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INTRODUCTION

Activities:

Antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antiaging, anti-inflammatory,1 anxiolytic, immunomodulatory2

Important Chemical Components:

Also known as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine

Origin Classification:

This ingredient is a natural hormone found in most living organisms. It is also synthesized for oral supplementation and topical application.

Personal Care Category:

Antioxidant, antiaging

Recommended for the following Baumann Skin Types:

DRNW, DSNW, ORNW, and OSNW

SOURCE

Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine), a tryptophan derivative, is a hormone produced naturally by the pineal gland in humans, and stimulated by β-adrenergic receptors. In addition, it is synthesized in mammals by the eyes, ovaries, bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, lymphocytes, and skin, where it is also metabolized.3–6 Additionally, melatonin has been recorded at significant levels in bile fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, and gastral mucosa.7 Also found in most animal and plant species as well as fungi and even unicellular organisms, it follows a circadian light-dependent rhythm of secretion, and is derived from tryptophan, which is present in all organisms.8,9 That is, melatonin is secreted during the dark phase of the light/dark cycle, and also regulates seasonal biorhythms (and is often accordingly referred to as the “hormone of darkness” and the body’s chronological pacemaker).5,9 In fact, melatonin is best known for regulating and facilitating sleep, with its “chronobiotic” characteristics justifying its use to treat sleep disorders including jet lag, shift-work sleep disruption, and insomnia in elderly and depressive patients.5

HISTORY

Although melatonin is a phylogenetically ancient methoxyindole, it was initially isolated from bovine pineal glands in 1958.5,7–12 Subsequently, researchers learned that melatonin was produced nocturnally and secreted by the pineal gland and other organs in mammals including humans.8 Melatonin and its relations to skin function have been studied since its skin-lightening effects on frogs were observed in the late 1950s.10,13,14 The status of melatonin as a potent free radical scavenger was uncovered in 1993.8,15,16 That same year, the first evidence emerged of the production of melatonin in the skin.17–19 Significantly, a melatoninergic antioxidative system that regulates cutaneous homeostasis and exhibits the potential to prevent ultraviolet (UV)-induced skin aging and skin cancer has been recently discovered.7,8,20,21

CHEMISTRY

Melatonin is a methoxyindole produced primarily by the pineal gland. In the skin, the essential amino acid tryptophan is the precursor; it is converted by tryptophan hydroxylase to 5-OH-Trp and then to serotonin. The acetylation of serotonin leads to the formation of N-acetylserotonin, which is transformed after the hydroxyindole-O-methyltransferase into melatonin.9

ORAL USES

Several plants are good sources of dietary melatonin, as it appears ubiquitously in nature and is found in almost 60 herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.5 Melatonin is also used as an oral supplement, primarily to restore regular sleep patterns. Prescriptions are required in some countries for melatonin supplements.

In 2008, Otálora et ...

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