When it comes to attaining clear skin once and for all, there’s a number of things that you can do to help achieve this. For instance, having a solid skincare routine in place that is free of pore-clogging ingredients and promotes proper exfoliation.
Your overall health also plays a critical part, too. Take, for example, your liver and your complexion, as the liver and acne connection is self-evident. The same can be said for your gut health, too, as it’s all a delicate balance that plays a huge role in your overall well-being.
And when those things are out of balance, you can start to notice increased levels of inflammation in your body. In turn, you’ll start to notice a fresh crop of blemishes forming across your face and body, as well as a myriad of other issues, too.
But did you know that one of the most important things you can do to help maintain a clear complexion is to actually reach for antioxidants? These little nutrient powerhouses have been shown to clear your body of inflammation and disease-causing free radicals, allowing you to experience that clear skin you’ve always wanted.
One of the most potent antioxidants out there is none other than glutathione. Found in every single cell in your body – from your skin cells to even your bone and nerve cells – glutathione is absolutely essential for good health. If you don’t have enough of it, then things can start to turn south pretty dang quickly. (1)
But what is glutathione (other than being a powerful antioxidant, of course)? And what role does it play in clear skin? The fact is, the relationship between glutathione and acne is actually fairly clear cut – and when it comes to looking youthful and radiant, you definitely don’t want to sleep on this antioxidant!
What is Glutathione?
So, what exactly is glutathione, and why does it matter? As we just mentioned, it’s a type of antioxidant that’s tucked away into each and every cell in your body. But that’s an oversimplification of what it is and what it really does, as glutathione’s role is fairly complex overall. (1)
As a tripeptide, that means that glutathione (also known as GSH) is made up of a trifecta of the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid. Produced in the liver, it works hard to serve many processes in your body. Namely, it helps repair and rebuild tissue, creates much-needed proteins, helps bolster your immune system, and it is crucial for optimal liver function & detoxification. (2 & 3)
All of these jobs are super important, as they help keep your body chugging cheerfully along. When you start to run low on it, that’s when you’ll start to notice issues, such as an increased likelihood of getting ill, unwanted acne breakouts, and even seizures. No bueno, folks. (4)
The bottom line here? Glutathione is e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y important, and that importance cannot be overstated. By staying on top of making sure that your body has high enough levels of this antioxidant, you can avoid these issues – and, of course, get the clear skin that you’ve always wanted.
How Glutathione Works on the Skin
Now that you know what glutathione is, the next step in truly understanding it is picking apart its precise mechanism of action. So, how does glutathione work on the skin? In brief, it does exactly what an antioxidant is supposed to do: it breaks down free radicals that can lead to oxidative stress. (5)
You see, when your body isn’t able to produce enough GSH, those free radicals can start to run rampant in your body, wreaking havoc in your entire system. This can lead to major damage in your cells (and even in your DNA). In turn, you can start to notice those telltale signs of inflammation.
If you have enough glutathione in your body, though, you’ll be fully armed to help defeat those reckless free radicals that are out to get you. That way, they can be properly handled and disposed of, and your body will be able to generate new, healthy cells in place of the damaged ones.
And if you’re wondering what causes these free radicals, it can be anything from the food you eat to pollutants in the environment around you. While some are avoidable, others are all but inevitable. But for the most part, we’re able to keep them in check with antioxidants such as GSH, minimizing that potential damage from happening. (5)
Benefits of Glutathione
Wanting to dip your toes into the world of glutathione, but you’re not quite sure if it’s worth it? Well, let’s just say the glutathione benefits for acne and skin health are multifold. Let’s go ahead and break it down further together, friends.
Benefit #1: It can reduce oxidative stress.
This is sort of a given, but since glutathione is an antioxidant, it only makes sense that it can help get rid of oxidative stress in your cells. In turn, you’ll be able to experience reduced levels of inflammation and a reduced likelihood of developing diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer. (1)
Furthermore, oxidative stress is associated with reduced collagen levels and elevated levels of inflammation. If you don’t curtail it, you can start to notice poorer skin tone and an increased amount of fine lines and sagging. GSH, though, can prevent this. (6)
Benefit #2: It can help improve acne breakouts.
This point is sort of similar to the previous one, but it’s piggybacking on it. Since acne is a disease of inflammation (caused by a number of factors, really, but that one is a biggie), you’ll want to reduce the inflammation to get rid of the breakouts. Glutathione can be a fantastic Accutane alternative, allowing you to finally enjoy clear skin. (7)
Benefit #3: It can protect against psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a skin condition characterized by itchy, scaly patches on the skin. It can be quite uncomfortable, and for those who suffer from it, it can also make them pretty self-conscious. Studies have shown that supplementing with glutathione can help treat psoriasis, putting patients into remission from this autoimmune disease. (8)
Benefit #4: It can help fade existing acne scars.
Because of its antioxidant properties, glutathione has been shown to fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. If you’re prone to red marks that linger on your skin long after your breakout goes away, then you may want to consider using glutathione for acne scars, as it can fade them fairly quickly. (9)
Benefit #5: It can help reduce melasma, too.
Again, the skin-lightening effects of glutathione bear repeating. If you’ve been struggling with melasma (those dark patches on your skin that can show up from UV damage or pregnancy), then supplementation with this antioxidant can help fade the discoloration. (9)
How to Boost Glutathione Levels Naturally
Now that you’re familiar with the benefits of using glutathione, you’re probably wondering how to get your hands on it and start reaping the benefits of this antioxidant. The good news is that boosting it naturally is totally easy to do, no weird supplementation or ridiculous megadosing necessary.
Here are a few ways you can get the ball rolling on this:
- Reach for the vitamin C. Foods high in vitamin C have been shown to increase glutathione levels by targeting free radicals, allowing this antioxidant to increase in levels in your body. Foods high in this vitamin include citrus fruits (like oranges and grapefruits), broccoli, kiwi, and strawberries. (10)
- Enjoy a little selenium. According to research, supplementation with selenium can also help increase your body’s GSH levels. You can find this mineral in foods like Brazil nuts, seafood, and organ meats. (11)
- Have some sulfur. Sure, sulfur smells a bit funky (can we say “rotten eggs,” anyone?) but it’s going to be your best ally when it comes to increasing glutathione levels. Foods high in sulfur include leeks, garlic, and onion, as well as cruciferous veggies (like cauliflower and kale). (12)
- Try some turmeric. Curcumin is also incredibly good for you, and the benefits of it for your skin are fairly impressive. Why not try some curry recipes? You can get a double whammy of health benefits, as well as a delicious meal in the process, too! (13)
- Focus on your sleep. Sure, you can increase glutathione levels through your diet, but that’s not the only way to do it. Researchers have found that people who have insomnia actually have lower levels of GSH in their systems. Increase your sleep and you can increase your glutathione. (14)
- Be mindful of your stress. Life can be stressful sometimes, that’s a given. But if you’re always stressed, you’re going to start to experience reduced levels of glutathione in your body. Managing your stress (ie, cortisol, the stress hormone) and taking a hormonal acne supplement can help give your GSH a boost. (15)
- Hit the gym. Whether your preferred exercise is going on a run or it’s lifting weights, both can be beneficial for you. However, studies have shown that by doing a combination of both cardio and strength training can really bring those glutathione levels up. (16)
- Skip the nightcap. While the occasional glass of red wine might actually be good for you, since it has its own antioxidant properties, overdoing it on the hard beverages can backfire. Excessive alcohol can cause oxidative stress, therefore depleting your glutathione levels. (17)
Remember, staying healthy is going to require a holistic approach. Sure, you can probably get your glutathione levels up through powders or supplements, but those are just going to be a band-aid for the real, underlying issues in your health. If you really want to see change, you need to take a hard look at your life.
Yes, it can seem difficult at first. Trying to eat healthier, adding a little bit of exercise into your routine, and making sleep a priority can be challenging, especially in today’s hustle and bustle world. But by making lasting lifestyle changes, you can boost those levels naturally – and reap the numerous benefits of maintaining them.
It's true that trying to get clear skin can definitely be tricky. However, it’s important to remember that it’s more than just trying to remember to wash your face at night and hoping that it’s good enough. If you want to have blemish-free skin, then you need to take a look at the bigger picture.
That’s why you never want to overlook the value of a healthy lifestyle and keeping those antioxidant levels up. Not only can this help safeguard you from the more common chronic diseases associated with aging, but it can also help ward off acne breakouts and other unpleasant skin conditions, as well.
At the end of the day, this is the only body that you’ve got. Sure, you want to look your very best, and that’s totally understandable and shouldn’t be dismissed at all. But by making your whole health a priority, you can feel great on the inside – while also looking your very best on the outside, too!
Source 1: Glutathione! https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684116/
Source 2: Glutathione: Overview of its protective roles, measurement, and biosynthesis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696075/
Source 3: Glutathione and immune function https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11115795/
Source 4: Relevance of the Glutathione System in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy: Evidence in Human and Experimental Models https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4265701/
Source 5: Antioxidants: In Depth https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants-in-depth
Source 6: Oxidative Stress in Aging Human Skin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4496685/
Source 7: Decrease in glutathione may be involved in pathogenesis of acne vulgaris https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21896138/
Source 8: Psoriasis Improvement in Patients Using Glutathione-enhancing, Nondenatured Whey Protein Isolate: A Pilot Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3805302/
Source 9: Dermatology: how to manage facial hyperpigmentation in skin of colour https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9165630/
Source 10: Vitamin C elevates red blood cell glutathione in healthy adults https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8317379/
Source 11: Effect of Selenium Supplementation on Glutathione Peroxidase Enzyme Activity in Patients With Chronic Kidney Disease: A Randomized Clinical Trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4090673/
Source 12: A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770193/
Source 13: Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15650394/
Source 14: Short-term sleep deprivation leads to decreased systemic redox metabolites and altered epigenetic status https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5524320/
Source 15: Cell Damage, Antioxidant Status, and Cortisol Levels Related to Nutrition in Ski Mountaineering During a Two-Day Race https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761741/
Source 16: Effects of exercise training on the glutathione antioxidant system https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17925621/
Source 17: Effect of alcohol abuse and glutathione administration on the circulating levels of glutathione and on antipyrine metabolism in patients with alcoholic liver cirrhosis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8869667/