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Is glutathione the new retinol?

Is glutathione the new retinol?


Get ready to add ‘glutathione’ to your evergrowing skincare lexicon…. 

It might not get an inch of the airtime as some of the skincare mainstays you know and love (looking at you, retinol), but glutathione has an impressive CV when it comes to skin health. From fighting free radicals, boosting radiance to stopping fine lines in their tracks, there’s a lot to school up on.

But, of course, on the list of complicated-sounding skincare ingredients, glutathione ranks high (say it with us: ‘Gloo-tuh-thai-own!’). So, discover the benefits of glutathione for your skin and beyond, below… 

Firstly, what is Glutathione?

Good question. ‘Glutathione is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in plants and animals, which is made up of three amino acids: glycine, glutamate and cysteine,’ explains Dr Thivi Maruthappu, a consultant dermatologist and nutritionist.

While it naturally occurs in the body and helps to defend skin against the visible effects of environmental damage, like all good things, supplies dwindle as we age. ‘The gradual decline of the natural supply of glutathione in the body is believed to be a key marker of many outward signs of ageing,’ adds Heather Wish, Education Manager at Paula’s Choice. 

Though topical skincare is one route to consider, glutathione can also be incorporated via supplements or as part of a healthy diet to improve the overall health of your skin. 

What are the benefits of glutathione for your skin?

Well, turns out, a lot. ‘When used in skincare, glutathione helps against premature ageing; it helps to brighten and even out the skin tone by reducing the production of melanin (by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase) which is responsible for discolouration and hyperpigmentation,’ says Dr Maruthappu. This makes it ideal for use in skincare products designed to treat hyperpigmentation. There is also some early evidence that it may help to reduce inflammation and promote wound healing, therefore benefiting those with acne and scarring, she adds. 

But it doesn’t stop there. It’s also an ingredient that protects your skin too. ‘As an antioxidant, glutathione has the ability to neutralise free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the ageing process,’ shares Dr David Jack, leading London-based aesthetic doctor. Quick refresher on free radicals: these can be caused by environmental factors such as pollution, UV radiation, and cigarette smoke, as well as internal factors such as inflammation and metabolism. ‘Glutathione helps to protect the skin from these harmful factors and promotes healthy cell function and its reparative function,’ he adds. Skin translation: a brighter, healthier looking complexion.

Does it help with fine lines, too?

Since it’s a natural detoxifier, says Dr Jack, it improves the health of the body’s cells to reverse ageing. But as opposed to retinol which targets visible fine lines, glutathione works hard to prevent them. ‘Like melatonin, Glutathione protects the skin against oxidative damage which leads to wrinkles making it an excellent form of anti-ageing skincare,’ he adds.

‘By limiting free radical activity, glutathione lowers our oxidative stress that contributes to a loss of collagen and elastin fibres,’ he continues. This also protects skin elasticity, firmness, and plumpness, which in turn, prevents signs of premature ageing like fine lines.

What are the benefits for overall health? 

Skincare aside, glutathione is also key when it comes to your overall health too. ‘It’s an amino acid critical to preserving cellular integrity and essential for optimal health,’ says Dr Jack. ‘Often called the “master antioxidant”, it plays a key role in functions like tissue building, protein synthesis, chemical production and immune strengthening, as well as supporting the body’s detoxification processes.’ It also plays a vital role in protecting the body from harmful toxins and free radicals, which can cause damage to cells and contribute to the ageing process,’ he adds.

Who should use glutathione in their skincare routine?

‘Being a natural component of skin, it’s well-tolerated by all skin types, including those with sensitive skin, but can be particularly helpful to those suffering with hyperpigmentation and/or melasma due to its role in changing melanin production,’ says Dr Jack. 


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