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Skincare FAQ

Glutathione for Skin Whitening: What To Expect

The so-called mother of antioxidants, glutathione, can actually brighten your skin tone.
  • Glutathione is a tripeptide naturally found in our body, possessing high antioxidant activities.
  • Glutathione lightens the skin and fades discolorations by inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme and reducing free radical damage.
  • Research found that glutathione may also improve skin elasticity and reduce facial wrinkles.
  • Glutathione for skin whitening can be used as supplements, injections, and topical preparations.
  • Glutathione for skin is considered safe and well-tolerated.

Hyperpigmentation and uneven tone are skin conditions that need to be addressed at the cellular level, either by regulating melanin production (skin-darkening pigment), eliminating already pigmented cells, or reducing sun damage. As such, to improve discolorations, you’ll have to use skin lightening agents that have been thoroughly researched and scientifically proven to have one or more of these brightening mechanisms. Here’s where glutathione for skin whitening takes the stage. 

What is glutathione?

Glutathione is a low molecular weight tripeptide with very high antioxidant activity made up of three amino acids (L-cysteine, glycine, and L-glutamate).[1] It’s called the mother of antioxidants and is found naturally in almost every cell in the body, where it defends the skin against the effects of environmental aggressors such as free radicals.

Glutathione for skin whitening

Glutathione is touted as one of the most potent skin brighteners since its biological activities target the pigment content in skin cells. According to research, the benefits of glutathione for skin whitening include inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme and scavenging free radicals.[2][3] Let me explain how this helps fade discolorations and even skin tone:

Tyrosinase is the enzyme responsible for melanin production and hindering its activity with glutathione results in serious skin-lightening effects. By the same token, by fighting free radicals and providing antioxidant protection, glutathione defends the skin against sun damage, the major culprit that often causes hyperpigmentation.

Furthermore, the research going into the short- and long-term effects of glutathione on skin whitening is at least promising. Three major studies have established glutathione as an effective depigmenting treatment in normal and sun-exposed skin as well as photoaged skin.[2] After all, glutathione has been hailed for generations as a “magical skin whitening” molecule for good reasons. More than that, there’s also evidence suggesting glutathione may improve skin elasticity and reduce facial wrinkles due to its UV protection abilities[7] — even more reason to include this powerful antioxidant into your skincare routine.

How to use glutathione for skin whitening

Regarding how to use glutathione for skin whitening, researchers have found that both topical and oral use of glutathione has strong depigmenting effects by increasing antioxidant defense and inhibiting melanin.[2][4] In most studies, supplementation with 250mg, 500mg glutathione per day respectively, has significantly decreased melanin levels in skin cells, resulting in brighter skin and fewer pigmentation spots after one year of constant administration. Similarly, skincare products containing 0.1%, 0.5%, and 2% glutathione have been shown to be quite effective in lightening facial hyperpigmentation and evening skin tone.[5]

Glutathione injections are also a thing that provides instant skin-lightening benefits. If you opt for glutathione injections, you’ll have to put yourself in the hands of a good dermatologist. Nevertheless, be aware that the FDA doesn’t approve glutathione injections and warns that injectable skin bleaching products may be unsafe.[6]

How safe is glutathione for skin whitening

Since it’s naturally found in our body, glutathione for skin whitening is considered safe and well-tolerated for most people, whether applied topically or taken as supplements. Most studies reported no significant adverse effects after using tablets, capsules, and topical preparations containing glutathione, exceptions being glutathione injections. Last but not least, glutathione should be avoided if you are pregnant or nursing.

Best glutathione products

For topical use, the best glutathione products for skin whitening include Osmosis Skincare Antioxidant Infusion SerumAllies of Skin 20% Vitamin C Brighten And Firm Serum, and Perricone MD Essential Fx Acyl-Glutathione Rejuvenating Moisturizer. As for supplements, you can try Starhonor Liposomal Glutathione Softgels.

References
  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information (2022). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 124886, Glutathione. Retrieved January 21, 2022, from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Glutathione.
  2. Sonthalia S, Daulatabad D, Sarkar R. Glutathione as a skin whitening agent: Facts, myths, evidence, and controversies. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2016 May-Jun;82(3):262-72. DOI: 10.4103/0378-6323.179088. PMID: 27088927.
  3. Imokawa G. Analysis of initial melanogenesis including tyrosinase transfer and melanosome differentiation through interrupted melanization by glutathione. J Invest Dermatol. 1989 Jul;93(1):100-7. DOI: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12277369. PMID: 2501395.
  4. Wahab S, Anwar AI, Zainuddin AN, Hutabarat EN, Anwar AA, Kurniadi I. Combination of topical and oral glutathione as a skin-whitening agent: a double-blind randomized controlled clinical trial. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Aug;60(8):1013-1018. doi: 10.1111/ijd.15573. Epub 2021 Apr 19. PMID: 33871071.
  5. Etnawati, K., Adiwinarni, D. R., Susetiati, D. A., Sauchi, Y., & Ito, H. (2019). The efficacy of skin care products containing glutathione in delivering skin lightening in Indonesian women. Dermatology Reports11(s1). https://doi.org/10.4081/dr.2019.8013
  6. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/injectable-skin-lightening-and-skin-bleaching-products-may-be-unsafe
  7. Weschawalit S, Thongthip S, Phutrakool P, Asawanonda P. Glutathione and its antiaging and antimelanogenic effects. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017 Apr 27;10:147-153. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S128339. PMID: 28490897; PMCID: PMC5413479.
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