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Role of Glutathione - a Skin Lightening Agent in Dermatology

Written by
Dr. Suvash Sahu
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Jan 23, 2017 and last reviewed on Jul 22, 2019   -  2 min read


Glutathione, an antioxidant, is produced by the body and helps reduce the effects of aging, stress, and as a skin lightening agent. Read the article to know more.

Role of Glutathione - a Skin Lightening Agent in Dermatology

Everyone wants fairer skin complexion, because skin color plays an important role in sociosexual communication. It is a universal desire to retain a flawless fair skin. To attain this, individuals are seeking faster and most effective ways for getting lighter skin tone.

There are many products available over-the-counter like Hydroquinone, vitamin C serum, vitamin E, Niacinamide (Nicotinamide), glycolic acid, arbutin, Kojic acid and a few new products like pycnogenol, marine algae extracts, soy, Boswellia, etc. All are used in the form of local application. These products have variable effects from person to person. As systemic skin lightening agents various products are tried like l-cysteine peptide, Tranexamic acid, different plant extracts. But, glutathione has become more popular due to its fastest skin lightening action and also, because of wide social media coverage.

What Is Glutathione?

Glutathione is a peptide derived from three amino acids glutamate, cysteine and glycine. It is a known antioxidant and detoxifies xenobiotics. Its skin lightening effect was detected incidentally. Skin lightening was noticed in a patient as a side effect of large doses of glutathione, which was given for some other disease and then onwards, it has become more popular as a skin lightening agent.

How Does It Work as a Skin Lightening Agent?

Tyrosinase is an enzyme, which helps in melanin synthesis (melanin is a pigment, which decides color of skin). Glutathione inhibits this enzyme, so less melanin is produced and skin becomes light. Besides this, it also switches production of eumelanin (produce dark brown color) to pheomelanin (produce yellow-red color), which leads to lightening of skin.

Natural Sources of Glutathione

Natural sources like tomato, orange, walnuts, whey protein, fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables are rich in glutathione.

Availability of Glutathione

Various formulations like topical, oral and injectable forms are available.

1) Topical Formulation:

For local application like face wash cream, chemical peels containing glutathione are available. Use of these products show significant improvement in skin complexion.

2) Oral Formulation:

Oral preparations like tablet and solution forms are also available. The tablet if taken sublingual the absorption will be better and requires lower doses.

The required dose is 20 to 40 mg per kg body weight that is 1 g to 2 g per day in two divided doses. The effects become visible within four weeks and the significant effects may need maximum three months. Depending on the skin color, like medium brown skin requires one to three months and dark skin requires more than 2 years of treatment. After attaining desired skin color, maintenance dose of 500 mg per day for a longer duration is suggested

3) Injectable Formulation:

The intravenous dose recommended is 600 -1200 mg once or twice in a week, but various adverse effects are reported with the intravenous route due to the possibilities of overdose toxicities or may be due to additives present in glutathione injections.

Adverse Effects

Oral preparation has been recognized safe by FDA, but intravenous preparation can cause various adverse effects. The adverse effects reported with intravenous routes are thyroid dysfunction, kidney dysfunction and severe abdominal pain. The other adverse effects due to long-term high dose of glutathione supplements include lightening of hair color, light colored patches over the body and increased incidence of peptic ulceration.

For further knowledge about skin lightening agents, consult a cosmetologist online -->


Last reviewed at:
22 Jul 2019  -  2 min read


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