Glutathione came onto my radar when a company sent me some patches to test. Beauty or anti-aging patches are not exactly common, so I’ve been chary about trying them out in case anyone thinks that I am using nicotine patches. Anyway, the main point is that I wasn’t all that familiar with glutathione, and so I decided to do some research to see if it should be part of my anti-aging arsenal. It turns out that glutathione could be the mother of all antioxidants.

Glutathione (prounced glute-a-thigh-on) is a peptide that is produced naturally all the time in our bodies. It is a combination of three simple building blocks of amino acids — cysteine, glycine and glutamine. A busy molecule, it does all sorts of important things — detoxification, antioxidant defense, maintenance of thiol status (a molecule in our blood) and modulation of cell proliferation.

The detoxification part happens due to sulfur compounds. Toxins stick to it. Glutathione gets rid of our bodies’ nasties by also participating directly in the neutralization of free radicals and reactive oxygen compounds.

Glutathione gets to be the mother of all antioxidants in my book for one simple reason: it recycles antioxidants. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, or vitamin E or lipoic acid do their best to zap free radicals, and it is glutathione that maintains, regulates and recycles them. And if that wasn’t enough, glutathione is critical for immune function and controlling inflammation.

Like all essential things, glutathione has a habit of dissipating as we age, or allowing toxins to build up.  The level falls in all tissues with age and may lead to age-associated diseases.

How can you boost your glutathione? Consume sulfur-rich foods, such as garlic, onions and the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, etc.). Exercise boosts glutathione levels, as well. Regarding supplements, the research is mixed. One study says it isn’t possible to increase levels through oral supplements (the subjects were given three grams a day), while another (conducted on a larger group) claimed that increases of up to 35% were observed.

These are some great skincare products with glutathione that are well worth considering:

Medik8 CE-Thione Rechargeable Vitamin C Serum ($150 in the shop) takes a clever approach to glutathione – it uses it to “recharge” vitamin C and vitamin E. The glutathione regulates the vitamins so that they are more stable and renders them more potent, ultimately helping protect the skin against free radicals. That’s the kind of intelligent formulating that really impresses me.

Arcona Desert Mist ($35) is a lightweight, hydrating moisturizer in a liquid gel form. It provides a protective barrier for skin that defends against environmental damage and free radicals and reinforces daily hydration with glutathione and witch hazel

Your Best Face Antioxidant Concentrate ($55 in the shop), also boasts glutathione, along with two other powerful free radical scavengers, spin trap and Lipochroman-6.  

Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.