Glutathione for the skin


When we research skincare, we're most invested in two elements: discovering new ingredients that benefit skin health and learning more about existing ingredients & their evolving role in maintaining youthful skin.

Today we're talking about an existing ingredient. Though glutathione in skincare hasn't yet been a darling of our community, the research shows a lot of promise in the improvement of tone and discolourations.

Even if you’ve heard of a glutathione cream for the skin, there’s a lot to learn. Let’s explore exactly what this ingredient is, its skin benefits and just how long to wait before seeing results.

What is glutathione?

Glutathione is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the skin, where it helps defend against visible signs of environmental damage. It’s believed that the skin’s gradual decline in glutathione is one factor contributing to external signs of ageing.

In addition to its status as an antioxidant, glutathione is also a peptide composed of three amino acids: cystine, glutamic acid and glycine.


What does glutathione do to your skin?

The above three amino acids in glutathione help this ingredient target discolourations. The amino acids work together to help restore the skin’s surface and brighten dullness.

How exactly? The research suggests that glutathione can interrupt an enzyme within the skin’s surface layers that triggers hyperpigmentation.

Is glutathione healthy for the skin?

It’s a resounding yes. Since this ingredient is a natural component of the skin, topical application is easily tolerated. Studies have also shown that oral supplementation is successful with assisting in tackling an uneven skin tone. The only concern with glutathione comes when it is inserted intravenously. Though considered rare, some people have reported anaphylactic responses.

Glutathione benefits

The benefits of glutathione derive from the ingredient’s potent antioxidant activity:

  • The ability to fight oxidative damage over time
  • Help restore the skin’s barrier
  • Help improve the look of discolourations
  • Promote an even skin tone
  • Research has found that when applied directly to dark spots, glutathione improves the look of sun-exposed areas

How long does it take to see results?

One study found that a 2% concentration of a glutathione cream improved the melanin index (a measure of melanin in skin) on dark spots when used twice a day for 10 weeks. As with most ingredients that help with fading discolourations, patience is key! It took years to build up the sun damage that caused those discolourations, so it takes time to lessen their appearance.

Of course, no skin brightening routine is complete without daily application (and reapplication) of a sun cream at factor 30 or higher. Sun protection maintains the results you’re working to achieve.

Can glutathione help with dark spots?

Glutathione in skin can help restore the skin’s natural, youthful glow. Since a decline in our body’s natural amount of glutathione can lead to signs of ageing, using glutathione for skin brightening can help you achieve a more even, revitalised look.

Glutathione not only has a role in the skin’s melanin formation, it can also interrupt the enzyme that causes melanin overproduction. Because of these capacities, dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman states that glutathione "can influence the pheomelanin pathway providing a more even skin tone and to reduce the formation of free radicals that develop after intense exposure to UV light and environmental pollution."

What is the best combination for glutathione?

At Paula’s Choice, we make combining your skincare formulas simple.

  • 1. There is no evidence that this skincare superhero counteracts or impedes any of the activity of other brightening ingredients (think vitamin C, liquorice, arbutin or azelaic acid).
  • 2. Glutathione has actually been shown to help stabilise and enhance the performance of other antioxidants such as vitamin C, even in low concentrations.

"Topical skincare products containing glutathione are the best way to apply the ingredient directly to the target area", notes Dr. Hartman.

Find a well-formulated glutathione serum that suits your skin type and incorporate it as another step in your routine. Here are our Paula’s Choice glutathione favourites: the RESIST Anti-Ageing Antioxidant Serum and the 25% Vitamin C + Glutathione Clinical Serum.

What are the side effects of glutathione?

Numerous studies have shown glutathione is safe for everyday topical use, so there is no cause for concern regarding glutathione side effects. Being a natural component of the skin, it is well tolerated by all skin types, including those with acne-prone and sensitive skin.

Can I use glutathione every day?

Sure you can. In fact, the best way to achieve results is to use a glutathione skin treatment twice a day. While you won’t see overnight improvement, sticking with consistent application will reveal the benefits of glutathione in time – fade dullness, diminish discolourations and restore your skin’s youthful glow.

References for this information:

1.International Journal of Dermatology, August 2021, pages 1013-1018
2. Bioscience Reports, May 2021, ePublication
3. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, June 2019, pages 728-737
4. Pigment International, June 2017, pages 3-6
5. Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists, July-September 2016, ePublication
6. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, October 2014, pages 267


Do you want more skincare advice, tips and exclusive offers?

Sign up for our newsletter and become a Paula's Choice Member. Your benefits:
+ Welcome gift*
+ Exclusive deals*
+ Skincare advice
+ Birthday gift

Email Address*:

* Only valid for new registrations. Valid on orders from € 25.

Customer Service

Need help with finding the right product for your skin? Our customer care team are skincare and product experts and can guide you to the best skin of your life.


Sign up for our newsletter to receive exclusive offers and expert skincare advice