it takes on a typical toner, spritzable form
- Put the mixture in a toner bottle and keep refrigerated to ensure freshness
- Use after cleansing your face, before applying moisturizer
Side Effects of Licorice Root
As with all herbal remedies, it’s important to be aware of any potential side effects before adding a new product into your diet. The following side effect warnings apply to drinking licorice root tea, not applying topical products. (When it comes to looking out for side effects with topical licorice products, simply carry out a patch test on the hand or jawline before applying the product all over the face.)
Herbal teas can often be problematic when it comes to testosterone in men. Herbal teas – such as peppermint tea – can deregulate testosterone production in men, which can lead to all sorts of problems if consumed regularly. Don’t drink too much, or opt for alternative herbal teas if you start to notice problems.
High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, you’ll want to consult with your physician before incorporating licorice root tea into your diet. Some studies show that it can spike blood pressure in certain individuals, so it’s best to consume in moderation.
If you’re pregnant, it’s best to avoid drinking licorice root tea. Always consult your doctor before trying herbal teas during your pregnancy, as certain are unsuitable for expectant or breastfeeding mothers. If you dealing with pregnancy acne there are lots of resources on this site that can help clear your skin without jeopardizing the health of you or your child.