When people think of melatonin, they often think of it as a sleep aid, but some studies have shown that it could potentially be beneficial for the treatment of hair loss. So what is melatonin? Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in the body and regulates the sleep cycle. Melatonin levels typically increase at night, which is why some patients that suffer from insomnia take melatonin orally to help elevate their levels and hopefully sleep better. However, some studies have shown that when used topically, melatonin can actually help treat hair loss.
In 2012, an article in the International Journal of Trichology reviewed 5 clinical studies on the use of topical melatonin for the treatment of androgenic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern hair loss, on both men and women. The studies were quite favorable as they showed a decrease in the severity of hair loss, especially with women, an increase in density, and an increase in negative hair-pull tests (a test used to determine active shedding). It is important to note that patients in these studies showed good tolerability of the treatment with minimal side effects. [i] It is believed that using melatonin topically works in the treatment of hair loss, because it is a powerful anti-oxidant and hair appears to be impacted by oxidative stress, specifically premature loss. Cells within the skin and the hair follicles also have melatonin receptors, which leads us to believe that melatonin plays a role in the hair life cycle.
Even with the positive studies, topical melatonin has not caught on in the US as a treatment for hair loss. Minoxidil has become the sole recommendation for most providers, as it is the only FDA approved topical treatment for hair loss. However, minoxidil can be quite irritating for some patients. At Medi Tresse we have been reviewing topical melatonin products currently on the market to see if there are any that meet our strict evidence based requirements so that we can find an option for patients that found minoxidil irritating or may be looking for a more natural option than minoxidil. We will certainly keep you updated, but we are excited at the prospect of being able to offer another great treatment option to our patients.
Posted by Your Medi Tresse Team
[i] Fischer, Tobias W et al. “Topical melatonin for treatment of androgenetic alopecia.” International journal of trichology vol. 4,4 (2012): 236-45. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.111199