Skin gets its color by deposition of melanin, produced by melanocytes. Skin color has become more important in women’s life because of the social stigma of being white or fair. There are many topical depigmenting agents such as hydroquinone, glycolic acid, arbutin, kojic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and niacinamide.
Glutathione, one of the skin whitening agents, is an antioxidant. It promotes pheomelanin, by converting eumelanin and preventing tyrosinase enzyme. It is also used in PMLE, acne vulgaris, vitiligo, psoriasis, anti-aging etc. It is small, low molecular weight thiol tripeptide made up of glutamate, cysteine, and glycine. It is in 2 forms: Reduced glutathione (GSH) and oxidized glutathione (GSSG). GSH is converted to GSSG when it combats with free radicals. Oral antioxidants reduce melanin by scavenging with free radicals produced by UV radiation. Natural sources of glutathione are fresh fruits, tomatoes, avocado, asparagus, walnuts etc.
Glutathione for skin lightening is taken either topical, oral and IV injections.
Oral—It has a low bioavailability. It is taken alone or as combination. Efficacy of glutathione is increased when given along with NAC, lipolic acid, vitamin C, Vitamin E etc.
IV— 600-1200mg weekly once is recommended for skin lightening. 100% bioavailability of glutathione.
It can range from mild rash to serious SJS and TEN, thyroid dysfunction, kidney dysfunction, abdominal pain and fatal complications like air embolism and sepsis due to incorrect injection technique.