Get Your Glow On with Glutathione
Glutathione is our body’s master antioxidant. It is in virtually every one of our cells and it regenerates other common antioxidants like vitamin C and E. Without it, our antioxidants will become used up and oxidative damage (the leading culprit for skin aging) builds up. In a 2014 editorial paper, author Joseph Pizzorno states, “It is hard to overstate the importance of glutathione”.1 You can read more about the basics of glutathione and how it works in our article ‘Glutathione: The Master Antioxidant.’
Skin damage from free radicals is inevitable. Even if we are perfect about eating well, hydrating enough, and keeping healthy habits up (and who is?), our skin barrier is constantly bombarded by external attacks. UV rays from the sun, toxins in air pollution, chemicals in cosmetics, even touching our face roughly can damage our delicate skin.
Thankfully, our body is well designed with counter-attack methods of protecting us. Glutathione is at the head of our defensive ranks, neutralizing free radicals in an instant, and regenerating antioxidants to fight damage. It is also a vital component of our detoxification pathways, helping eliminate toxins like heavy metals to keep our skin healthy and youthful.
Although glutathione can regenerate itself (through the enzyme glutathione reductase), it isn’t unlimited and can be depleted. The biggest threat to glutathione levels is something totally out of our control: aging. But stress, toxins, poor diet and other lifestyle factors that increase its use will speed up depletion. Glutathione depletion is linked to a wide range of diseases of our brain, lungs, immune system and heart.1,2 For our skin, this leads to accelerated aging with wrinkles, pigmentation, dull skin and poor wound healing.3
There are three key strategies to ensuring good levels of glutathione in the body:
- Prevent glutathione depletion
- Boost the natural production of glutathione in the body
- External glutathione for additional or therapeutic effects
Preventing depletion and boosting natural production is a foundation for health maintenance, but if you want to see improvements in your skin’s appearance, then external glutathione is your best bet to take glutathione to the levels needed to reverse damage. Glutathione can be applied topically, taken orally, or administered intravenously. It has been Korea’s secret skincare ingredient for years, featuring in the much-loved Cinderella or Cindella IV drip. Studies show that glutathione therapy can help reverse wrinkles, increase elasticity, and reduce pigmentation for more even skin tone.4,5 Glutathione is amazing to brighten skin for that summer glow we’re all chasing by deactivating the enzyme tyrosinase, which is what causes darker pigments to develop. If you’re interested in harnessing the rejuvenating benefits of glutathione therapy, intravenous glutathione is more powerful as oral supplementation doesn’t always do a good job of raising the body’s levels.6
- Pizzorno J. Glutathione!. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):8-12.
- Ballatori N, Krance SM, Notenboom S, Shi S, Tieu K, Hammond CL. Glutathione dysregulation and the etiology and progression of human diseases. Biol Chem. 2009;390(3):191-214. doi:10.1515/BC.2009.033
- Agarwal, Prashant. (2017). Assessment of Anti-aging Efficacy of the Master Antioxidant Glutathione. International Journal of Sciences: Basic and Applied Research (IJSBAR). 33. 257-265.
- Weschawalit S, Thongthip S, Phutrakool P, Asawanonda P. Glutathione and its antiaging and antimelanogenic effects. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:147-153. Published 2017 Apr 27. doi:10.2147/CCID.S128339
- Handog EB, Datuin MS, Singzon IA. An open-label, single-arm trial of the safety and efficacy of a novel preparation of glutathione as a skin-lightening agent in Filipino women. Int J Dermatol. 2016;55(2):153-157. doi:10.1111/ijd.12999
- Allen J, Bradley RD. Effects of oral glutathione supplementation on systemic oxidative stress biomarkers in human volunteers. J Altern Complement Med. 2011;17(9):827-833. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0716
Rachel Erwin, Nutritionist & Content Writer
Rachel is a Nutritionist with a BSc in Biology and Global Health from the University of Toronto, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Human Nutrition from the University of Ulster. She has counselled and educated clients in Hong Kong, whose health goals ranged from weight loss to detox and hormone balancing. Her love of writing led her to complete ‘Writing in the Sciences’, offered by Stanford University, and since then she has contributed several evidence-based health articles to various publications.