Ingredient Science

Glutathione Skin Care For Whitening and Brightening

Both oral and topical glutathoine have early studies on skin lightening

pale skin asian woman with blue shirt looking at water on a boat
Credits: "Lau Keith at"
Tammy Wu

Tammy Wu

One factor that makes people unique is their skin color. We also all have a preferred skin tone and there are many products out there to make your skin color appear more evenly toned. Glutathione, a skin-lightening agent, is a popular ingredient in the Asian beauty market. This skin whitening agent can be applied topically, ingested orally, or injected intravenously. Although some countries use the intravenous method, clinical studies are still needed to confirm whether or not it is a safe method.

Glutathione has two forms, a reduced form, and an oxidized form. When glutathione is in its reduced form (the more commonly used one) it is an antioxidant that helps with fighting off the pigment-producing bad guys (overactive production of the pigment melanin from melanocyte cells). Melanin, also known as pigment, is what determines our skin color by the amount contained in the skin. A study that compared different forms of glutathione found that glutathione monoethyl ester was the most effective form in lowering the amount of melanin produced in the skin.


Topical Glutathione Skin Care

One study was done with 30 participants looking at a form of glutathione.  After a 2% lotion containing glutathione was applied twice daily for 10 weeks, it was found to effectively whiten the skin and also help with wrinkles and moisture levels.   


Oral Glutathione Skin Care

Glutathione can be found in the market in the form of pills. A clinical study was done by having 34 participants (with only 30 completing the study) orally take one lozenge that contained 500 mg of glutathione every day for 8 weeks. By the end of the 8 weeks, based on the melanin index (determined by an instrument that can measure skin color) they used, the subjects had lighter and brighter skin.

Another similar study was also done, but for 4 weeks. Sixty participants orally took 500 mg of glutathione per day in the form of pills.  They specifically looked at the melanin index of 6 different sites on the body and found that there was a reduction in melanin and reduction in the formation of sunspots


Long-Term Effects are Unknown

While early studies are promising for skin whitening, more research is needed on the long-term effects and the longevity and risks (if any) of the benefits of glutathione. More comparative studies are also needed to confirm glutathione as a skin whitening agent.  For those worried about whether or not oral glutathione has side effects, one of the participants reported flatulence and another participant in a different study reported gum soreness. Otherwise, there were no significant side effects reported.


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