Glutathione injections: What you need to know

Did you know that skin whitening is a billion dollar industry? Well, glutathione injections may be to thank for this booming industry. Thousands of people desire to get rid of dullness and discoloration within their skin. As a result, they resort to using beauty products for skin whitening, like glutathione whitening injections, to get the job done. But is this type of skin treatment effective? Better yet, is it safe?

What are glutathione injections used for?

Before we talk about glutathione skin whitening injections, let’s learn what glutathione actually is. Glutathione is an antioxidant formed from the amino acid cysteine, glutamate, and glycine. Pretty much every one of your cells contains glutathione but antioxidant is very concentrated in your eyes, spleen, pancreas, and liver.  As you get older, levels of glutathione begin to decline. The body becomes unable to produce this antioxidant in optimal quantities to cover all its functions. A deficiency in reduced glutathione levels leads to:

  • Greatly reduced ability to detoxify
  • Accumulation of toxins and heavy metals
  • A reduced supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells
  • Increased oxidative stress
  • Weakened cell membranes
  • Inability to repair DNA
  • Cell mutations
  • Eventual cell death

This is where people start taking injections, glutathione supplements, oral glutathione, glutathione pills, or some other form of glutathione supplementation, to raise it back up. While glutathione injections have been getting publicity mainly for its alleged skin lightening effect, it is also provided to treat serious chronic conditions.

The antioxidant is provided to people (oral glutathione or injections) who wish to treat:

  • Aging
  • Cataracts and glaucoma
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Alcoholism
  • Heart disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • High cholesterol
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver disease
  • Memory loss
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Diseases that weaken the body’s immune system (AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome)
  • Arthritis
  • Male infertility

Glutathione injections are also used for kidney patients who are undergoing dialysis treatment. Despite all these serious health issues this antioxidant treats, most people get introduced to glutathione for cosmetic purposes. Skin bleaching to be exact.

Do glutathione injections work?

Glutathione injections didn’t get notoriety until it started being used for allegedly lightening people’s skin tone. In some cultures, lighter skin is desirable for a variety of reason. For example, in Asian culture, lighter skin tone is a desirable trait for some because it signifies high status and wealth. Many of these people go to cosmetic doctors seeking options to brighten their skin. They are usually prescribed:

  • Topical medications including hydroquinone
  • Kojic acid
  • Retinoids
  • Glycolic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Glycolic acid
  • Arbutin
  • And of course, glutathione injections

So how did glutathione even become a skin bleaching treatment option?

According to a health researcher, glutathione was discovered to have anti-melanogenic (or anti-pigment) properties. This led them to believe that the antioxidant may be able to reduce melanin within the skin, making it lighter. So does glutathione injection work in terms of skin bleaching? That answer is yet to be determined. This is because glutathione injections are not as regulated as it should be.

Different doctors give different dosage amounts. And it is not clear how long one should wait before getting another injection. This is why glutathione injections have yet to become a popular skin bleaching option in the US. (The United States is the world leader in cosmetic injections per year). However, the treatment option is being readily used in Vietnam, the Philippines and India.

Are glutathione injections safe?

Since glutathione injections are unregulated, how safe is it to use is unclear. And that’s obviously a bad thing. As of now, no clinical trials have extensively looked into its ability to lightening skin. There have been studies conducted on the oral version and on a topical lotion. Glutathione injections have not been properly evaluated or tested for consumer safety and efficacy. Some say it’s safe, while others (such as the FDA of Philippines) deems it as an unsafe and potentially dangerous treatment option.

A 2016 South African Medical Journal stated that inadequate data towards the long-term use of glutathione injections is a reason why it is unsafe. So the safety and credibility of this skin-brightening procedure is questionable at best. Any treatment option that has little to no clinical research backing up its claims is a red flag.

Glutathione injections side effects

The Philippine’s FDA declared it as an unsafe procedure. The reason for it is the side effects they, and others, have seen from some users.  The side effects included:

  • Kidney failure
  • Skin discoloration
  • Liver disease
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Severe asthma attacks
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Skin Rashes
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Increased risk for melanoma
  • Stevens-Johnsons syndrome ( This is a rare disease that causes your cells to die off rapidly)
  • Lightening of hair color
  • Infection
  • Death

It is unclear whether any of these side effects were due to the injection itself or additives within the injection vials.

Glutathione injections review

Glutathione injections are unregulated and do not have any supportive clinical trials other than its alleged anti-melanogenic effects. And the dangerous side effects that have been associated with it doesn’t help.

Nonetheless, if you’re interested in skin lightening with this treatment, visit a licensed dermatologist who has experience with it. You’re rolling the dice if you try glutathione injections or over-the-counter skin lightening products without consulting with a professional first.

Final Thoughts

The topic of skin bleaching has been a controversial one. Not only due to the unregulated products that have been linked with serious side effects, but colorism as well. Some people just view lighter skin as a status symbol or a sign of wealth. Unfortunately, glutathione injections have been mostly viewed as a skin brightener treatment. The true is glutathione is an important antioxidant that our body needs. It also helps people who are dealing with a life-threatening disease. (e.g., cancer, AIDS). In the ideal world, glutathione would be studied more to determine how it can treat, or even cure, health ailments. Not as a beauty product. Skin lightening is a billion dollar industry so this probably won’t be the case anytime soon.