The root extract of licorice is best known for its pleasant flavoring. About 20 years ago, scientists isolated three specific compounds in licorice that are useful for skin care products, one of which is Glabridin – a skin whitening ingredient. Glabridin works by inhibiting the production of melanin (the pigment that causes skin discoloration). After repeated application, the outer layer of the darker skin is replaced by lighter skin. Another ingredient isolated from licorice is licochalcone (glycyrrhiza glabra) which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. It’s being used in acne products to control oil production. Clinical studies have not yet been conducted on how these compounds compares to the other skin lighteners or anti-inflammatories, or what their ideal concentrations may be, since only minute quantities exist in licorice extract. The challenge for cosmetic manufacturers is to isolate enough of these compounds to create an effective whitener or anti-aging cream that is economically viable. One thing for certain is that licorice is safe for human consumption since it’s been used through the ages as a food additive around the world.

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