Glutathione Injections: Are They Safe For Hyperpigmentation?

Glutathione is an antioxidant found in high concentrations in almost every cell in your body. It plays an essential role in detoxification and mitochondrial function. Glutathione is made up of three amino acids: cysteine, glycine, and glutamine.

Key takeaways:

Intravenous injection (IV) glutathione is currently approved in different countries for different purposes, primarily for treating chronic liver diseases and the adverse effects of chemotherapy. It has recently become popularized for its ability to lighten skin tone. However, IV glutathione for skin lightening is controversial, and the efficacy and safety of this use have yet to be adequately examined.

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How do glutathione injections work?

Glutathione injections effectively reach the bloodstream and are beneficial in restoring damaged skin tissue, promoting liver health, and alleviating hyperpigmentation. By blocking excessive melanin production, glutathione reduces the number of free radicals, helps in weight loss, and whitens skin.

Glutathione exists in different formulations — capsules, powder, IV (injection), intranasal spray, and nebulized (inhalation).

To increase the supplement’s delivery rate to cells and tissues, providers use liposomal technology with the capsules. Glutathione creams can whiten the skin and reduce pigmentation or skin rash after sun exposure. However, they are slow in efficacy taking 3-6 months to show.

With glutathione injection, the effects are expected in 3-4 weeks. Moreover, people with darker skin complications may see the results even earlier.

Unlike glutathione capsules, intravenous delivery of the compound gets absorbed faster and reaches the bloodstream as it is injected directly into the muscle.

What are the benefits of glutathione injections?

Glutathione levels can become depleted for several reasons and are strongly associated with age-related disease and loss of function accompanying aging. Low levels are also correlated with exposure to environmental pollutants and alcohol, autoimmune disorders, and neurodegenerative disorders.

Protects against oxidative stress

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Glutathione is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are essential to preventing age-related disease because they lower oxidative stress and inflammation and neutralize free radicals in the body. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules found in the body, often developing due to exposure to toxins. Free radicals can cause significant damage to DNA and lead to various diseases.

Free radicals are derived from:

  • Air pollution
  • Exposure to industrial chemicals or heavy metals
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Medical radiation
  • Alcohol use
  • UV light

Free radicals create oxidative stress in the body. This chemical reaction can encourage the formation and growth of cancer cells. Antioxidants, like glutathione, stop the formation of free radicals, detoxify the body, and prevent and repair cell damage.

Brightens the skin

Raising your glutathione levels can lighten your skin tone. One study showed a significant reduction in wrinkles, lightened skin tone, and an improvement in skin elasticity in four weeks.

Glutathione has anti-melanogenic properties. It inhibits tyrosinase, a key enzyme in melanin production. It also switches the production process from darker eumelanin to lighter pheomelanin.

However, it’s important to note that this research is limited and that the FDA warns against purchasing glutathione injections for this use, citing adverse effects and potentially harmful or understudied ingredients.

Research suggests that glutathione levels are correlated with age-related disease. A study of elderly people found that higher glutathione levels were associated with fewer illnesses, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. Participants with arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease had significantly lower glutathione levels.

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Glutathione depletion is associated with the following age-related diseases:

  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Hearing impairment
  • Glaucoma
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Huntington's disease

Treats chronic liver disease

Glutathione IV is primarily used by medical professionals to treat alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis, liver cirrhosis, and alcoholic hepatitis. Glutathione breaks down toxins in the liver and relieves inflammation and stress. It prevents the progression of cirrhosis and can alleviate the symptoms associated with acute liver failure.

Delivers glutathione directly to your bloodstream

Glutathione supplements, taken orally, must pass through your digestive system, where some nutrients are lost in the digestive process before they reach your bloodstream. Conversely, IV injections bypass your GI tract, delivering the glutathione directly to your bloodstream.

Is it safe to inject glutathione?

The safety of intravenous glutathione for skin lightening is largely under-researched. Many studies have been criticized for being poorly designed, with insufficient data. For example, one study found that otherwise healthy people developed liver dysfunction after receiving injections, a curious side effect since IV glutathione is often used to treat fatty liver disease.

The FDA, Department of Health, and the Republic of the Philippines have reported the following adverse side effects:

  • Skin rashes
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Renal dysfunction
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis

Can you inject yourself with glutathione?

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It is not recommended that you inject yourself with glutathione. Intravenous injections should be administered by a trained medical professional. An incorrect injection technique can result in an air embolism or potentially fatal sepsis.

How many glutathione injections do you need to see results?

The effects of skin lightening vary from person to person. Many clinics that offer intravenous injections recommend that you attend 15 to 30 sessions before expecting to see results. However, people report seeing a change from a few weeks to several months after beginning injections.

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