If you have ever had trouble sleeping one of the first things that many people recommend is melatonin. It is widely recognized as a natural sleep promoting agent that is both safe and effective, but there may be more to melatonin than meets the eye.
There have been discoveries made in the scientific community suggesting that melatonin may be able to help promote hair growth.
In this article we will be talking about what exactly melatonin is, how it supposedly promotes hair growth, and taking an in-depth look at the research to determine whether or not you can expect a good night sleep and hair growth when taking melatonin.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is not some compound that scientists created in a lab, but rather it is a hormone that is naturally produced by the pineal gland: a small pea sized gland near the middle of the brain.
The main reason it is generally regarded as a safe supplement is because it is a natural hormone, although most melatonin supplements are manufactured synthetically, with only few created with extracts from microorganisms and animals.
Melatonin is released by the brain in response to darkness because it helps regulate the timing of your circadian rhythm and induce sleepiness, which is the exact same thing that occurs when you take a supplement. But, while many people recognize melatonin solely for its sleep benefits, others may have discovered that it may also hold benefits for hair loss sufferers.
How melatonin can help hair loss
Wouldn't it be convenient if you could take melatonin at night knowing you will sleep well and grow your hair back at the same time?
To understand how melatonin might affect hair growth you first need to understand the hair cycle.
The hair growth cycle consists of four stages: anagen (growth), catagen (transition), telogen (resting), and exogen (shedding). When the hair is healthy the anagen phase lasts for about 5-7 years, but when it begins to be affected by hair loss it begins to shorten. Eventually, as hair loss progresses, the anagen phase gets so short to a point that hair doesn't grow anymore, resulting in baldness.
That is why the primary goals of many hair loss treatments is to stop and reverse the shortening of the anagen phase. When they are effective, as the anagen phase re-lengthens you will begin to see hair regrowth.
According to researchers, extending the anagen phase is exactly what melatonin may be able to do, but that’s not all…. It is also a powerful antioxidant.
Antioxidants are important for protecting hair because they help reduce oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress occurs naturally, but in some cases it can be extreme which can cause damage to hair follicles. When free radicals steal electrons from molecules in the hair (free radicals are what cause oxidative stress) it can cause premature hair loss and/or graying (1).
In essence, the two primary ways that melatonin may benefit people with hair loss is by promoting the anagen phase and acting as an antioxidant, which sounds great, but what does the research say?
A look at the research for melatonin and hair loss
In reality, what ultimately determines how effective and trustworthy any medicine, treatment, etc. is boils down to the research, and while a lot of hair loss treatments do not have research to back them, melatonin is quite the opposite.
One study from 2004 (2) was conducted on 40 women with either diffuse or androgenetic alopecia. The subjects were randomly split into two groups, one that was applying an 0.1% melatonin solution and the other applying a placebo daily for 6 months.
When the study had concluded trichograms were performed to assess the number of anagen and telogen hair follicles. Researchers found that melatonin was far superior to the placebo having increased the amount of anagen hair in both the vertex and the crown. They noted that the mechanism is still unknown, but that melatonin may induce the anagen phase.
Another study conducted in 2004 (3) took a look at 35 men who were beginning to show signs of male pattern hair loss. The subjects were divided into two groups and studied for 6 months at a time (separately) from April 2004-April 2005.
There were overwhelmingly positive results in terms of hair ount, density, diameter, and slowed progression of hair loss, and the researchers concluded that continuous use of melatonin can vastly improve hair count and density in men who are in the early stages of pattern hair loss.
There are the two most prominent studies that have been conducted showing melatonin as a growth-promoting agent, although there are several other studies that have yielded similar results.
As far as melatonin’s antioxidant/hair protecting properties? Well these have been well-established in scientific literature as well (4).
It turns out that melatonin may be a viable hair loss treatment after all, in fact it's peculiar that you don't hear much about it. It has a much healthier body of research backing it than several mainstream treatments on the market right now, not to mention most of which have overwhelmingly positive results for hair growth.
There can always be more research done, and there likely will be in regards to melatonin. Do not depend on melatonin to regrow your hair alone, but instead try using it with other treatments such as minoxidil to potentially yield better results.