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Levin says many of the same treatment options that we favor in the U.S. are used, such as topical medications including hydroquinone , kojic acid, vitamin C , glycolic acid, arbutin, glycolic acid and retinoids . However, when the desired whitening supersedes what these topicals can deliver, there's another treatment Asian women are turning to: injections of glutathione (GSH). "Glutathione is a naturally occurring antioxidant that plays a key role in important physiological processes such as neutralizing free radicals, detoxification and cellular breakdown of proteins," explains Dr. Levin. "It was discovered to have antimelanogenic (or anti-pigment) properties through multiple pathways, but only in vitro, meaning in the petri dish, not in clinical trials." The countries where this injection (it's performed intravenously; typically in the arm) is most prevalent are Vietnam, the Philippines and India—it's actually illegal in Thailand, but oral and topical forms of the medication are available as alternatives and considered popular skin-lightening options in other countries as well, such as Malaysia, China, Korea and Taiwan. However, Dr. Levin says it is hypothesized that the intravenous form is more bioavailable than the oral form (meaning your body can actually use what is injected), but there are also no studies to support this. "Most importantly, the data on safety is very limited," she adds. You May Also Like: 5 Ways to Get Rid of Those Pesky Sunspots on Your Chest While recently speaking to a Vietnamese woman, she told me women in her country are paying upward of $1,000 to have the GSH injection, which claims to "whiten" skin as little as two to three weeks.
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