Synthetically useful radical thiol-ene reactions can be initiated by visible light irradiation in the presence of transition metal polypyridyl photocatalysts. The success of this method relies upon the use of p-toluidine as an essential additive. Using these conditions, high-yielding thiol-ene reactions of cysteine-containing biomolecules can be accomplished using biocompatibile wavelengths of visible light, under aqueous conditions, and with the thiol component as the limiting reagent. We present evidence that p-toluidine serves as a redox mediator that is capable of catalyzing the otherwise inefficient photooxidation of thiols to the key thiyl radical intermediate. Thus, we show that co-catalytic oxidants can be important in the design of synthetic reactions involving visible light photoredox catalysis.