The hype surrounding the lightening properties of glutathione has resulted in physicians frequently referring to it and administering it as a “wonder” drug for treatments of hyperpigmentation.
But how does glutathione work? And what are some of the glutathione benefits for the skin?
Besides every other product for skin whitening out there on the market, can this ingredient that is ridiculously hard to pronounce offer some head-turning results and outstanding benefits?
Yup, although it sounds complicated and quite frankly – little shady, many people swear by it and its lightening properties.
Frankly speaking, I am not someone who is easily impressed or convinced for the matter in product efficacy, not until I have all the necessary information and research to convince me otherwise.
So as always, I did extensive research on this particular ingredient and here’s what I found.
But first, let’s break down this article into pieces and learn the following:
- What is glutathione?
- What are the benefits of using it?
- How to use glutathione?
- Should you use glutathione?
And as always, first things first:
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione is a low molecular weight, a water-soluble tripeptide that plays a prominent role in maintaining intracellular redox balance.
Or simply put…
It is an antioxidant that is created and used by every cell in our body. It protects the body from damage, disease, and even deterioration.
Glutathione is made up of three different amino acids: glutamine/glutamic acid, glycine, and cysteine, which work in unison to offer skin-restoring benefits when used in topical products.
Glutathione exists in two interconvertible forms:
- reduced glutathione (GSH) – the predominant intracellular form, which acts as a strong antioxidant and defends against toxic compounds.
- oxidized glutathione (GSSG) – an oxidized form of GSH with the help of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase.
Besides its remarkable antioxidant properties, it has been discovered that glutathione has antimelanogenic properties which means that it has the ability to inhibit the melanin-producing enzyme, tyrosinase.
Melanin is the brown pigment that determines the color of our skin.
Glutathione Benefits For The Skin.
The discovery that glutathione has antimelanogenic properties has led to its massive promotion as a skin-lightening agent.
It is widely used for this indication in some ethnic populations, being aggressively popular in some Asian countries like the Philippines and even India.
The role of glutathione as a skin-lightening agent was an accidental discovery when skin-lightening was noticed as a side effect of large doses of glutathione.
Glutathione can reduce tyrosinase activity in three different ways:
- Tyrosinase is directly inhibited through binding of the copper side by the thiol group.
- Glutathione interferes with the cellular transfer of tyrosinase to the prerequisite for melanin synthesis called premelanosomes.
- Tyrosinase inhibition is effected indirectly due to the antioxidant effect of glutathione.
Moreover, people who seek fair complexion or a new treatment to aid their facial melasma are typically Internet and social media savvy. Ouch!
It is very possible that pharmaceutical companies that manufacture intravenous glutathione may have a marketing agenda and pursue dermatologists to administer this “drug” to such patients.
Not surprisingly, the trend of recommending and administering glutathione has increased within months of it becoming available.
However, it is important to note that there may be potential adverse effects that we don’t know about due to the lack of evidence and studies done on the subject.
On the other hand, it is proven that glutathione has potent antioxidant properties. Glutathione has been shown to scavenge free radicals induced by excess UV radiation.
Since it is an antioxidant, it has the ability to neutralize the free radicals that damage the skin at the cellular level to cause aging and discoloration.
A recent study on melasma-concerned patients noted that significantly higher levels of glutathione can brighten and reduce the dark patches on the skin.
It is also confirmed that, as a potent antioxidant, glutathione reduces the oxidative stress in the skin caused by environmental aggressors.
While the potential of glutathione in the management of melasma and hyperpigmentation may seem plausible due to the antioxidant properties, it doesn’t mean that you need to go ahead and start using it straight away if you have similar concerns.
How To Use Glutathione?
Glutathione can be taken in several different ways and it is primarily available in the form of:
- Oral formulations (pills, solutions, sublingual tablets, syrups, and sprays)
- Parenteral formulations (intravenous and intramuscular injections)
- Intranasal or intrabronchial formulations (the method of inhalation)
- Topical formulations (cleansers and creams)
However, there are two of these I would specifically like to address in further detail.
Some people prefer the convenience of an oral capsule taken alone or combined with the rest of their supplements during mealtimes.
Oral glutathione is derived from torula yeast (Candida utilis) as it is marketed as a food or dietary supplement, either alone, or in combination with vitamin C, Alpha-lipoic acid, and other antioxidants.
However, people that want more intense results take glutathione sublingually, or under their tongue. This method delivers the glutathione into the bloodstream where it starts working immediately to break down melanin and scavenge free radicals.
Circulating glutathione is then primarily cleared by the kidneys.
Due to the low bioavailability of oral glutathione, intravenous injections are being aggressively promoted to provide desired levels of glutathione in the blood and skin and produce the intense and instant desired results of skin-lightening.
However, intravenous injections of glutathione have been used for years in some Asian countries, but there is not even a single clinical trial done to evaluate the efficacy of this method of administration.
Manufacturers of intravenous glutathione injections recommend a dose of 600-1200 mg for skin lightening, depending on the color of your complexion and the desired result you want to achieve.
This should be injected once to twice weekly, without any specification for the total duration of treatment.
Intravenous administration is expected to deliver 100% bioavailability of glutathione, much more compared to what you will achieve by oral administration.
However, there are no studies to support this hypothesis and concerns have been raised as this method is likely to provide an even further narrowed margin of safety due to the possibility of overdose toxicity.
There you have it, folks.
I have been reading about glutathione supplements as well as glutathione benefits for the skin for a while now, however, it is sad to only find websites that are trying to boost the benefits of this ingredient in order to profit.
After finding several decent and brutally honest studies about glutathione and its effects as well as the unfortunate misuse of this ingredient we know very little about for-profit, I decided to write an article as I strongly believe that there is something that needs to be said about it.
Is glutathione worth it?
Probably not. And I am surely not going to be the one who’s gonna go around recommending it to my readers or clients.
I would love to hear your opinions on my article as well as if you have ever had an experience using glutathione in any shape or form, do not hesitate to drop a comment below.
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Thanks for stopping by! My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.