It has been confirmed that repeated exposure of skin to ultraviolet (UV) radiation results in cutaneous oxidative stress and inflammation, which act in concert to cause premature skin aging, well known as photoaging. 18β-Glycyrrhetinic acid (GA), widely used to treat various tissue inflammations, is the main active component of licorice root, and has also been shown to possess favorable anti-oxidative property and modulating immunity function. In the present study, we investigated the potential protective effect of GA on UV-induced skin photoaging in a mouse model. During the experimental period of ten consecutive weeks, the dorsal depilated skin of mice was treated with topical GA for 2 hours prior to UV irradiation. The results showed that GA pretreatment significantly alleviated the macroscopic and histopathological damages in mice skin caused by UV. Meanwhile, the data also indicated that GA markedly up-regulated the activities of the antioxidant enzymes (SOD, GSH-Px), and increased the content of skin collagen, while obviously decreased malonaldehyde level and inhibited high expressions of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) and -3 (MMP-3), as well as down-regulated the expression of inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, TNF-α and IL-10. Taken together, these findings amply demonstrate that GA observably attenuates UV-induced skin photoaging mainly by virtue of its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as regulating the abnormal expression of MMP-1 and MMP-3.