Glutathione supplement no evidence as safe skin whitener

Can you believe that 50% of Filipinas use whitening products? Count me out. I have never used one and never even desired to be fair skinned.

I cannot blame people for wanting to change their skin color. The colonial mentality or culture bias that “fair skin” is more beautiful is ingrained in the minds of most Filipinas. Not to mention marketing agencies that associate being fair skinned to being “sosyal” or “kutis mayaman”.

As a child, I was often mocked by my mother’s relatives as “negra”. My mom had very fair skin while my dad was very brown (Kayumanggi). My skin color is in between my mom and dad’s color. For a long time, I always thought I was ugly. Inspite of the negative comments, it never occurred to me to take whitening supplements to correct an imperfection in the eyes of my colonial-minded relatives. Of course much later in life, I discovered I am a beautiful person , well , according to my loving husband. He loves my morena (olive) complexion so he says.

Glutathione supplement no evidence as safe skin whitener


me and my sister Belen

Four years ago I already wrote about my objections to glutathione as a skin whitener. My sister, Dr. Belen Lardizabal-Dofitas is a dermatologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center and University of the Philippines–Philippine General Hospital, and member of the Philippine Dermatological Society. She is also the consultant of glutathione to the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (PhilFDA) and she had this to say about Glutathione

there is still a lack of good quality scientific evidence on the efficacy and safety of glutathione supplements and injectable glutathione for lightening skin color.

She appeared in Jessica Soho and discussed the side effects of Glutathione. See video below.

Four years later, my sister conducted an extensive review of scientific literature and still says the same: “There are no published clinical studies on the whitening effect of glutathione products or supplements.”

“Circulatory problems, cystic fibrosis, chemotherapy side effects were reduced by glutathione supplements. These are the kinds of disease conditions wherein glutathione injectable or supplements were tested. The original reason there are glutathione supplements or intravenous glutathione is it’s a good antioxidant” my sister adds in this article.

She says that “well made clinical trials have yet to be conducted. The trials I have appraised do not show sufficient evidence to say that glutathione supplementation is an efective and safe skin whitener. But it is a potential skin whitener. There is too much hype over its efficacy. I studied the reported side effect.”

A survey was also done with her dermatology resident in St. Luke’s Hospital. There were mild to severe side effects which could be due to wrong use overdose or the patient’s medical conditions that lead to the side effects.

PhilFDA approval of Glutathione is only for food supplement

There is also no PhilFDA approval as a skin whitener in any form and only as food / nutritional supplement. A sign of “No therapeutic claims” should be added outside the box. Really, businessmen just want to make money out of Pinoys who think white is beautiful or makes them more marketable.

Glutathione is more tested as a support for chemotherapy to prevent side effects, or as antioxidant support for various illnesses. My sister provides four theories to explain the possible whitening effect of glutathione which is temporary in nature.

“I think there is a possibility that the effect of the glutathione for skin lightening would be temporary. All of us have a default pathway for making our skin color. If you reduce the amount of glutathione levels within the melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells, of course you’ll switch back to your default mode, which is the darker type of melanin, eumelanin. Can you have a permanent high level of glutathione molecules in the cells? No, because they get consumed.”

Sure, most marketing companies will not claim treatment of dark blemishes or dark skin but it will agressively market the product as a skin lightener once it gets FDA approval.

In the Journal of Philippine Dermatological Society, she wrote that “Human clinical trials on a product’s skin lightening effect are required by regulatory agencies such as the PhilFDA before a product is granted a permit as skin ‘whitener.’ It is possible that glutathione products are granted permits as food supplements but are being marketed as ‘skin whiteners’ as well.”

PhilFDA approval is only as a food supplement. My sister did a google survey of all online marketers last 2008-2009 and all claimed skin whitening.

Anyone who wants to use glutathione products should only purchase those that are approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (PhilFDA) and stick to the recommended dose.

Safer alternatives to skin whitening

There are safer options available. There are proven skin-whitening agents in the market that have been here for a long time.

1. If you were to choose between a relatively new or untested drug and one that is established already, I would go more for the established,” such as hydroquinone and licorice.

2. Simple measures, like sun avoidance, using protective clothing, and applying sunscreen regularly can also lighten the skin.

Instead of relying on supplements, think about the basics of skin care, such as healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet .

One should also learn to love their skin color. Do I really want to look like a mestiza?

You look in the mirror and see many things wrong with yourself , but when others look at you, they say nothing is wrong. Perhaps what’s wrong is not how you look, but how you see yourself. ‘Fair is beautiful’ has to be forgotten, and ‘I am beautiful’ should be instilled. The more the media features morenas, the more people will accept that our natural complexion is indeed beautiful.

Brown is beautiful. It also comes with a huge benefit as it provides greater protection against the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation.

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