Can This Underrated Antioxidant Actually Make You Look Younger? I Investigated

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(Image credit: @leletny)

I was recently having a conversation with an editor friend of mine when, naturally, our conversation drifted to the things we'd recently seen on TikTok. We both noticed that a potent ingredient called glutathione was having a serious moment on the platform with some users even reporting that it "made them look younger." I'm a wellness enthusiast myself, so I knew what glutathione was and was already taking it myself before seeing this, but I was also intrigued by these user reports.

To be honest, as a journalist, I'm naturally skeptical about anything people say on TikTok (as we probably all should be), and this particular claim seemed super radical, but I decided to investigate a little more to see what an expert had to say about this. Can this ingredient actually make you appear more youthful? Short answer: maybe! Keep scrolling. I did a bit more of a deep dive below.

What Is Glutathione?

I've heard some experts call glutathione "the master antioxidant" and Auro Wellness founder Nayan Patel, PharmD, told me a bit more about why that is. "Glutathione is a naturally produced antioxidant/tripeptide that is produced in almost every cell in everybody," he says. "Its role is to balance the free radicals. It has two main roles in the body. First, to quench all the free radicals we encounter from the sun, the oxygen we breathe, and it works to balance the by-products of our internal chemical reactions producing reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS and NOS). The second role is to physically bind itself to toxins that our bodies are exposed to and remove them from the body. Glutathione is most concentrated in the liver and is essential in helping the liver detox."

Patel continues, "Since glutathione plays a role in balancing free radicals and removing toxins in the body, it helps keep the body balanced from oxidative stress damage. Oxidative stress damage presents in the body in various forms, from low energy to various medical conditions. Glutathione is essential in making sure that the body is detoxing and able to perform optimal functions. Glutathione is also very important in promoting liver health. The liver is the 'trash bin' of the body, and glutathione works to keep it clean."

How Can Glutathione Help Your Skin?

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(Image credit: @tamaramory)

While it's great to take a glutathione supplement for internal body processes, I was also curious about what it can do when applied topically. While there's some promising research to suggest that glutathione can help fade dark spots, it mostly functions similarly to other potent antioxidants like vitamin C. Patel explains, "The skin is the largest organ of the body and is exposed to the sun and pollution daily. Glutathione works to quench the free radicals and helps prevent oxidative damage to the skin. Oxidative damage on the skin can range from dark spots, premature aging, fine lines, and various other [conditions]."

While I definitely can't say it's going to take years off your face right away, using glutathione topically and taking it orally for longer periods of time might really benefit your skin in the long run. Like Patel said, it can really help with oxidative stress and prevents future damage from occurring—oxidative stress is one of the main reasons our skin begins to show signs of aging. If users on TikTok are reporting that it's "making them look younger," then it's definitely doing its job of protecting your skin. Obviously, this isn't solid scientific evidence—TikTok users reporting this is merely anecdotal—but I'd still be really interested in trying it myself for longer periods to see if I notice significant skin improvements.

Does It Help With Skin Conditions Like Acne?

I asked my aesthetician once if glutathione can help with acne, and she told me that it's great at reducing inflammation, so it can definitely help in that regard. If your acne tends to get super red and inflamed like mine, glutathione is definitely worth adding to your diet as a supplement along with using some type of topical with the ingredient.

Acne can be caused by so many things so I can't say that glutathione alone will completely clear your skin, but even Patel agrees that it can help with some of those larger lesions that get extremely red or inflamed. "In terms of acne, [that's] caused by a bacteria called acne vulgaris—it's an infection. Glutathione has no role in getting rid of the infection, but it can help with inflammation. If any breakouts are caused by inflammation [specifically], that is when glutathione could help."

Most times, acne is also exacerbated by a damaged skin barrier—that's when sensitivity, redness, and inflammation are at their worst. This is something I struggle with as well, so I'll definitely be adding a topical glutathione product or two to my routine.

For product recs, keep scrolling. I'm sharing a few key glutathione products below along with the supplement I take.

The Best Products With Glutathione

Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.