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A Common Sleep Aid Can Also Reverse Thinning Hair

Top Dermatologists Say A Common Sleep Aid Can Also Reverse Thinning Hair

When applied topically, melatonin can lead to dramatic hair regrowth

Thinning Hair Melatonin Helps

Have you noticed more hair in the drain after taking a shower? Or maybe your ponytail is getting thinner and thinner? While many of us consider hair loss to be a men’s health problem, more than half of women over 50 complain that thinning hair is zapping their confidence. And while losing your hair can do a number on your self-esteem, the good news is that it’s not necessarily permanent. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that the sleep supplement melatonin can encourage hair growth — naturally.

What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body. It helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

Below, we take a closer look at melatonin and explain how it can be used to reverse thinning hair.

“When the sun sets, melatonin builds up in your brain, signaling to your body that it’s time to go to sleep,” explains Jose Diego Mier, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of the Heliotherapy Research Institute. “That’s why you get tired when it’s dark outside.”

Melatonin doesn’t cause you to fall asleep, but it helps prepare you, by telling your body’s systems to slow down. Light has the opposite effect. It blocks melatonin production so you can function during the day.

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How does melatonin encourage hair growth?

Some people who’ve taken melatonin to help them sleep have noticed an interesting ‘side effect:’ Their hair gets thicker. When researchers looked into this, they discovered that hormones like melatonin do affect hair follicles — according to a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Through this and other similar studies, scientists made two interesting discoveries:


1. Melatonin protects the hair follicles

“Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and can be used to protect hair follicles from oxidative stress, such as exposure to pollution or ultraviolet (UV) radiation,” explains Dr. Mier. “The underlying mechanism isn’t fully understood, but it seems to promote hair growth and stimulate hair follicles.” Both are factors that increase hair volume and thickness. Scientists have witnessed these protective benefits in the lab.

One study of 60 people with androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) found that topical melatonin caused a significant reduction of hair loss in women.

Another observational study found similar results. After using topical melatonin for 30 to 90 days, participants reported a significant reduction in the severity of their hair loss.


2. Melatonin stimulates hair growth

“Stimulation of hair follicles is another potential explanation for melatonin’s positive effect on hair,” Dr. Mier says. “The presence of melatonin receptors in the scalp suggests that this hormone plays a role in hair cell growth.”

Hormones regulate many bodily functions, including the hair growth cycle. Hair growth occurs in three stages — growth, transitional and rest. Different hormones regulate each stage of this cycle. One, called dihydrotestosterone (or DHT), shrinks hair follicles and shortens the growth cycle, which can result in hair loss. This is where melatonin might help. According to Dr. Mier, “melatonin may act as a counter to DHT,” slowing or preventing hair loss altogether.

Scientists have confirmed this theory. One study, published in the journal Pure J, found that melatonin increased the volume of dermal papilla (which are responsible for hair formation) and induced hair growth by increasing the activity of genes that help hair cells grow.

How does melatonin compare to other products for hair growth?

One of the most popular topical products used to encourage hair growth is Rogaine.

“Minoxidil, which is the active ingredient in Rogaine, is the first product approved by the FDA to be used topically for thinning hair,” says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of Dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital, in New York City. “It’s clinically proven to regrow hair, but it doesn’t work for everyone or for all types of hair loss.”

Specifically, minoxidil works by “waking up” the hair follicles and stimulating the hair cycle, so you can grow thicker, fuller hair. “There is evidence to support melatonin’s use to support scalp hair growth with topical application. It may extend the growth phase, resulting in faster hair growth,” Dr. Fusco adds.


Is there anything else I should know about melatonin for hair growth?

Melatonin may promote healthier, thicker hair, but it isn’t necessarily a guarantee.

“The link between melatonin, hair growth and hair density is still a topic of ongoing research and discussion,” says Dr. Mier. “More testing and clinical studies need to be done. But from what we can see now, it’s clear that melatonin positively affects hair quality.”

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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