Skin forms the first line of defense for human body against various environmental factors including sun’s UV radiation. UV radiation causes stress on the skin cells leading to the release of oxy radicals or reactive oxygen species that damage the skin. Various sun screens and blockers are available in the market to protect the skin from UV. Sun blockers form a large segment in the skin care and beauty products industry. But the after-effects or side effects of using these sun blockers are not to be undermined.
A research team led by Gitta Neufang, from Beiersdorf AG, Hamburg, Germany discovered the potential of a plant extract that can boost the skin’s defense systems to fight the effects of UV radiation. Gitta Neufang said, “We found out that the antioxidant active Licochalcone A, which is the main component of the root extract of the plant Glycyrrhiza inflata (Chinese Licorice), is able to protect the skin from subsequent UV irradiation damage from within, by strengthening the skin’s own defense systems. Thus, plant extracts with the described profile are able to provide a protective shield from sun exposure- supporting and going beyond the action of sunscreens regarding sun protection”.
The effectiveness of this compound was tested by treating skin cells exposed to UV radiation in the laboratory and identified that the cells treated with Licochalcone A show significantly reduced levels of oxy radicals that damage the cells. Also, Licochalcone A- a rich root extract was tested on the inner forearms of healthy volunteers for two weeks and the results have shown Licochalcone A application, to protect the skin from damage after UV irradiation. This study also discovered that Licochalcone A induces the elevated expression of cytoprotective and anti-inflammatory enzymes like heme oxygenase 1 and glutamate-cysteine ligase modifier subunit via a protein called NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf-2). In brief, Licochalcone A works from inside the skin cells to fight the UV stress by inducing the expression of antioxidant enzymes which in turn will take care of harmful oxy radicals unlike the sunscreens that form a protective covering on top of the skin.
The original publication can be accessed here.