If you’re one of the fifty to seventy million Americans who struggles to fall (and stay) asleep, chances are you’ve heard of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycle.
But melatonin has become the latest trendy skincare ingredient that claims to help repair and restore your skin while combating signs of stress and pollution. (Have we been sleeping on this restorative powerhouse all along?)
To answer all our questions about melatonin, like how it helps your skin and how you should be using it, we asked Austin-based dermatologist Ted Lain, MD and New York City–based dermatologists Dendy Engelman, MD and Dennis Gross, MD to break down al the important information about the buzzy hormone. Below, everything you need to know about adding melatonin to your skincare routine and a few product recommendations to help you get started.
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What is melatonin?
More than just a pill you pop when you can’t stop tossing and turning, the hormone melatonin is a key element of your body’s sleep and wake cycle. When it starts to get dark outside, the brain— signaled by the change in light—releases melatonin, triggering the urge to sleep. (That’s why you begin to feel tired at around the same time each day.) Melatonin has long been available as an oral supplement, but scientific evidence has revealed its antioxidant superpowers, making it the latest buzzy ingredient in topical skin care.
How does it help your skin?
All day long, your skin encounters damaging free radicals, thanks to pollution and UV exposure. These face foes can alter the skin’s DNA, resulting in photo damage and even cancer, according to Lain. In order to neutralize free radicals, your body makes antioxidants, with the help of antioxidant enzymes. “Melatonin stimulates your body’s natural production of these enzymes,” says Dr Engelman. And, according to a study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, these melatonin-induced antioxidants are more effective than those from the ever-popular vitamins C and E.
Another plus to adding melatonin to skincare products: There’s no risk of side effects like headaches, dizziness, nausea, or even those crazy dreams that some people report experiencing from the oral version. “A study in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment assessed whether melatonin cream applied to 80 percent of the body at night led to any mental changes,” Lain says. The results showed no link to cognitive dysfunction, so you can rest easy.
How should you use it?
Melatonin works with common anti-aging ingredients, such as retinol (found, along with melatonin, in Peter Thomas Roth Green Releaf Therapeutic Sleep Cream) and vitamin C (Engelman recommends skin-brightening ISDIN Melatonik). It also complements hyaluronic acid (found in Zelens Z Melatonin Night Repair Serum) in improving skin’s elasticity. Most people apply melatonin products at night, when skin’s repair process works overtime. But because melatonin increases antioxidant levels, some doctors argue for daytime use as well, since that’s when you’re bombarded with UV rays. Dr. Gross suggests applying an SPF with melatonin, like his Instant Radiance Sun Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 40, as the last step in your morning skincare routine.
Think of this botanical-powered overnight treatment as a reset button for your skin. Melatonin enhances the skin’s natural repair process while wild dandelion leaf and bakuchiol (known as nature’s retinol alternative) refine skin texture.
Kiss chapped lips buh-bye. Hyaluronic acid and melatonin work together to give lips a plump, smooth appearance. Aquadruple berry blend (goji, acai, blueberry, and blackberry) provides antioxidant benefits that help to rejuvenate your pout overnight.
Tennis player Venus Williams, who is part owner of Asutra, swears by this relaxing melatonin and magnesium cream to get a restful night's sleep.
Melatonin’s ability to create radical-fighting antioxidants makes it the perfect addition to your daytime routine. This tintedphysical sunscreen pairs it with brightening vitamin C to help protect against environmental stressors and correct uneven skin tone.
L-absorbic acid, the most effective form of topicalvitamin C, helps to undo environmental damage along with melatonin and vitamins E and B3.
This brightening serum contains a proprietary complex of three botanicals that are naturally rich in melatonin: St. John's wort, Chinese liquorice, and thyme.
Reboot stressed skin with this overnight serum-oil hybrid. It features a cocktail of antioxidant-producing melatonin, refining bakuchiol, and brightening vitamin C that help to undo environmental damage from the day.
Dry and eczema-prone skin types will love this nurturing night cream. Cannabis sativa seed oil and colloidal oatmeal soothe irritation while retinoid complex and melatonin work to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles.
This article appears in the March 2019 issue of ELLE.
Assistant Beauty Editor
Erin Reimel is the Assistant Beauty Editor covering beauty and wellness at ELLE. Her life goal is to have red hair just like her mother and she's never without at least half a dozen lipsticks in her bag. You can usually catch her at a Broadway show drooling over the makeup and hair while pretending she's up on stage. Erin attended the Newhouse School at Syracuse University and grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA.
Melatonin penetrates the skin and activates the synthesis of antioxidant enzymes. These antioxidant enzymes work to block free radicals and therefore repair oxidative damage to the skin. This means melatonin is a major skin protectant, from free radical scavenging to DNA damage repair.Does melatonin make you look younger? ›
Can Melatonin Supplements Slow Down Aging? While some people are claiming that melatonin is an anti-aging hormone, studies show melatonin levels decrease as we age. 3 These claims are based on the observation that older people need less sleep. That observation is a common sleep myth.Does melatonin increase collagen? ›
Melatonin stimulates proliferation and type I collagen synthesis in human bone cells in vitro. J Pineal Res. 1999;27(2):106–10.What is the importance of melatonin in skin? ›
Melatonin is also able to suppress ultraviolet (UV)-induced damage to skin cells and shows strong antioxidant activity in UV exposed cells. Moreover, we recently uncovered expression in the skin of the biochemical machinery involved in the sequential transformation of l-tryptophan to serotonin and melatonin.Is melatonin an anti-aging hormone? ›
The anti-aging effect of melatonin is exerted by upregulating the expression of silent information regulator 1/Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), which reduces oxidative stress damage, decreases p53 activation, and inhibits the NF-κB pathway. Radiation can induce premature senescence through direct or indirect oxidative stress damage.Why is melatonin called anti-aging? ›
In this context, exogenous melatonin may act as a powerful antioxidant and, consequently, anti-aging agent due to its ability to re-establish the mitochondrial membrane permeability and to stimulate antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione reductase, and catalase, among ...Can melatonin regrow hair? ›
Hair follicles have melatonin receptors, suggesting this hormone plays a role in hair growth cycle. In fact, lab tests showed that the topical application of melatonin extended the anagen / growth stage and resulted in faster growth.Does melatonin cause hair growth? ›
“In studies on topical melatonin, it has been demonstrated to potentially increase or prolong the growth phase of human hair follicles,” said Dr. Ilyas.Is melatonin good for your eyes? ›
In fact, studies show that melatonin may improve eye health, reduce symptoms of seasonal depression and even provide relief from acid reflux ( 4 , 5 , 6 ).What is best for anti-aging face? ›
These dermatologist tips can help you shop with confidence. Start with sunscreen and moisturizer. Dermatologists agree that sunscreen and moisturizer are the two most-effective anti-aging products you can buy. Using these every day can make a noticeable difference.
Hepatotoxicity. In several clinical trials, melatonin was found to be well tolerated and not associated with serum enzyme elevations or evidence of liver injury.What happens to your body if you take melatonin every night? ›
Melatonin is typically safe when used short-term. View Source , but research on its long-term effects is limited. Some experts have suggested that because melatonin is a hormone, it may disrupt hormonal processes like puberty and the menstrual cycle.What are 3 benefits of melatonin? ›
What are the health benefits of taking melatonin? Melatonin supplements may help with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, some sleep disorders in children, and anxiety before and after surgery.What skin condition is lack of melatonin? ›
Vitiligo is a long-term condition where pale white patches develop on the skin. It's caused by the lack of melanin, which is the pigment in skin. Vitiligo can affect any area of skin, but it commonly happens on the face, neck and hands, and in skin creases.Does your skin repair itself at night? ›
The skin has its own circadian clock. Different skin processes occur at different times according to this internal schedule. Nighttime is prime time for repairing damage and for rebuilding cells and tissues – skin is no different.Does melatonin affect acne? ›
To the best of our knowledge, there is no case in the literature describing facial acneiform lesions after MLT usage. Exogenous MLT use is common, and is considered safe and effective as a hormone-based treatment that has been known for many years.Does sleep make skin look better? ›
Sleep Protects Skin
“Your skin goes through much of its restoration while you sleep. If you cut back on sleep you are reducing the amount of time the skin has to repair, which can affect the way you look.” According to Olszewski, skin cells regenerate more quickly at night.
This is when the body produces human growth hormone (HGH), which helps to repair damaged cells. Sleep also gives the skin time to regenerate and heal. Namely, during sleep, blood flow to the skin increases. This allows the skin to receive more oxygen and nutrients, which can help to improve its appearance.What does melatonin do to melanin? ›
Melatonin controls pigmentation changes by aggregation of melanin into the melanocytes within the skin, causing the skin to change color. This interaction is also responsible for the paler skin color of elderly people and those with insomnia.