Glutathione For Skin Lightening – Fact Or Myth?
Glutathione is the latest buzzword in dermatology as it results in visible skin lightening. But is it really worth the hype? Read on to know more.
Glutathione (GSH) is available as nutraceuticals, oral medication and topical application to improve one’s skin tone (or lighten it) and fight the visible signs of ageing. However, it wasn’t always meant to be used for this purpose. Before we understand how glutathione has gotten to be a dermatologist’s favourite, let’s look at what glutathione actually is.
As an antioxidant, glutathione is naturally produced in our bodies by the liver and nerve cells in the central nervous system. It is made from three amino acids – glycine, L-cysteine, and L-glutamate. Its primary function is to help our body metabolise toxins, break down free radicals and support immune function.
Some experts argue that there are not enough clinical studies to support that glutathione effectively works on skin but its recent popularity indicates otherwise. As a tripeptide, it performs multiple functions in the body. Here’s why glutathione brings good results to the skin:
- It works as an antioxidant to breakdown free radicals
- It helps regenerate vitamin C and E
- It metabolises some toxins
- It aids in creation and repair of DNA
There are also a few myths attached to the ‘wonders’ that glutathione works on the skin. Let us debunk a few of them:
Brightening vs whitening
The most obvious effect of glutathione on the skin is brightening, which is not to be confused with whitening. What it really does is work on the pigmentation. Due to the depigmentation property of the molecule, it acts on hyperpigmentation such as dark spots, patches and uneven skin tone. With the inhibition of the tyrosinase activity, glutathione limits the production of melanin, which results in brightened even toned skin.
A win for the antioxidant
Glutathione’s antioxidant property prevents free radicals in the skin due to exposure to the sunlight or environmental elements. This also helps in reducing the production of melanin and prevents the skin from darkening.
One of the important functions of glutathione is its anti-inflammatory property. This helps in cases of acne as it prevents the skin from swelling, especially in post-acne treatments, and in hyperpigmentation and melasma cases, too.
Ageing with grace
Recent research on glutathione has revealed that the molecule also has anti-ageing properties. It is known to work on reducing fine lines and wrinkles as well as increase the skin’s elasticity. Given its combined properties for anti-ageing and skin brightening, it works effectively on signs of photo-ageing. Having said that, ageing is a natural process, and your skin will go through it as does your body. Glutathione and other anti-ageing ingredients will help reduce the signs of ageing on your skin or delay them a little. No product or ingredient can prevent ageing. So, it is advisable to use glutathione-based products with realistic expectations.
How to get glutathione?
For its many health benefits, including of course its effect on the skin, glutathione should be well regulated in your body. Here’s how you can provide your body with a good dose of glutathione:
Food: It is present in certain foods such as herbs, green tea, lean protein sources, polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Apart from these, glutathione can be a part of your skincare routine through oral supplements, topical applications or intravenous formulations.
Topical application: Glutathione is available in formulations across a range of skincare products such as face wash, day cream, gel and serum. These products help the skin to retain moisture and remain hydrated for long while working on its texture, elasticity, wrinkles and pigmentation. Topical application helps only the specific area of the skin that you are targeting.
Oral supplements: Glutathione tablets and capsules can be ingested as a supplement to support the portion you get through foods. This ensures that your body maintains a good balance of antioxidants and free radicals thereby keeping the melanin production under control. To increase the bioavailability of glutathione, it is often combined with vitamins C and E and alpha-lipoic acid, which adds to its effect on improving the quality and health of your skin. Glutathione oral supplements are to be taken under guidance from a dermatologist, healthcare expert or dietician.
Intravenous formulations: Intravenous glutathione is rarely used as it is yet to be thoroughly researched and documented. Dermatologists refrain from administering glutathione injections for skin lightening and brightening.
Is it safe?
Glutathione is naturally produced in the body so as a tripeptide it is safe and has no side effects. However, the quantity and format of its dosage has to be prescribed by a doctor. It is advisable not to self-medicate as a lot is yet unknown about the contraindications of glutathione, especially with regards to its quantity and individual concerns. Consultation and prescription of a certified medical practitioner is highly advisable.
Undoubtedly glutathione has properties that help in making the skin supple, brighter and more radiant. With proper guidance from your dermatologist, you can make it an integral part of your skincare regime and wake up to a ‘glowing’ you every day.
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