Melatonin For Hair Loss Explained: Is It Safe?

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There are about 3.2 kajillion methods which claim to allegedly prevent, give pause, or otherwise treat hair loss. Alopecia (hair loss) is one of the most common conditions humans encounter, and it has many different variants and contributing factors. Most men and women will experience some form or another of alopecia during their life, be it at times of hormonal shifts, middle age, disease and treatment, etc. In some cases, there are ways to counter it, and certain methods are showing more promise than others -- with that in mind, this is melatonin for hair loss explained.

For a long time, I only knew melatonin as being the “snooze hormone” -- a chemical that floods our sleepy brains as we sever the connection of alert consciousness and drift off into blissful slumber. But melatonin is not a sleep generator, and it acts more like a hormone that sets up sleep. Speaking of which… I love my bed. Truly I do, and I wish to profess my love for it here and now. I know society may see it as forbidden love and turn its nose up at us, but I can no longer hide my true feelings!

As it turns out, melatonin can be used -- and in fact is being used -- for treating hair loss, of all things! The question is: why?

What Is Melatonin?

Skull With A Brain

The Pineal Gland Releases Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that our body makes and releases at specific times. The pineal gland, located inside the brain, is chiefly where the hormone is produced. During the day, the pineal gland is inactive; at sundown, the gland turns on and begins to manufacture and subsequently release melatonin into the bloodstream. This helps to bring on that tired feeling we are all intimately familiar with.

The circadian rhythm in which we live our day-to-day life is part of our very biology and physiology. We’ve evolved to go along with this 24-hour cycle, and there are systems put in place for that very reason. Melatonin is part of the network which regulates the cycle of sleeping and waking, and it occurs naturally in humans, plants, and animals of all kinds. It also plays a part in regulating seasonal reproductive functions in mammals.

The chemical was officially discovered and recognized in the late 1950’s. Since then, it has gone on to be sold in the United States as an over-the-counter (OTC) item. It requires no doctor’s prescription, and is not approved by the FDA to prevent or treat any condition or disease. At the skin level, melatonin acts as an antioxidant and protective substance. Research on melatonin continues. Many believe that the hormone may have a hand in many more processes that occur in the human body, besides the sleep/wake regulation. 

Melatonin For Hair Loss Explained

Man looking at his hair loss in the mirror.

Melatonin Can Help With Hair Loss

The reason for melatonin’s success with the hair loss department is still not entirely clear to scientists. In the mid-’90s,  a group of researchers at Harvard Medical School identified high-affinity melatonin receptors in our body, including in the skin and hair. The hair follicle seems to synthesize melatonin. Because of this, the hormone may be influential in the cycle of hair growth, and as a countermeasure to hair loss.

Be that as it may, it is important to note that melatonin is not a cure or preventive measure for anything in particular. It is certainly not the panacea that some are making it out to be. It is a naturally-occurring hormone, produced primarily in the brain, and it has certain neurobiological properties and effects. While the role of melatonin in hair loss prevention can’t be fully articulated yet, the science is showing a lot of promise.

Many hair-loss prevention techniques are twofold in nature. First, they aim to help hair grow during its growth phase. Second, they serve to strengthen the hair follicle and stop it from shedding, by improving blood circulation in the area and staving off inflammation. Can melatonin do all this? Some say yes. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, you have those claiming it to be a placebo and nothing more.

The fact that we have melatonin receptors in our hair points to an obvious connection, but can humans use it to their advantage?

Synthetic melatonin can be purchased mostly in the form of pills, creams, and liquids. It can be used to treat insomnia, to refine erratic or disrupted sleep cycles (e.g. jet lag, sleep disorders), to lower blood pressure, and also to prevent or treat hair loss. 

Melatonin Pills Explained

This is probably the most common form of synthetically-produced melatonin. In pill form, the hormone doesn’t act in the same way as it does when it is produced naturally in the body. This makes a difference mainly for those who are taking melatonin for insomnia and such. But for those interested in hair growth, it is a different story. According to anecdotal evidence and studies alike, there are better ways than this one to decrease hair loss or improve hair growth through melatonin.

Melatonin Cream Explained

Woman in bath robe holding tub of moisturizing lotion.

Melatonin Cream

This is probably the more often-used form of melatonin in regards to the treatment of hair loss. This “cream of melatonin,” as it were, is being manufactured and marketed as an alternative to Rogaine and Finasteride. It can be applied topically, it can be applied daily, and it’s not too expensive. This does make it a viable alternative, but there are no guarantees either way. For now, it’s still all about personal trial and error.

Melatonin Liquid Explained

Melatonin in liquid form is also called melatonin serum. Much like the cream, it is meant to be applied topically. Serums will often incorporate other substances into the formula. These work together with the melatonin to produce visible results within several months. As with any hair loss or hair recovery item, you need patience coupled with as much consistency as you can spare.

Melatonin Side Effects Breakdown

First of all, melatonin is not recommended for use by expecting and nursing women. And regardless of any expectations, you should consult with your physician or health care professional before beginning treatment with melatonin, even if you are only doing it for reasons of hair loss prevention.

This hormone can indeed have some side effects when taken externally, particularly with doses of 2-3mg or above. Users have reported things like headaches, grogginess, hormonal imbalance, vivid dreams, and nausea. Allergies are not common with melatonin, but they do exist so take care and pay attention to your body and medical history.

Even in a healthy adult, they should use melatonin as a short-term treatment. Mostly, you can use it without an issue, making it safe overall. However, there is always a chance that the hormone will react or interact with other substances in your body, which is why caution is always recommended.

If and when side effects or allergic reactions present themselves, speak with your doctor. It could be that you will be able to continue using melatonin, but first, you need to isolate the issue and see what is causing it. If you get the green light from your MD, perhaps try a different brand or method.

Conclusion

Hair loss -- or at the very least hair thinning -- is a part of life, for many of us. It is upsetting when it starts to happen because you don’t exactly know what will be. You can argue about the role of hair in modern society and in our evolutionary biology, but one thing is clear: we care about hair. We do.

Is it all-important? No. But it sure is a nice thing to have. There are so many people who find that hair loss or hair thinning greatly affects them, their self-esteem, and their image of self. It’s not just a question of looks and external appearance, it’s also about the feeling that “old age” is catching up with you. Despite all the talk of getting older with grace and dignity, it can be tough on some people. It’s no wonder why.

Melatonin can act as a natural booster. It is combined with other substances or used as a standalone, and it can be useful in increasing the time in which the hair strands’ growth phase is taking place. Stronger, longer, healthier hair can be achieved with the help of melatonin. However, more studies are needed in order to verify these claims and provide more accurate results and perhaps even more patient-specific solutions.

I still think of melatonin as the “sleep hormone”, more than anything else. If it can help others improve their hair growth and decrease their loss of hair, that’s great! I love it that our body uses its naturally-occurring chemicals in such different ways. Make the skin lighter, bring on sleep, and prevent hair loss -- all in one hormone. Interesting, to say the least. It makes you wonder what else it can do!