Why Licorice Root Extract is a Rising Star in the Treatment Room

Glass of liquorice rootsGlass of liquorice rootsGlycyrrhiza glabra doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but you probably know it by its more common name—licorice. A popular childhood candy in the mid-1900s, licorice has since made its way from the playground to the pantry to the treatment room, where its root extract is used to reduce hyper-pigmentation and soothe skin. Read on to learn more about why and how this sweet sensation is trending in the spa world.

Why it’s a skincare all-star: Considered a natural alternative to the controversial hydroquinone, licorice extract contains glabridin, a flavonoid that inhibits pigmentation. As such, it reduces hyper-pigmentation and evens out skin tone. It also boasts soothing properties that can help calm inflammation and tone down redness in clients with rosacea. It may even offer promise as a natural sun protector: Research published in the January 2015 issue of Experimental Dermatology suggests that the antioxidant active Licochalcone A, the main component of the root extract of the plant Glycyrrhiza inflate (Chinese licorice), is able to protect the skin from subsequent UV irradiation damage by bolstering the skin’s own defense systems.

In the treatment room: Skin Deep & Beyond MedSpa in Tualatin, Oregon, offers a Bright Skin Facial (60 min./$69) featuring Éminence’s Bright Skin Masque and Bright Skin Licorice Booster-Serum. “Following the facial, clients report that their skin feels soft and hydrated, and looks bright and even-toned,” shares Stefani Miller, an esthetician at the spa. For guests with rosacea or microcirculation problems, Emerald Springs Spa in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, provides an RS2 Rosacea Soothing Relief Facial (60 min./$125) using Pevonia’s rosacea line. “This service is so anti-inflammatory and calming,” reports Jamie Garland, one of the spa’s estheticians, adding that she likes to send clients home with the products afterwards to prolong the benefits.

As for melasma, the jury’s still out. Some studies have found that licorice may help counteract the signs of this stubborn skin condition, but facialist Joanna Vargas, with salons in New York City and West Hollywood, California, disagrees. “Licorice does make the skin appear a bit brighter and healthier, but it doesn’t dramatically change something like melasma,” she opines.

Robin Ferro, owner of The Spa and Makeup Bar in Owings Mill, Maryland, employs HydroPeptide’s Firming Moisturizer in the spa’s add-on Firming Leg Treatment (30 min./$65). “I often use this lotion on the décolleté and arms as well, especially if my client has a lot of hyper-pigmentation, laxity or dryness in the skin,” she reports. “It goes on so lightly and absorbs well, and lends a really cool, refreshing feeling.”

Check out five products below that contain licorice.

–by Lesley McCave

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