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Glutathione for Skin - An Overview

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Glutathione is readily available in the market for skin lightening. It is a powerful antioxidant. To know more about glutathione, read the article below.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Published At October 5, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 19, 2024


In Asian countries, there is a general liking for lighter complexions. For this purpose, many skin-lightening products are available on the market. The most recent and popular skin-lightening agent is glutathione. It claims to lighten the skin color effectively and make it look younger and glowing. It can be used in the form of tablets, injections, creams, lotions, and soaps.

Glutathione is a naturally occurring antioxidant that is found in the body and helps in various body functions, like tissue repair, synthesis of necessary proteins and chemicals, and building immunity. It is widely available as a skin-lightening agent in the cosmetic industry. However, existing studies do not support the use of glutathione as a skin-whitening agent.

What Is Glutathione?

Glutathione is a tripeptide made up of three amino acids, which are: cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid (gamma-glutamyl-cysteinyl glycine). It is the chief antioxidant found in cells of the body. Apart from this, glutathione is a protective antioxidant tripeptide, which protects the body cells from free radicals that aggravate skin damage.

What Does Glutathione Do for Skin?

Glutathione not only affects the skin but also has known effects on overall health. However, Its use as a skin-lightening agent is still controversial as there are not enough studies supporting this property. The effects of glutathione on the skin and body are listed below:

  • Effects on the Skin:

  1. Prevents the aging of the skin.

  2. Reduces hyperpigmentation.

  • Effects on the Body:

  1. Protects the body against harmful toxins.

  2. Helps in the detoxification of the body.

  3. Regenerate vitamins C and E.

  4. Improves immunity.

Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), India, has approved the use of glutathione for the treatment of the following diseases:

  • Alcoholic fatty liver.

  • Alcoholic liver fibrosis.

  • Alcoholic liver cirrhosis.

  • Alcoholic hepatitis.

In addition, it is very helpful in minimizing the neurotoxicity linked with cisplatin chemotherapy and has been approved by the Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this use.

What Is the Dosage of Glutathione?

The dosage of glutathione depends upon the form in which it is consumed. It can be consumed in three forms:

  • Oral (by mouth) in the form of pills.

  • Systemic through an intravenous (IV line).

  • Topical application (skin creams, lotions, soaps, face wash).

Patients often have a common query about how many mg pills and glutathione injections should be taken to achieve skin whitening properties. Below are the dosages of glutathione:

  • Oral Pills: It depends on skin type, body weight, and skin color. The dose is 500 mg daily for four weeks (this dose is still not defined by researchers).

  • Glutathione Injections: The recommended dose by the manufacturers of IV glutathione is 600 to 1200 mg weekly or twice weekly. However, the duration of the dose is not defined.

  • Topical Products: Topical products that contain 2.0 % oxidized glutathione can be used.

Which Type of Glutathione Is Best for Skin Whitening?

Among all the glutathione products available for skin whitening, oral pills are considered the safest to use, and glutathione injections are considered to give rapid results. Topical products like glutathione powder, face wash, soaps, and creams may not be of much use as their action is limited superficially to the skin surface only.

What Are the Benefits of Glutathione?

Glutathione is an antioxidant produced in cells and is composed of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine.

  • Powerful antioxidant.

  • Supports the Immune system.

  • Detoxifies the harmful substances.

  • Scavenges the free radicals, thus reducing the oxidative stress.

  • Neuroprotective in nature.

  • Increases the cellular energy levels.

What Are the Side Effects of Glutathione?

Glutathione products have some side effects, too. Some of the side effects are:

  • Glutathione Injections:

  1. Kidney damage.

  2. Liver damage.

  3. Severe pain in the abdomen after receiving injections.

  4. Thyroid damage.

  • Oral Pills and Topical Products:

  1. Nausea.

  2. Vomiting.

  3. Rashes on skin.

  4. Allergic reactions.

  5. Bloating.

  • Other Side Effects:

  1. It may accelerate ultraviolet photosensitivity.

  2. Skin cancers.

  3. DNA damage.

How Does Glutathione Work?

Glutathione products for skin whitening work on the tyrosinase enzyme, which regulates melanin production in the body. Glutathione binds with the tyrosinase enzyme and thus inhibits melanin synthesis. Melanin gives color to the skin. So, the more melanin production, the darker the skin color would be. Similarly, it reduces free radicals in the body, which produces the tyrosinase enzyme and, thus, inhibits melanin synthesis. In addition, glutathione changes eumelanin to pheomelanin, which also aids skin lightening.

Increased glutathione levels can help reduce the free radicals that cause wrinkles, age spots, and sagging skin. As a result, when glutathione, the body's most powerful antioxidant, is increased, oxidative stress in cells is reduced, and the skin appears more youthful, glowing, and healthy.

How to Increase Levels of Glutathione Naturally?

Glutathione levels can be increased naturally in the body. Intake of fresh fruits and leafy vegetables, avoiding alcohol and smoking, which increases toxins, and intake of vitamin C-rich foods naturally boost glutathione.


What Are the Natural Sources of Glutathione?

Natural sources of melanin are listed below:

  • Green vegetables.

  • Orange.

  • Walnuts.

  • Tomatoes.

  • Fruits.

  • Whey proteins.


Glutathione was primarily used for the treatment of certain disorders. However, over some time, its other properties, such as anti-aging and anti-melanogenic, were discovered. Since then, it has been endorsed as a skin-whitening agent in the cosmetic industry.

It should be noted that not much reliable information supports its safe use as a skin-lightening agent. It has a limited skin-lightening effect on the skin that is short-lived. The specific dose and duration of these products have yet to be defined. It can not make a drastic change in skin color and can not change the skin color completely. Moreover, it does not have a universal effect on every skin type. It can show results in some patients, but some patients may not get the desired results. It is very expensive as well. Therefore, not every individual can afford it.

Long-term use of glutathione has been reported with side effects. After the withdrawal of glutathione, skin color will return to its original state. To conclude, there is insufficient research on glutathione to recommend its safe use as a skin whitening agent with specific doses, duration, and permanent results. So, it should only be administered with a recommendation by the doctors.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Glutathione a Permanent Skin Whitening Method?

The whitening effects of glutathione will be permanent only with proper maintenance and avoiding sun exposure. Although stopping glutathione will not bring back the original skin color, it can lead to the darkening or tanning of skin when exposed to harsh elements.


Can Glutathione Be Taken Orally Every Day?

Yes, glutathione can be taken orally every day for up to two months, provided the dosage has to be within 500 milligrams per day.


How Long Does Glutathione Take To Whiten Skin?

The time taken for glutathione to show effective results on various skin types is as follows:
Light to medium brown skin - One to three months.
Dark brown skin - Three to six months.
Very dark skin - Six to twelve months.
Black skin - 18 months and above.


Can Glutathione Decrease Melanin?

Yes, glutathione can decrease melanin production as it is a melanin-inhibiting agent. Taking glutathione orally can reduce melanin content and tyrosinase activity by stopping melanogenesis activity.


Does Glutathione Remove Tan?

Yes. Glutathione can remove tan, reduce pigmentation, control dark spots, and decrease melanin production. It helps in skin whitening and improves the overall health of the skin.


Can Glutathione Lighten Private Parts?

Glutathione combined with vitamin C can help in skin cell regeneration and skin whitening. Generally, glutathione is non-irritant and helps lighten the private parts.


What Are the Side Effects of Glutathione?

The side effects of glutathione are as follows:
- Abdominal cramps.
- Bloating.
- Loose stools.
- Allergic reactions like rashes.
- Trouble breathing.
- Wheezing.
- Triggers asthma attacks.


What Are the Benefits of Taking Vitamin C With Glutathione?

The benefit of taking vitamin C with glutathione is that vitamin C helps in reprocessing glutathione by transforming oxidized glutathione back into its active form. Both vitamin C and glutathione are antioxidants that help in boosting the immune system. When taken together, they show better results by replenishing and recycling one another. They help each other in neutralizing the free radicals, thereby reducing premature cellular death.


Which Vitamin Helps in Skin Lightening?

The vitamins that are best for skin lightening and reducing dark spots are as follows:
- Vitamin C.
- Vitamin B12.
- Vitamin E.


Who Should Not Take Glutathione?

Glutathione should not be taken by the following people:
- Pregnant women.
- Breastfeeding mothers.
- People who are under antipsychotic drugs.
- People who undergo chemotherapy.
- People who are sensitive and allergic to glutathione.


Does Glutathione Have Any Effect on Hair Growth?

Glutathione fights against oxidative stress and inflammation. This, in turn, controls itchy scalp or folliculitis and prevents hair loss. Glutathione can also stimulate hair growth by prolonging the anagen stage of the hair growth cycle, which leads to a reduction in hair loss.


What Are the Foods That Are Rich in Glutathione?

The foods that are rich in glutathione are as follows:
- Green vegetables.
- Walnuts.
- Almonds.
- Oranges.
- Tomatoes.
- Whey proteins.
- Avocados.
- Asparagus.
- Turmeric.
- Spinach.


What Is the Standard Dosage of Glutathione Intake?

The standard dosage of glutathione intake is 20 to 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight for three to six months. It can be taken once or twice a day. Having glutathione at night two to three hours after the last meal enhances its absorption.


Are Glutathione Tablets Effective?

Glutathione is one of the powerful antioxidants that have effective skin-whitening properties with fewer side effects. However, few studies suggest that taking glutathione orally is not the best way to get into the body as it may be broken down by stomach enzymes.


Which Is the Best Form of Glutathione for Skin Whitening?

Among the different forms of glutathione available for skin whitening, oral pills are considered the safest way. However, glutathione injections are the best for rapid results.


Can Glutathione Capsules Be Applied to the Face?

Applying glutathione to the skin provides quicker absorption than oral intake. But glutathione capsules cannot be applied to the face. Glutathione can be applied to the face in the form of moisturizers and skin lotions.


When Glutathione Does Not Work?

Glutathione does not work when the person is on a poor diet. Impairment of glutathione synthesis will occur when there is a lack of vitamins and minerals that are needed for its proper functioning.
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Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav
Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav



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