6 best/worst ways to increase glutathione levels for skin whitening

We’re all chasing the glow. It’s more than good genes, religious exfoliation and hydration. It’s come to light that glutathione might be the key to skin whitening and youthful radiance.

Glutathione – one of the body’s most important and potent antioxidants – occurs naturally in our bodies to keep cells healthy. The wonder compound removes free radicals, toxins and heavy metals. It improves energy production, boosts immunity, delays early signs of ageing skin, among many others.

But as we explained in our article on hyperpigmentation treatment, glutathione supplements aren’t going to cut it.

Glutathione and Skin

Glutathione fights oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. When free radicals accumulate they cause damage to cells. 

Factors of glutathione deficiency include:

  • Exposure to chemical toxins (including environmental pollution)
  • UV radiation exposure
  • Chronic stress
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Certain medications

And we see the deficiency manifest as wrinkles, inflammation, hyperpigmentation and melasma. Introducing glutathione can help combat some of those unsightly, confidence-lowering effects.

Glutathione has been highly regarded in skin care for its skin whitening properties. It works by deactivating activity of the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for pigmentation production.


The best way to absorb glutathione

When you orally consume glutathione, the body just cannot absorb it. There are 3 ways to go about this:

1) Eat foods rich in antioxidants

2) Consume supplements that stimulate glutathione

3) IV injection of glutathione

For safety reasons, almost every country bans IV injections. That leaves us with option 1 and 2…

Which is embarking on an antioxidant-rich diet to increase glutathione levels so we can finally get rid of dull skin, blemishes and dark patches.

Again, it’s important that you remember: Glutathione supplements taken on their own DON’T work where skin whitening is concerned. Here’s what to do instead, if you want whiter skin.

Antioxidants and Our Skin

Antioxidants come in an astonishing array of forms, from vitamins (A, B, C, E) and minerals (selenium, manganese) to phytochemicals (carotenoids, flavonoids). 

They all do their jobs and benefit our bodies in some way or other. However, here’s what you should know.

Myth: Higher concentration of antioxidants helps oxygen radical defence (aka you see better lightening effects)

Truth: This has not been demonstrated over a wide range of concentrations. Not all antioxidants are created equal!

In fact, it has come to light that antioxidants have different strengths. There are some that possess higher levels of free radical absorption than others.

Best Antioxidants that Boost Natural Glutathione Production

  1. L-Cysteine

L-cysteine helps to replenish intracellular glutathione. And more recently, clinical studies have reported on the use of L-cysteine as a free radical scavenger, most notably where there appears to be a need for glutathione repletion.

In other words, L-cysteine helps make glutathione. Another good thing is that it’s well absorbed via oral administration. So supplements with L-cysteine are great!

L-cysteine rich foods:

  • Lentils
  • Tuna
  • Chicken (breast)
  • Oatmeal
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Low fat yoghurt
  • Swiss cheese
  1. Selenium

Selenium is an essential mineral and a glutathione cofactor. Its presence is necessary for glutathione activity.

By increasing your intake of selenium, you may help maintain or increase your body’s glutathione supply.

For most healthy adults, eating a balanced diet with selenium-rich goods will ensure adequate levels of selenium and therefore, healthy glutathione levels.

Selenium rich foods:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Tuna
  • Shrimp
  • Shellfish (oysters)
  • Chicken (breast)
  • Beef (skirt steak)
  • Mushrooms (shiitake)
  1. Vitamin B2

Producing more glutathione is not the only way to enjoy skin whitening effects. There’s also glutathione recycling.

Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin. It is involved in energy metabolism and recycling glutathione. Since glutathione is used in the body for numerous other functions, it can get depleted quickly, thus the need for reuse.

Vitamin B2 rich foods: 

  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Eggs
  • Cow’s milk
  • Broccoli
  • Beans (soy, green) 
  • Almonds
  1. Sulfur

Sulfur occurs in several amino acids, two of which — methionine and cysteine — are precursors for glutathione and therefore contribute to its synthesis.

It plays a fundamental role in the health of your hair, skin, nails and connective tissues.

Sulfur rich foods:

  • Duck
  • Turkey
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts)
  • Eggs and dairy
  • Shellfish (scallops, mussels)
  • Dried fruit (peaches, apricots, sultanas)
  • Oats

Bonus: Colour Less Carotenoids

Colourless carotenoids (CLC), won’t increase glutathione levels but it’s definitely worth mentioning.

Of the over 800 carotenoids known, only very few of them are colourless. Two of these, phytoene and phytofluene, are attracting much attention recently. 

They are vastly different from their more commonly known siblings, Beta-carotene and Lycopene (we’ll discuss this in a bit).

Besides promoting health by protecting against UV damage, CLCs can provide cosmetic benefits by contributing to improved skin tone or improving other skin characteristics. 

Commonly Used Antioxidants that Don’t Do Much to Raise Glutathione

There’s a high chance that when you flip a box of skin whitening supplements or lightening creams, you’ll still find some of these ingredients.

Perhaps this is the reason why so many people don’t see the results they hoped for.

Vitamin C

Everyone knows our good friend Vitamin C, the master immunity booster. If you want to stay healthy and live to a ripe old age, definitely supplement with Vitamin C. 

Researchers have discovered that green tea extract is an antioxidant a hundred times more powerful than Vitamin C!

Bearing that in mind, we can see this as a rather “weak” antioxidant. How much can it raise the levels of Glutathione, one of the most potent antioxidants in the body then?

Vitamin E

It is known that vitamin E, together with glutathione and a glutathione-dependent enzyme, can prevent damaging effects of oxidation. 

On the simplest level, antioxidants such as vitamin E improve the effects of glutathione. Even then, it must be in the presence of another enzyme. Vitamin E on its own doesn’t necessarily boost glutathione production.


Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid present in many fruits and vegetables, with tomatoes and processed tomato products being among the richest sources. 

While many studies suggest that lycopene is great at increasing glutathione activity in the body, if skin whitening is your goal, you’ll want to take heed.


Now that you know what to avoid and what are the must-haves, you can make wiser decisions in your quest for crystal clear, radiant skin.

Unfortunately, we deplete our antioxidant levels in many ways… such as ageing, a poor diet and a living a sedentary lifestyle. So here are some lifestyle changes that can ensure your natural glutathione levels stay health too:

  • Avoid processed foods and sugar.
  • Drink 64 ounces of water a day.
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Exercise at least five days a week.