Glutathione, a compound consisting mainly of the amino acids glycine, cysteine, and glutamate, occurs naturally in your body and is produced by the liver and your central nervous system. It’s a powerful antioxidant involved in tissue building and repair, strengthening your immune system, producing vital enzymes and hormones, and detoxification.
Due to its potential health benefits, it’s commonly used in several health conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, hypercholesterolemia, colitis, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many others.
In addition to its health benefits, it’s also used to lighten skin and combat the visible signs of aging. In this post, we’ll discuss how glutathione does this and how you can incorporate it into your skincare routine.
So How Does Glutathione Lighten Skin?
Glutathione uses several actions to not only lighten skin, but also reduce the signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, and decreased elasticity. Let’s look at these actions in more detail.
When you expose your skin to the sun, you also expose it to not only intense ultraviolet radiation, but also environmental pollutants. In turn, this leads to the formation of free radicals that can wreak havoc on your skin. These free radicals damage your skin cells, which causes premature aging and leads to dark spots, wrinkles, and fine lines.
Apart from this, sun exposure also impedes hydration and your skin’s barrier function which causes dryness, uneven skin tone, and can lead to loose and saggy skin. To prevent these effects, it’s key that your skin detoxifies. However, if you don’t have sufficient anti-oxidant levels in your body, this isn’t possible.
Here, glutathione plays an important role in providing the antioxidants your body needs to reduce these effects of sun exposure and make your skin look vibrant. A 2019 study in mice also showed that glutathione might be a photoprotection agent that can protect against UVB-induced oxidative stress and Milano genesis.
One of glutathione’s main actions to lighten skin is depigmentation. One of its main mechanisms to do this is by inhibiting tyrosinase activity. Tyrosinase is an enzyme that’s mainly responsible for producing melanin. By inhibiting tyrosinase, glutathione can thus reduce the levels of melanin and, by implication, lighten your skin. Apart from this, by inhibiting tyrosinase, glutathione can also reduce or prevent freckles, sun spots, and melasma.
In a 2008 study, researchers confirmed that glutathione interrupts the function of L-DOPA which, in turn, inhibits the binding between tyrosinase and L-DOPA. As a result, it inhibits melanin synthesis.
Apart from inhibiting tyrosinase, glutathione also activates the pheomelanin pathway by converting eumelanin to pheomelanin. This is a lighter type of melanin that pigments lighter parts of your skin such as your lips. Thus, by activating this pathway, glutathione can lighten your skin.
Inflammation can cause several skin conditions like acne and hyperpigmentation. Glutathione has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation by reducing the levels of inflammatory mediators. As a result, it can reduce acne, melasma, and hyperpigmentation.
Because glutathione can regulate melanogenesis, the process of melanin production, and has powerful antioxidant activity, it can protect your skin against the aging process. In fact, a 2017 study showed that glutathione has several beneficial effects on the skin and might be an anti-aging agent.
How Can You Incorporate Glutathione into Your Skin Care Routine?
Now that we’ve seen how glutathione can lighten skin, let’s consider some ways in which you can incorporate it into your skincare routine.
One way to incorporate glutathione into your skincare routine is to consume antioxidant-rich foods. These include omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein like fish and chicken, herbs, green tea, and cruciferous and allium vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, garlic, and onions.
It’s also believed that, because glutathione contains sulfur molecules, that these foods, which are high in sulfur, can increase its natural production in the body.
Another way to incorporate glutathione into your skincare routine is by taking an oral supplement. This might be one of the best ways to increase your glutathione levels and enjoy its powerful antioxidant benefits. When it comes to skin lightening, oral glutathione supplementation has also proved effective.
A 2015 randomized controlled study demonstrated that the daily consumption of an oral glutathione supplement was effective in increasing glutathione levels in the body. In 2012, another study showed that, when taken orally, glutathione had a skin lightening effect. In addition to these studies, there are several other studies and reviews that show glutathione’s benefits to the skin and its skin lightening effects.
Topical Creams and Face Washes
Another option to incorporate glutathione into your skincare routine used to use topical creams and face washes. While there are studies that show the effectiveness of these treatments, their main drawback is that their benefits are typically restricted to the specific area where they’re applied. Conversely, this could be a benefit, as they can treat problem areas more effectively.
The final option to incorporate glutathione into your skincare routine is to make use of intravenous injections. It’s believed that these injections can increase glutathione levels to therapeutic levels faster and can thus provide skin lightening effects quicker. However, there is not sufficient evidence to show that intravenous glutathione has these benefits for skin lightening.
More importantly, intravenous injections can have severe side effects. Although rare, these side effects can be life threatening. Some examples include embolisms, kidney failure, thyroid dysfunction, abdominal pain, skin necrosis, and allergic reactions. For this reason, the FDA has also issued a warning against the use of intravenous injections in skin care.
Glutathione has been known and popular as a skin-lightening agent for some time. It can also prevent acne, protect the skin against the harmful effects of the sun, and combat the visible signs of aging. Hopefully, this post helped illustrate the mechanisms and actions that allow glutathione to do this and the ways you can effectively incorporate this powerful compound into your skincare routine in more detail.
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