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What is Glabridin and What Does It Do for Skincare?

The complete guide of glabridin for skin.

Since licorice extract is such a famous ingredient in skincare formulations, its active compounds have become a major attraction among researchers all over the world. So today’s post will focus on a particular compound — one of the most lauded ones — glabridin, which has been linked with a good part of the skin benefits that the licorice plant possesses.

First, we’ll teach you what glabridin is and learn about its biological activities because this will make it much easier to understand where all the benefits of glabridin for skin come from.

What is glabridin?

Glabridin is an isoflavonoid (chemical component produced by plants) found in the root extract of licorice. The distinctive property of isoflavonoids is that they act as phytoestrogens, meaning they mimic the hormone estrogen, essential for maintaining skin integrity.

Besides, isoflavonoids are known to exhibit potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and tyrosinase-inhibitory activities. As such, glabridin is thought to be one of the main compounds responsible for the skin-care effects of licorice extract, including skin lightening, anti-inflammatory, soothing, anti-aging, and sun protection.[1]

Benefits of glabridin for skin

Below we explain the main benefits of glabridin for the skin.


The theory behind the anti-inflammatory effects of glabridin stays in its inhibiting activity of inflammatory mediators production. Specifically, glabridin has been found to reduce the activity of inflammatory cytokines, which are signaling molecules secreted from immune cells and certain other cell types that promotes inflammation.[1] For this reason, licorice extract is often used to reduce swelling, redness, and itching in inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema.


Polyphenols are known as powerful antioxidants, and so does glabridin. More studies have shown that glabridin can scavage free radicals (unstable molecules that cause tissue damage), preventing skin cells from being oxidized and destroyed.[1][2] More than that, glabridin strengthen the skin’s antioxidant defense mechanism by up-regulating the levels of antioxidant enzymes such as catalase.[3]

UV absorber

Glabridin reduces UV-induced damage by inhibiting inflammation and absorbing free radicals. Not only that, but glabridin may physically block UV light after being applied to the skin, acting as a sunscreen. Besides, the ability of glabridin to reduce UV radiation may also result in improving the stability of vitamins against the degradation caused by UV exposure.


Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, glabridin is also a potent anti-irritant in skincare. In addition, according to some studies, glabridin hinders one major mediator responsible for irritations, the superoxide anion, helping calm and soothe the skin.[4]

Glabridin for skin whitening

If dark spots concern you then you’ll love glabridin even more. Numerous studies have shown that glabridin can effectively reduce the activity of various enzymes responsible for melanin production (skin-darkening pigment), especially tyrosinase activity.[1][5] As a matter of fact, glabridin showed a better tyrosinase hindrance than the widely praised skin-lightening agent kojic acid.

Since glabridin is a potent inhibitor of tyrosinase, it regulates melanin synthesis, having powerful depigmenting and brightening effects. Furthermore, topical application of glabridin was also found to reduce discoloration induced by UV radiation as well as lighten skin color due to the limitation of tyrosinase. For the record, in one study, 0.1% glabridin applied three times daily has significantly lightened the skin in four weeks. So the next time you want to fade hyperpigmentation or even skin tone, consider glabridin for skin whitening.

The numbers say glabridin has a skin lightening effect 16 times greater than that of hydroquinone.[6]

Antibacterial properties

Glabridin also has antibacterial effects that help relieve acne.[1][7] However, research focuses on the activities of licorice extract and not glabridin alone, so more studies are needed to validate its antibacterial power.

How to use it

How to use glabridin in skincare mostly depends on the product on hand — I know, the answer is a cliché, but that’s how things are with skincare ingredients. The common belief is that glabridin-containing products can be used twice daily as a part of the treatment (for hyperpigmentation, photoaging, sun damage) or in your moisturizing regimen.

Is glabridin safe for skin?

Glabridin needs to be used with caution during pregnancy. Other than that, glabridin has a relatively low toxic profile for the skin when it’s applied topically. So glabridin is considered safe for most skin types, and it’s definitely a goodie for people who can’t tolerate harsh ingredients. 

The takeaway 

Any skincare freak should at least give glabridin a try. With an endless list of benefits and low irritation risk, glabridin emerged as an effective solution for relieving skin conditions caused by sun damage and inflammations. Glabridin is an ingredient that actually loves the skin, not messing with it, so there’s a good chance it’ll get on the stage in the following years.

From our side, glabridin for skin gets a big YES!


  1. Simmler C, Pauli GF, Chen SN. Phytochemistry and biological properties of glabridin. Fitoterapia. 2013;90:160-184. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2013.07.003
  2. Rosenblat, Mira & Belinky, Paula & Vaya, Jacob & Levy, Rachel & Hayek, Tony & Coleman, Raymond & Merchav, Shosh & Aviram, Michael. (1999). Macrophage enrichment with the isoflavan glabridin inhibits NADPH oxidase-induced cell-mediated oxidation of low-density lipoprotein – A possible role for protein kinase C. The Journal of biological chemistry. 274. 13790-9. 10.1074/jbc.274.20.13790.
  3. Yehuda I, Madar Z, Szuchman-Sapir A, Tamir S. Glabridin, a phytoestrogen from licorice root, up-regulates manganese superoxide dismutase, catalase and paraoxonase 2 under glucose stress. Phytother Res. 2011 May;25(5):659-67. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3318. Epub 2010 Oct 29. PMID: 21053390.
  4. Rosenblat, Mira & Belinky, Paula & Vaya, Jacob & Levy, Rachel & Hayek, Tony & Coleman, Raymond & Merchav, Shosh & Aviram, Michael. (1999). Macrophage enrichment with the isoflavan glabridin inhibits NADPH oxidase-induced cell-mediated oxidation of low density lipoprotein – A possible role for protein kinase C. The Journal of biological chemistry. 274. 13790-9. 10.1074/jbc.274.20.13790. 
  5. Yokota T, Nishio H, Kubota Y, Mizoguchi M. The inhibitory effect of glabridin from licorice extracts on melanogenesis and inflammation. Pigment Cell Res. 1998 Dec;11(6):355-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0749.1998.tb00494.x. PMID: 9870547.
  6. Hollinger JC, Angra K, Halder RM. Are Natural Ingredients Effective in the Management of Hyperpigmentation? A Systematic Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(2):28-37.
  7. Mitscher LA, Park YH, Clark D, Beal JL. Antimicrobial agents from higher plants. Antimicrobial isoflavanoids and related substances from Glycyrrhiza glabra L. var. typica. J Nat Prod. 1980 Mar-Apr;43(2):259-69. doi: 10.1021/np50008a004. PMID: 7381508.
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