Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain that supports our circadian rhythm and helps us to sleep deeply. Melatonin also scavenges free radicals that can cause damage to our cells and/or accelerate the aging process. Over the years, various studies have been published to determine whether topical melatonin might help to fight hair loss.
- Low doses (0.1mg) of topical melatonin does not affect serum melatonin levels or internal production of melatonin by the body.
- The in vitro evidence suggests that areas of the skin and dermal papilla cells have receptor sites for melatonin indicating a potential for therapeutic use. Further research has shown that melatonin has an anti-androgenic effect on prostate cells indicating that it may behave similarly to drugs like finasteride – however there is no data in humans to confirm that this is how melatonin works. Additionally, melatonin has been found to behave like an antioxidant, which may help to reduce inflammation associated with hair loss – however, there is also no data in humans to confirm this. More recently, in vitro studies have found that melatonin can enhance the growth of 3D dermal papilla cultures, through the β-catenin pathway which is essential for the regulation of hair follicle cycling.
- The in vivo (in mice) evidence showed that hair follicles were both a source of melatonin and a target for melatonin-dependent signaling, as melatonin receptors were found to be expressed differentially depending on the stage of hair follicle cycle.
- The clinical evidence so far (6 studies) suggests that 0.1-1 mg topical melatonin is relatively safe and may decrease rates of “active hair loss”, for patients with early androgenetic alopecia, as well as improve hair counts, and increase hair density. The 1mg dosage however may affect serum levels of melatonin and has the potential to cause drowsiness. Furthermore, topical melatonin has been found to reduce the presence of seborrheic dermatitis and excessive sebum production. It’s important to note that some of these studies had low sample sizes, or no placebo, so further studies should be completed to address these issues.
- Topical melatonin may be a safe and effective treatment for those with early androgenetic alopecia.