For a long time, skincare routines were merely washing your face with body soap (or just water if you’re lazy) twice a day. However, in recent years, the skincare universe has grown by leaps and bounds. Our skincare hauls are about doing in-depth research and finding products with the right ingredients to keep our skin supple and healthy. And while most people swear by ingredients like hyaluronic acid or retinol (we can’t deny they are skincare superstars), every now and then the limelight falls on another ingredient that deserves a permanent spot in our carefully crafted routines. Today, we’re talking about one such ingredient—glutathione.
For a long time, glutathione was not as famous as some other ingredients, but its role in the first episode of season 2 of Made In Heaven put it in the forefront as a skin-brightening star. No one can deny its capabilities. Before we can tell you all about glutathione’s unique skills, it’s crucial you understand what it is.
What is glutathione?
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant made up of three amino acids: glycine, glutamate, and cysteine. Celebrity Dermatologist Dr Deepali Bhardwaj, founder of The Skin & Hair Clinic, Defence Colony, Delhi says, "Glutathione is an excellent naturally occurring anti-oxidant present in bacteria, fungi, and certain plants. It prevents cellular damage and is a potent anti-ageing product. " And if that wasn’t enough, it acts as a detoxifier by protecting our skin from environmental aggressors which cause skin care concerns like dark spots, fine lines, sunspots, redness, and more. Think of this antioxidant as your skin’s bodyguard.
Unfortunately though, just like collagen, our natural glutathione supply also dwindles as we age. This gradual decline causes many of the external signs of ageing we see on our skin. Thankfully, glutathione can be ingested as supplements, injected or even administered as an IV drip (under professional medical advice, of course).
Benefits of glutathione for your skin
Glutathione is referred to as the master antioxidant for a reason. We already discussed its potential to dethrone retinol as an ace anti-ageing ingredient, but let's dive in slightly deeper, shall we? Glutathione combats premature signs of ageing by limiting free radical activity. Dr Bhardwaj says, "It reduces signs of ageing and cellular damage. Basically, all antioxidants reduce free radical damage which happens due to pollution, smoking and stress." This promotes healing and reduces oxidative stress which, in turn, leads to plump and firm skin and diminished signs of ageing. Basically, unlike retinol which fights visible fine lines, wrinkles, and dullness, glutathione works extremely hard to prevent them.
Dr Bhardwaj goes on to talk about glutathione's skin-brightening capabilities. She says, "It is a potent antioxidant that leads to skin brightening by spreading out clumps of melanin when ingested or administered. It makes your skin look lighter and brighter."
But that's just one way that glutathione works to brighten your skin. We also spoke to Celebrity Dermatologist Dr Chytra Anand, founder of Kosmoderma Clinics & SkinQ who explained another way. She said, "Normally produce a pigment called eumelanin. When there is extra glutathione in the body, one of the amino acids changes and we produce pheomelanin, the reddish version of the pigment, which gives us a slight brightness to the skin and a glow."
But that’s not it. Glutathione also plays a role in making your skin smoother and even-textured by suppressing the enzyme tyrosinase which decreases melanin production. This means glutathione is an effective way of fighting hyperpigmentation, acne scars, blemishes, and signs of ageing. Not to mention, if you are breaking out due to a compromised immune system, glutathione helps to curb random zits popping up on your face.
In fact, a review done in 2016 highlighted the results of three trials that concluded that glutathione works to reduce hyperpigmentation. Another study done by Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology in 2017, showed that glutathione offered skin brightening benefits as well as helped fight general anti-ageing in the skin by diminishing the appearance of wrinkles and boosting firmness.
How long does glutathione take to work?
It’s not a magic wand. However, you don’t need to wait for months on end to see results. Dr Anand says, "People with all skin types can use it. Typically, it takes 4-6 weeks to see initial results. If it’s oral therapy then one needs to take 1000-2000 mg on a daily basis and if it’s IV therapy, it can be 2-3 times a week depending on the body weight, age and the person’s overall health."
Who should use glutathione and does it have side effects?
Considering glutathione is a naturally occurring substance, it is well-tolerated by all skin types (Yes, including all those who have super-sensitive skin). This major antioxidant is safe for daily use and is also a team player. It plays well with most active ingredients like niacinamide or Vitamin C. Of course, it particularly shines (metaphorically) when used by someone suffering from hyperpigmentation or dull skin. Here is the catch though. According to Dr Anand, the brightening effects of glutathione will last as long as someone is taking the treatment or medication. As soon as they stop, the brightening- effect will stop as well.
Even though glutathione promises to have no side effects, since every person's skin is different and it's best to consult your dermatologist before trying on a new ingredient.