anti-aging, Beauty Tips, Organic Beauty, Skincare


In honor of this week’s SHINE sale, I’m dedicating a post to two superstars in SHINE’s formula: little-known (and very potent) skin brighteners bearberry extract and licorice extract.

A common skin care ailment that many people struggle with is skin discoloration. Whether the discoloration is from sun spots, age spots, acne scars or an uneven skin tone–we’ve all been hit with it at one point or another. Even if your sun damage isn’t showing itself on the surface just yet, it’s usually creeping underneath, and is readily visible with UV photography (look here) or the “structure” function on instagram’s editing suite.

In any case, who doesn’t want brighter, clearer skin?! It’s kind of a no brainer. Both skin texture (clarity) and even skin tone are top contributing determinants for facial attractiveness (read full paper).. that’s like 2 of the top determinants out of the main 5. So, what can we do to achieve it?

Enter nature’s heroes: bearberry and licorice extracts.

Today we’ll talk all about the skin benefits of bearberry extract and licorice extract, using science (Woo hoo!) and how to fit them both into your skincare routine.

Bearberry and licorice extracts sound like something you would find in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory instead of your bathroom vanity, but they are actually some of the hottest skincare ingredients on the market today! While I am generally very wary of “hot trends” in the skincare world, these ingredients may actually have some great benefits!



Everytime someone asks me about how SHINE works and I mention bearberry as the #1 brightening extract–after the main carrier oil, organic pomegranate seed oil, of course, which is high in brightening vitamin C–I get a “Bear what? Bear berry!? What’s that?”

Bearberry has risen significantly in popularity since it was featured in a 2014 episode of Dr. Oz.  Oz claimed that bearberry extract prevents visible signs of aging (like age spots). While I won’t comment on the reliability Dr. Oz’s advice or the sensationality of television, I can tell you that bearberry really works. Here’s why: the leaves of the common bearberry contain arbutin, a natural compound that has been shown to inactivate the enzyme responsible for skin pigmentation.


The leaves of the common bearberry contain arbutin, a natural compound that has been shown to inactivate the enzyme responsible for skin pigmentation.



Bearberry foliage, the part of the Arctostaphylos uva-ursi plant that is most commonly used in cosmetic formulations, has been shown to effectively scavenge free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin (source). A study published in the March 2004 issue of Food Chemistryfound that bearberry leaf extract had even stronger free radical scavenging (i.e. antioxidant) properties than extracts made from wild licorice, senega, narrow-leaved echinacea, and aerial parts of two varieties of horsetail.

Even though bearberry sounds like the name of a children’s cereal box character, it packs a serious punch when it comes to anti aging benefits!



Licorice, the third most potent brightening agent in SHINE, isn’t just for old-fashioned candy! Licorice extract has anti-inflammatory properties and may interrupt the stimulation of the enzyme that activates production of melanin, the skin’s pigment. This makes it a powerful ingredient for improving dark spots and areas of hyperpigmentation.

Not only does it improve the appearance of dark spots, but it also has the ability to clear up acne-causing bacteria. It contains a component known as glabridin that is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient. This also makes it great for sensitive, reddened skin.


Glabridin, the main ingredient in the hydrophobic fraction of licorice extract, inhibits truosinase activity.. without affecting DNA synthesis.

Funny names and Dr. Oz hype aside, bearberry and licorice extracts are serious power players in the anti aging game. If you’re looking to clear up any dark spots and boost the antioxidants in your skincare regimen, I highly recommend looking into products that contain these two ingredients. They will help make your skin look clearer, brighter, and slow down the appearance of aging. And who doesn’t want that?!

“Licorice extract has several active compounds that may stimulate or suppress the formation of melanin.” According to one study, “Glabridin, the main ingredient in the hydrophobic fraction of licorice extract, inhibits tyrosinase activity…without affecting DNA synthesis. Other active compounds (such as glabrene, isoliquiritigenin licuraside, isoliquiritin, and licochalcone A) isolated from licorice extracts, were also shown to inhibit tyrosinase activity.” (source)



You can’t deny the benefits of (or research backing up) arbutin and glabridin, the natural brightening agents found in these extracts. Both offer the benefits of traditional whiteners like hydroquinone, without the potential side effects (see FDA Q&A here – which basically says “we’re letting companies keep using it while we do more research on its safety”.. eek). While hydroquinone use is still wide-spread and used in many OTC bleaching / whitening and brightening creams, I’ll be skipping it for now. If you still choose to use hydroquinone, please read this informative blog first.



Incorporating natural bearberry and licorice extracts into your skincare routine can be tough. As less-known brightening agents, not many products contain either extract yet. Even if the product contains bearberry or licorice extract, you need to consider the extraction process and source.


Do not apply a concentrated licorice or bearberry extract directly to your face.


In any case, you can add a small amount of licorice or bearberry extract directly to your skincare product, keeping in mind the formulation of the existing product and its solubility, as well as safe concentrations of the extract you’re using (that information should be readily available from the extract manufacturer). Remember that like mixes with like! With a little additional research online and some testing at home, you can probably get it right 😉  If this is something you’re considering–awesome. I’ll get more into detail on oil and alcohol-based extracts below.

Do not apply a concentrated licorice or bearberry extract directly to your face. Extracts are highly concentrated forms of the ingredients. You should in general, be applying 1-10% concentration of an extract, depending on the ingredient and extraction method. If you’re DIY-ing this, read the instructions from the manufacturer, which will be pertinent only to that extract, in that batch, from that manufacturer.

If you’re not down to DIY and looking for an awesome product already containing these powerful extracts, look no further than our SHINE brightening face oil (here).



In general, I prefer to use oil-based extracts in my products because I believe in the process: oil extracts are those in which the active compound sits in a carrier oil at a low-temperature for 6-8 weeks, until the active compounds have been thoroughly extracted from the roots, leaves, flowers or berries. I make oil extracts myself and can tell you: the process (which is millenia old) works. 

Any product that’s using an oil-based extract will be an oil itself or a cream, created through an emulsion process. It can be difficult or impossible to know from the ingredient list whether the manufacturer used a water-based or oil-based extract in its ingredient list because.. trade secrets!

Many extracts, however, are tinctures: alcohol-extractions of plant matter. Two top skincare bloggers–Futurederm and Paula’s Choice–argue on whether or not alcohol can be drying or damaging to skin (Futurederm’s post here, Paula’s is here – it’ll just make your head spin) OR whether it can help penetration of key ingredients.

I’d say it’s safe for your skin to use alcohol-based extracts, but again, just keep in mind the concentration, formulation and solubility. It’s always a risk to the product’s stability when you add a new ingredient to an existing formulation, so do your research and don’t try this on a $100+ product (or don’t get mad at me if it doesn’t work out when you do!).



Again, don’t miss out on the skin brightening benefits of these two awesome extracts! Everyone can benefit from skin brightening–whether you have freckles, acne scars, scar-scars, or dark spots/sun damage on your face, hands, decolletage, or legs. We can all benefit from a little brightness in our lives! 😉


  • Thanks a lot for these informations.
    I had heard about these two extracts and their benefits but thanks to you I have so many details. I will definitly include these in my skincare routine.
    By the way, could you tell us where I could by those items and/or some reliable brands I could purchase on internet ?
    Thanks a lot again.
    Paris, France

    • Hi! Our organic facial oil SHINE has both extracts in it at close to the maximum percentage (we also have free international shipping!).

      Otherwise, I would look for a cosmetic ingredient supplier–don’t look on Amazon for these. Formulator’s Sample Shop has both extracts in oil-soluble form (here’s the link for bearberry extract).

      You can put the oil-soluble extracts into an oil mixture at 1-10% concentration. I wouldn’t suggest putting the oil-soluble extract in a cream, or using the water-soluble extracts or tinctures, unless you’re making your own product from scratch and really know what you’re doing. As is the case with any product, you need to either test it for microbes and stability OR just keep a really close eye on the color, smell and consistency to make sure nothing is off.

      Again, your best bet for stability and ease is adding an oil-soluble extract at 1-10% to an existing oil blend 🙂

  • Hi..im soo happy i came across your blog.. im a newbie in the natural skincare world and im planning to make my own oil blends with the bearberry extract.. i just came from a week vacation from the beach and my skin could def need a lot of tlc.

    Can i use rosehip oil, grapeseed oil and bearberry extract in 1 mixture? What is the best ratio i can use? How.long is the shelf life of the said mixture? Is there any particular way of storing it?

    I hope you can shed some light in this new skincare adventure of mine.

    • Hello! This is awesome. Good for you 🙂

      I would suggest first checking that the rosehip and grapeseed oil are 100% cold-pressed, hexane-free, virgin and/or organic oils. Make sure they’re 100% the oil they say they are, not cut with another oil. Is there a reason you chose grapeseed oil, by the way? Rosehip is great, but grapeseed is a bit high in Omega-6s in my opinion and may be inflammatory to your skin.

      It’s up to you on the ratio, but not more than 10% of an oil-based bearberry extract. 10% is the maximum suggested amount. What ratio you divide up the 90% of the rest of the formulation between the rosehip/grapeseed is up to you! Make sure you store it out of direct light (a UV-resistant bottle is better) and at room temperature or lower. You can also store it in the fridge 🙂

  • Hi
    Thanks for the wonderful info! Im 31 and would definitely would like to start using such ingredients for skin brightening and anti aging benefits. My local shop sells these ingredients as a glycerin liquid and I am using licorice on and off on skin and hair (on hair with grear results and on skin with so so results). But i just add half filtered water and half glycerin mixed licorice and then use it striaght. Do you think thats a good way of using it? Also please comment if mulberry extract is good for this purpose too?

    • I’m not sure about the extract you’re using, but typically only 1-10% concentration is recommended for use directly on the skin. 50/50 sounds like it might be too much. You also won’t be able to store that product without a preservative system, so only make as much as you use in about 1 week.

      I haven’t done any research on mulberry extract yet. I’d suggest typing in “mulberry extract skin benefits NIH” into google and pulling up the papers in the NIH database.

  • Hi, I applied Himalaya Bleminor to my skin 1.5 years ago to lighten hyper-pigmentation.

    I accidentally lightened the skin too much – now this area is lighter than my natural skin tone/surrounding skin.

    Himalaya Bleminor contains licorice & thus glabridin.

    This cream prevents re-pigmentation from the sun/UVB light ..

    How can I remove what’s left of the cream in my skin because I have tried to bring back my colour by using a UVB lamp and only the surrounding area was getting darker ..

    This indicates that the skin in question still has the Licorice/glabridin in the skin ..

    Any help would be great, Many thanks

    • Hello – do you happen to have a full ingredient list for the product? I can see online that it does contain Glabridin, but it’s also regulated as a pharmaceutical in India, which leaves me wondering why. None of the ingredients are regulated as pharmaceutical or OTC ingredients, so why would the product be a drug? Let me know if you have the ingredient list!

      • Hi thanks for the reply..it comtain:

        Yashtimmadhu aka Glycyrrhiza glabra
        Vatada aka prunus anygdalus

        Methyparaben IP
        Propylparaben IP

  • Hi , I am 22 years old(and black), I have been exposed to sunlight over the years, and as a result my skin is much darker than before and I can’t seem to get my skin colour back. What do you suggest I use? Thank you.

  • Hi! Can I mix both licorice and bearberry is extract oil with raw melted Shea butter.

    • Hi Malika,
      Thanks for the note. Yes, technically you should be able to do this but it’s tricky to get the right melting temperature for shea butter and the right ratio of bearberry and licorice extracts. If you want to do some testing and try it you should never heat shea butter above 175F (80C) and you should add the bearberry and licorice oils when the temperature decreases to the lowest possible level but can still mix. You should mix by hand.
      Hope this helps


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