A complete guide to Glutathione

Who doesn’t want even skin tone, glowing and youthful looking skin? Glutathione promises all of these and more? But does it come at a cost? The monetary cost is quite considerable. One infusion can cost over R1000. What about any side effects? But the main question is does it really work?


Glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants. It deactivates the enzyme tyrosinase which helps produce melatonin. It not only decreases melanin but also decreases wrinkles and increases skin elasticity. It also boosts the immune system.


  • Taking Vitamin C supplements (500mg-100mg per day),
  • Eating – spinach, avocados, whey protein
  • Supplementing with milk thistle, turmeric (curcumin),
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough sleep (by decreasing oxidative stress).

While there are many topical treatments available (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Alpha Arbutin, licorice, kojic acid,niacinamide and a high spf –their effect are limited to the areas that they are applied to.

Systemic skin lightening agents work to lighten the entire body- e.g. VitaminC, Glutahione, Tranexamic acid.


Many people are obsessed with the desire for a fairer complexion. Colorism and colonialism is to blame for this. Glutathione is therefore very popular in Asian countries and population. Skincare and pharmaceutical companies recognise the growing need for this and are constantly developing new treatments.

Skin lightening is an off label use of glutathione.  It lightens the whole body and not just pigmented areas of the face.



  • The dose is actually given once a week via an intravenous drip (iv).
  • The dose is calculated according to your weight.
  • Skin brightening drips or patches which are available at aesthetic clinics.
  • Oral Glutathione may not be as effective as IV or the patch because it is broken down by enzymes in the stomach.
  • Results may vary in individuals due to their metabolism.
  • Standard dose is 20-40mg/kg for 3-6 months.
  • Alcohol consumption may interfere with desired results. (Decreased absorption).



  • Lightening of hair color
  • Worsening of peptic ulcers
  • Increased susceptibility to melanoma (a type of skin cancer)
  • Renal dysfunction
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • A severe reaction called Steven Johnson Syndrome


The doctor or aesthetician will most probably ask you to sign a waiver or an informed consent form. They will probably say that side effects are rare. If any of these side effects occur, they will be covered because they warned you about it. They will say that you chose to proceed. It is important to discuss this matter with the professional, so that you know how to proceed should you experience any unwanted symptoms.

  • There is a danger in injecting or consuming any unregulated substance.
  • In the Philippines, glutathione IV side effects g. skin rashes, thyroid dysfunction and kidney failure were reported. This led to glutathione being banned by their government.
  • In 2019, the U.S. FDA Food and Drug administration issued a warning that injectable skin lighteners were unsafe.
  • Glutathione is classified as a supplement and not a drug. It is classified as a natural supplement which falls under a big umbrella term. In South Africa it is not registered with the MCC – Medicine Controls Council. This means that it is unregulated.


Once the desired effect of skin color and health is achieved – usually after a few months of injections- a maintenance dose of tablets or patches is prescribed. It is uncertain as to how long the desired effect will last once treatment is stopped.

Glutathione is water soluble. This means that if there is excess in your body – it will be excreted via the urine. This also means that your body does not store it. So, if the dose is stopped the effect will technically wear out.



Who doesn’t want radiant, luminous skin? We all want it. But how far are you willing to go? Ask yourself why are you unhappy with your skin color/condition?  Some people want to lighten their skin to look more beautiful and some people want to tan their skin to look more olive. There isn’t one definition of beautiful. It is up to you to become comfortable and confident in your own skin – that is where true beauty lies.


There isn’t any long term safety data on IV glutathione. That does not mean that it is bad. That does not mean that it is good either.Try obtaining glutathione via your diet or via a supplement with a proven efficacy – see above.



This article is not meant to provide a diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. It serves as information. The reader is free to make his/her own decision.

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