The Controversy Surrounding Glutathione as a Skin Lightening Agent

The Controversy Surrounding Glutathione as a Skin Lightening Agent

The Controversy Surrounding Glutathione as a Skin Lightening Agent


In recent times, there has been a surge in the use of glutathione as a skin lightening treatment, particularly among ethnic populations with darker skin tones. However, this trend has been fueled by aggressive marketing and the capitalization of pharmaceutical and cosmeceutical companies. The absence of regulatory laws in most countries has allowed for its unchecked use in skin lightening treatments.

This article aims to review and discuss the current status of glutathione as a skin lightening agent, addressing unanswered questions surrounding dosage, duration of use, and the longevity of its effects based on clinical evidence and recent insights into its anti-melanogenic mechanism.

Clinical Study

The current clinical evidence for intravenous glutathione as a skin lightening agent is based on a single study with a questionable study design and flawed analysis of results. These factors cast doubt on both the drug's efficacy and reported adverse effects. In contrast, studies exploring oral/sublingual administration and topical use of glutathione have reported a good safety profile and noticeable, yet reversible, effects on skin tone.

Results from a study involving 16 subjects who received 12 injections of glutathione revealed that only 6 (37.5%) showed significant improvement, compared to 3 (18.7%) in the placebo group. However, this improvement gradually diminished after treatment cessation, with only one patient maintaining the initial improvement at the six-month follow-up.

Comparing Injections and Pills, and Understanding the Cost

Glutathione, a natural antioxidant produced by the liver, plays various roles in the body, including tissue repair, neutralizing free radicals, and supporting immunity. As the level of glutathione decreases with age, people often turn to glutathione injections to maintain a youthful appearance and achieve skin whitening. These injections increase the glutathione level in the body, providing positive results for skin whitening. However, regular booster shots, either in the form of injections or pills, are necessary to sustain the effects. Combining glutathione injections with other cosmetic treatments, such as laser skin lightening, can enhance the outcomes.

While glutathione injections are generally considered safe and have gained popularity for skin rejuvenation, it is important to consider the associated side effects. Although the injections offer quick results, the potential drawbacks make it less than ideal.

When comparing glutathione injections to pills, injections are deemed more effective and long-lasting. Dermatologists often recommend injections over pills, with the latter serving as occasional boosters to maintain the effects achieved through injections.

The price of glutathione injections ranges from USD 180.00 to USD 500.00 per dose. Factors such as quality, number of shots, and maintenance dosage influence the overall cost of the procedure.

Ensuring Safe Administration and Optimizing Results

Glutathione injections, like any cosmetic treatment, can have various side effects depending on the dosage administered. To minimize risks, it is crucial to have the injections performed by trained medical professionals. Higher-than-required dosages can lead to severe side effects, such as kidney failure or blood poisoning. Common side effects from glutathione injections exceeding 5 grams include the following:

1. Nausea
2. Skin rashes, hives or allergic reactions
3. Diarrhea or other forms of stomach upset
4. Loss of hair
5. Breathing problem
6. Chest pain
7. Gain in weight
8. Whitening of hair
9. Steven Johnson’s syndrome
10. Pain in breasts
11. Toxic epidermal necrosis
12. Numbness
13. Eye disorder
14. Aggravated symptoms of asthma

It is essential to clarify that glutathione injections do not magically transform darker skin to a white complexion. The treatment aims to remove pigments responsible for darkening the skin, rather than altering a person's inherent skin tone.

The duration for visible effects varies based on complexion (gradual systemic effect on an average individual):
- fair to medium brown (1-3 months)
- dark brown (1-6 months)
- very dark (6-12 months)
- and black (12-24 months).

The time it takes for individuals to see results differs due to variations in metabolism, weight, and absorption of the components. Dosage plays a significant role in achieving faster and visible results. The recommended dosage ranges from 20-40mg per kilogram of body weight over a 3 to 6-month period.

Regarding glutathione tablets, there is no risk of overdose in whitening supplements as the components are naturally present in our bodies and are water-soluble, meaning any excess is excreted through urine or bile. Some individuals with darker skin tones have reported skin lightening effects when taking glutathione tablets along with vitamin C for three to six months or longer.

Factors Affecting Results and Dosage Considerations

A. Why do some people see results earlier than others?

Individual variations in metabolism, weight, and absorption of components contribute to the differing timelines for results. Those who experience early results often have bodies that efficiently absorb the components. Additionally, dosage plays a crucial role in the speed of visible effects.

B. What is the recommended dosage for faster and visible results?

To achieve faster results, the appropriate dosage should be based on an individual's body weight and skin tone. The standard dosage ranges from 20-40mg per kilogram of body weight, to be taken over a 3 to 6-month period.

C. Is it safe to take higher dosages of glutathione tablets?

There is no risk of overdose with whitening supplements like glutathione tablets. Some patients receive daily doses exceeding 500mg. Glutathione and its components are naturally present in our bodies and are water-soluble, meaning any excess is excreted through urine or bile. Individuals with darker skin tones have reported skin lightening effects when taking glutathione tablets, often in combination with vitamin C, for extended periods.

D. Can I continue using whitening creams or gels alongside glutathione tablets?

There is no problem continuing your regular skin care regimen with creams and lotions while taking glutathione tablets. However, once the whitening process begins, additional creams may not be necessary, as the tablets alone can provide visible results.

E. How does the whitening process start with glutathione tablets? Does it provide an even skin tone all over?

Glutathione tablets work by reversing dark melanin pigments and reducing melanocytes, which produce melanin. This process starts inside the skin, progressing from the dermal layer to the epidermal layer, resulting in a gradual change in skin tone. The whitening process affects the entire body, providing an even skin tone.

F. How should I consider glutathione tablets? Are they a drug, vitamin, or supplement?

Glutathione tablets are considered food or dietary supplements. They are not classified as drugs, and there are no known contradictions or precautions to be taken into consideration.

G. Can I take glutathione tablets alongside other medications? Are there any restrictions?

Glutathione tablets should not be taken by individuals using anti-psychotic drugs or chemotherapeutic drugs. It is advisable to avoid consuming alcoholic beverages, as the presence of alcohol in the stomach can hinder the full absorption of the whitening tablets.

H. Should I stop taking glutathione tablets once I achieve my desired skin tone?

It is advisable to continue taking glutathione tablets even after achieving the desired skin tone. Maintenance involves taking one tablet daily.

Are the whitening effects of glutathione tablets permanent?
The whitening effects can be permanent if proper maintenance is followed, which includes avoiding excessive sun exposure. However, if exposed to sunlight or harsh elements, there is a possibility of tanning or slight darkening of the skin.

I. Does sun exposure affect the whitening process or pose risks while taking glutathione tablets?

Sunlight provides vitamin D, but prolonged exposure without protection can increase melanin pigments and potentially delay the whitening process. It is important to protect the skin with sunblock or sunscreen lotions with SPF 45-60.

J. What should I do if I am exposed to sunlight while taking glutathione tablets?

Using sunblock or sunscreen lotion with a high SPF will provide protection against the harmful effects of the sun.

K. Are there any negative side effects from long-term use of glutathione tablets?

No side effects or interactions have been reported with prolonged oral administration of glutathione tablets. The primary side effect is the desired skin whitening itself.

L. Can glutathione tablets be taken alongside slimming pills?

Glutathione is considered a supplement and can be safely taken with other medications, vitamins, or supplements.

M. Is it safe for young teens who desire lighter skin to take glutathione tablets?

Glutathione tablets are safe for individuals aged 14 and above who desire a lighter skin tone. However, it is important to consider the appropriate dosage for their age.


While glutathione tablets may not be highly effective for skin lightening and their effects could diminish over time. Additionally, it is crucial to be aware of any potential side effects and to practice proper sun protection for optimal results.

It is important for a person to understanding results duration based on skin color.

The duration for visible results varies based on skin color:

- Medium brown skin: 1-3 months
- Dark brown skin: 3-6 months
- Very dark skin: 6-12 months
- Black skin: 2 years or more


1. Glutathione for skin lightening: a regnant myth or evidence-based verity?
2. All About Skin Whitening Therapy by Dr. Jangid
3. Benefits & Side Effects Of Glutathione Injections
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.