Glutathione – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

We keep hearing about this powerhouse anti-oxidant, but what exactly is it? These days our global village (also known as the internet) is filled with information on new and super ingredients and products. With this flood of information, one cannot help but doubt whom you can trust and whom not to.

Glutathione is one of our master anti-oxidants naturally produced in our body. It works on the same cellular level as Vitamin C does and attacks harmful free radicals in our body. When an anti-oxidant is produced on a cellular level it will interact with products applied to the skin. Can you guess what the most important part of skin care is? Yes – it is the stability of the ingredients in your cream.

In our formulation, we use specific quantities of glutathione that are manufactured through a research company that carries stringent quality control measures, and are made through a trademarked fermentation process.  The glutathione has been clinically studied, and when used topically, reduces ageing effects associated with ultra-violet radiation.

Our skin will age according to internal and external processes. The external process is called photo ageing and when it works on a cellular level, our cells are exposed to external stressors and pollution. Our cells will then try and control our pigmentation through reducing the production of melanin. When we do not have enough of this anti-oxidant (glutathione) then our skins pigmentation will increase and become irregular. When our body correctly processes glutathione, it will decrease our erratic pigmentation and reduce melanin production, as it naturally should.

There is a difference between using glutathione orally, using glutathione topically or applying it to the skin. According to a study, glutathione exists in two forms. The first is the GSH form, and this is our primary form of glutathione in our body. The GSH acts as an electron donor, which then makes the second form of glutathione.

When we reduce the melanin production in our skin we need to place an even bigger importance on UV protection – so always use a broad spectrum SPF. Our skin can become slightly more sensitive to UV rays. With this, comes the negatives and this part is very important when choosing a glutathione product. There is plenty of confusion when selecting a glutathione product as many products contain GSH in skin care and these are proven to be unstable in topical solutions.

When taking glutathione orally please ensure you do your homework on the research behind the product. There are many supplements that claim to work effectively but in truth get broken down by your stomach acid and is thus rendered useless. In South Africa, there is currently only one patented stable form of glutathione (I will go into the oral version of glutathione in another article). Many people want to use glutathione as a skin lightener or whitener and this can be very damaging to your skin when you don’t know what is used in your skin cream. This is one of the reasons why glutathione usage in South Africa is so strictly regulated through quality control. You can only use certain percentages in formulations and your product needs be evaluated for microbiology testing.

This again links back to where we started. This little powerhouse anti-oxidant can do wonders, but you need to have the right one and know how it works best for your skin and your true self!

Bibliography with research

Watanabe, F., Hashizume, E., Chan, G. P., & Kamimura, A. (2014). Skin-whitening and skin-condition-improving effects of topical oxidized glutathione: a double-blind and placebo-controlled clinical trial in healthy women. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 7, 267274.

Sonthalia S, Daulatabad D, Sarkar R. Glutathione as a skin whitening agent: Facts, myths, evidence and controversies. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2016;82:262-72.

Villarama, C. D. and Maibach, H. I. (2005), Glutathione as a depigmenting agent: an overview. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 27: 147153. doi:10.1111/j.1467-2494.2005.00235.x

Deveci, M., Gilmont, R.R., Dunham, W.R., Mudge, B.P. , Smith, D.J. and Marcelo, C.L. (2005), Glutathione enhances fibroblast collagen contraction and protects keratinocytes from apoptosis in hyperglycaemic culture. British Journal of Dermatology, 152: 217224. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2004.06329.

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