Glutathione (GSH) either as oral supplements or IV drips as skin lightening agents are the go-to treatments for glowing and bright skin especially in Asian countries and India, where the quest for fair skin is a never ending journey.
In this post we will see what glutathione is? Does it work as a skin lightening agent ? Are there any studies to back up its use in beauty spas or clinics? Is it safe? And is it worth it?
Introduction to Glutathione
Proposed mechanism of GSH as a skin lightening agent
What is the current evidence ?
Concerns with GSH as a Skin Lightening agent
Final word on glutathione for skin lightening
The evidence for oral or topical glutathione for skin lightening is still not convincing yet to warrant a unanimous recommendation for skin lightening or as a treatment for pigmentation
Is there a way to naturally increase GSH stores in our body?
YES you can.
The most economical & sustainable way to prevent glutathione depletion in our body is by preventing the need for GSH in the body in the first place by reducing oxidative stress.
Lifestyle habits that one can make to reduce oxidative stress :
Limit alcohol consumption
Diet rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts which delivers amino acids required for GSH production or rich in other antioxidants : Tomatoes, oranges, spinach, asparagus, avocado, berries, walnuts, almonds ( best consumed raw or lightly steamed)
Whey protein is a good source of cysteine (an amino acid essential for GSH synthesis)
Pregnancy, one of the most beautiful journey for a women, but it can be associated with many skin changes that can be bothersome and add unnecessary stress during this time.
These changes in the skin, hair or nails are normal and expected, but the good news is, they are temporary and resolve spontaneously post delivery to a great extent even if not completely to a pre pregnant state. Let’s look at what these changes can be and how you can address them.
This one of the most common change that can see seen in upto 90% of pregnant women. It is more pronounced in women with brown to darker skin type. Body folds, or areas of the body which are normally pigmented such as the under arms, inner thighs, become more pigmented. For some women, diffuse hyperpigmentation can occur.
Another common pigmentation issue that develops during pregnancy.
Which skincare are safe to use during pregnancy?
Most skincare, be it moisturisers or serums or sunscreens (chemical or physical) can be used safely during pregnancy.
Experts often recommended limiting the amount of exposure to or avoiding certain ingredients as a precautionary measure and not because the ingredient is harmful to the mother or the developing baby.
Hydroquinone (HQ) can be substantially absorbed into the blood stream when applied topically to the skin. Even though there have never been reports of it causing any adverse effects to the baby when used during pregnancy. It is still recommended to limit one’s exposure to HQ or avoid it during pregnancy.
Retinoids are recommended to be avoided during pregnancy based on the evidence that Oral vitamin A analogues when taken orally during pregnancy can cause birth defects in the developing baby. And as topical retinoids are also vitamin A derivatives, it’s recommended to avoid using them during pregnancy if possible just as a precautionary measure. There is no evidence to suggest that one needs to discontinue topical retinoids if one is trying to conceive.
If you are conflicted with making a decision on whether to avoid such ingredients or continue using them in you routine during pregnancy, it’s best to discuss this with your treating dermatologist and gynaecologist who can help guide you make the decision that is best suited for you individually.
When it comes to preventing pregnancy stretch marks or reducing their appearance, there are not much options out there and most products available in the market that promises otherwise do not work.
The use of products containing cantella asiatica or silicones or hyaluronic acid have some weak evidence that they may help with the appearance of the stretch marks when applied regularly. However these are not miracle creams, you may still develop stretch marks despite using such products regularly.
If you want to try such products, go ahead, just make sure to spend some time massaging the products into your skin as the increase blood circulation to the skin as a result of the massage may be able to help to some extent and set realistic expectations so that you do not get disappointed.
Oils such as rosemary oil, olive oil, cocoa butter, shea butter have never been proven to help.
We’ve all heard of acids such as glycolic acids, and if you’re acne prone- salicylic acid and the rest. These acids are used in skincare products as chemical exfoliants i.e they help to chemically detach cells in the upper most layer of the skin from one another, yielding a more youthful, smoother, brighter skin.
What are the various types of acids used in skincare ?
How do they work?
Lower strength acids as found in OTC cosmetics (usually <10%) works at the level of the epidermis specifically at the stratum corneum (upper most layer of skin) and causes exfoliation.
Higher strength acids (>20%) are used as in-office procedures by professionals as chemical peels. Higher strength and lower molecular size acids such as glycolic acid can penetrate deep into the skin (upto the dermis) to boost collagen, GAG’s production thereby increasing the thickness of skin, and reversing signs of photoageing such as wrinkles, deep lines, sun spots etc.
Concept behind exfoliation
As we age our skin cell turn over (cells from the lower layer, divide and mature and are eventually shed off) slows down. As a results more cells from the startum corneum accumulate on the surface which gives aged skin a more dull, and rough appearance. Chemical exfoliation using acids helps speed up the process of shedding the upper layers of the skin. Hence, incorporating acids in our skin care are of benefit a we age and and for addressing certain skin concerns. They are un-necessary for younger age groups as their skin can naturally exfoliate at a good rate.
Acids beyond exfoliation
Uses of acids in skin care products can be more than just for exfoliation. Different acids have a slightly unique properties that help address specific concerns.
How to choose a chemical exfoliant?
Firstly, not everyone needs a chemical exfoliant in their routine. If you do not have any skin concerns, or if you are happy if your existing routine, continue what works for you regardless of whether you have such acids or not in your routine.
Amongst AHAs :
Glycolic acid is most commonly used and widely available in skincare products. However being of smaller molecular size, it can penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and cause irritation for some.
Lactic acid: another common AHA, but has additional properties of being able to retain water thus hydrating the skin. It’s also less irritating as compared to GA
Mandelic acid : a larger molecular weight AHA that is great for people not tolerating other acids or for people with sensitive skin as it is least irritating.
PHA and PBHAs, the newer generation acids. Not only do they provide gentle chemical exfoliation, some PBHAs such as lactonionic acid help hydrate and soothe the skin.
Note: The tolerability of such acids are also dependent on the overall formulations. Some products have a combination of these acids for maximum benefit and least irritation. Most often you only require a single product, and try not to use too many chemical exfoliants in your skin care routine without a professional consultation.
What can go wrong with such products?
Irritation is the most common side effect of using such products. It can present as redness, burning or itching. It can also be seen as bumps resembling acne. Start by using such products just once-twice a week instead of every night and do not forget your sunscreen.
Some people may be allergic to certain acids, always perform a patch test prior to using such products especially if you have sensitive skin.
Over exfoliation can disrupt your skin barrier, making it sensitive, dry and irritated. In this case, stop using such chemical exfoliants and jut stick to the basics: cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen.
If you already have a routine for your acne or pigmentation, please consult your dermatologist prior to incorporating such products in your routine.
Dark circles though very common, can be difficult to address. Many factors are involved in causing dark circles, such as ethnicity, bone structure, anatomy of the skin etc, and most times a cream or serum cannot address all the factors involved, thus resulting in failure of treatment.
Let’s try to understand more about dark circles here.
What causes dark circles ?
There can be intrinsic factors (internal, genetically predetermined factors, inevitable) or extrinsic factors (external, environmental impact, modifiable).
Types of dark circles
Understanding the type of dark circles helps guide the treatment options.
Some OTC products that may help
Why are my eye creams not working?
So you have been using eye creams religiously for a long time and you still have not seen results. Why isn’t t it working for you?
Lack of sun protection: The under eye area is a commonly missed site during sunscreen application.
Not making the necessary lifestyle changes: Ongoing stress, lack of sleep, not cutting down on smoking and alcohol.
Underlying cause not addressed: Continuous scratching from eczema irritation.
Lack of patience: Depigmenting creams take time to work
Incorrect choice of product or treatment: Some form of dark circles benefit more from prescription medications or from a combination of products + in office procedures such as fillers, chemical peels etc
Unrealistic expectation: No creams/serum can 100% reduce dark circles. Shadowing effect due to bone structure cannot be corrected by creams. Constitutional pigmentation respond only minimally to OTC products.
Oily skin medically done as a “Seborrhoea”is described for skin that feels greasy, looks shiny usually, have large open pores which is also prone to acne and though viewed as a cosmetic concern, what is skin can have a negative impact on one’s confidence and mental health.
Oily skin is such a common concern for many that the beauty and skincare industry are constantly preying on this concern launching products with highly unrealistic claims and marketing strategies with labels such as “oil free’ , “oil control” etc while hero-ing ingredients that have never actually been proven to help regulate oil production at all.
This post will hopefully help you understand more about what oily skin means: that anatomy, physiology, the function of sebum (oil) in skin, why one has more oiler skin than other with a mention on products that can actually work help reduce skin oiliness.
More about sebaceous glands and sebum
What causes oily skin?
There are many factors that contribute to oily skin.
Can oily skin be treated ?
Though oily skin cannot be completely cured, there are certain treatment options that could help control the skin as well as some causes a suitable that is over-the-counter products that may be able to help with its appearance.
Seek professional treatment from a dermatologist if you only skin is really affecting your self-confidence and your mental health or if over the counter products fail to achieve the desired results. A professional consultation will also help rule out certain medical conditions, which would otherwise require further investigation and treatment
Look out for these ingredients in over the counter products :
Salicylic acid, Niacinamide, Green tea extract, L-carnitine
Though these ingredients do not have a very solid scientific data, there are some small scale studies that have shown that they can help address oily skin
Most effective in controlling oily skin. However they need to be used with caution and under dermatological supervision
Medically termed as “Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation” or PIH, these are dark brown to blue to black pigmentation that are left behind as a sequelae of the acne.
PIH can cause more concerns for individuals with acne than the acne itself but the good news is that, PIH are lesser evils of all pigmentation issues that occurs in our skin, they are preventable and completely treatable for many.
So why do PIH occurs ?
Skin type (i.e darker skin type), along with UV radiation and ongoing inflammation from the acne all work together to cause PIH
How can one minimise the risk of development of dark spots or PIH?
Though PIH/dark spots from acne can fade with time, we do see many individuals whose PIH last longer than expected.
Why is my PIH not fading?
Do over the counter products work for PIH post acne?
To some extent, YES, they do!
OTC products that addresses pigmentation along with treatment for acne and sun protection can definitely help fade acne scars as long as they are superficial epidermal PIH. Deep/Dermal PIH or mixed type of PIH would respond better to prescription medications +/- in office procedures such as chemical peels, LASERS etc
I got a few questions on how to store skincare products when one is living in a hot tropical country with summers of >35°C and when instructions on product labels read “store below 25°C or store sunscreen below 30°C?
This is actually a great question and concern for consumers, I was so impressed at this level of consciousness and curiosity when it comes to skincare and cosmetics.
Since I am not a skincare or cosmetic developer, I am not fully aware of the best answer for this question and so I took the liberty to ask for help from a pharmacist and a post graduate in advanced cosmetology: Catarina Cabeçadas to answer this question. She is also the writer of “The skin balance blog“
Vitamin B5 is also called Panthothenic acid which comes from the greek word “Panthos” meaning everywhere which is quite the appropriate name as pantothenic acid functions as a Coenzyme A a co-factor of various biological processes in our body.
It is also referred to as “anti stress vitamin”
Vitamin B5: Pantothenic acid in Human body
Due to the abundance of vitamin B5 in our diet, deficiency is extremely rare. Additionla nutritional supplements is unnecessary if one is having a well balanced diet.
What are the functions of Vitamin B5 in our body?
Vit B5 is responsible for the production of Coenzyme A, which takes part in various biological activities in the body such as:
Gluconeogenesis ( glucose production)
Degradation of fatty acids
Synthesis of steroid hormone,
Synthesis of acetylcholine
What about topical Vitamin B5 for our skin?
Skin conditions that can benefit from Vitamin B creams/ointment
As hand cream for individuals with hand eczemas as a preventative & therapeutic option
As moisturisers foratopic eczema patients
For wound healing such as leg ulcers, burn wounds
As prevention and treatment of diaper rash
Vitamin B5 creams though rare can cause contact allergic dermatitis or irritation for some
I’ve written post on this a while ago, and not much data was available then regarding truncal acne.
So here’s an update on another common issue : Truncal acne.
Truncal acne refers to the acne involving the back and or chest. Around 50% of patients with facial acne also suffer from truncal acne while ~ 3% suffer from just truncal acne without any acne on their face.
How is it different from facial acne?
Truncal acne has been neglected in comparison to facial acne. Not much studies are available on this entity and treatment options are limited as well. Creams or gel that are available for face may not be enough or prove to be too costly for application over large surface areas such as the back or the chest.
Triggers for truncal acne
Triggers are external factors that could cause development of acne in genetically predisposed individuals.
How is body acne treated?
In general, treatment of truncal acne follows the same principles as for facial acne.
The only difference is that one needs to be mindful for the choice of products for truncal acne. A small 15g cream or gel may prove to be too costly as it may not be enough to treat large surface areas such as the back and chest.
Lotion or foam formulation may be a better and more convenient choice for the back/chest.
OTC products for truncal acne
Conditions that can be confused for truncal acne
When to see a dermatologist?
When OTC products fail to work
When in doubt of the diagnosis and how to use these products
If you have a personal history of developing hypertrophic or keloidal scars (thick, large scars), early treatment will help prevent such scar formation
Severe extensive involvement may require a course on antibiotics or isotretinoin
Managing post truncal acne scars either atrophic, hypertrophic or pigmented scars may require in office procedures such as chemical peels or LASERS, etc
Post acne erythema are also called post acne erythema or macular erythema.
They are persistent pink to red marks that occurs in acne patients during the course of acne treatment and persists for sometime even after the acne subsides.
They are more commonly seen in patients with lighter skin (FST I-III), but PIE can also be seen in Indian skin type FST III & IV as well.
PIE is a relatively new term, which is different from post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) i.e the brownish black scars that follows an acne eruption.
How and why does PIE occurs?
Still not clearly understood. Potential explanation is that during the process of inflammation, some pro-inflammatory cytokines that are released causes dilatation of the small blood vessels present in the superficial most part of the dermis.
The epidermis while still being in the process of maturation, is thinner, more transparent and can thus more incident light is reflected from the underlying vasculature
How to manage PIE?
So far, there is not much options for treating PIE.
The best approach is to minimise the risk of developing PIE in the first place.
As blood vessels will dilate during the process of healing, so some amount of erythema (redness) is expected. However as persistent inflammation is the driving force for long lasting erythema seen as PIE, addressing the factors that causes the inflammation will help minimise the chances of developing persisting PIE.
You do not need to buy products with these individual ingredients separately. Just look for products formulated with these ingredients together either in your moisturiser or sunscreen
Treatment that have been tried for PIE
For most individuals with acne, PIE subsides spontaneously after a few weeks to months just with gentle, supportive care in the form of sunscreens, moisturisers +/- ingredient to help with the inflammation.