Well-known for its role in the sleep-wake cycle, melatonin is now being studied for its pro-aging properties.

As humanity continues to search for the elusive fountain of youth, one intriguing area of research revolves around the potential pro-aging properties of melatonin.

Scientists are studying how melatonin impacts the inner workings of cells and the body’s oxidative stress levels, which may help uncover its potential effect on graceful aging.

While melatonin is best known for regulating the sleep-wake cycle, current research has entered a new realm: investigating the hormone’s potential pro-aging properties.

Studies suggest that melatonin possesses potent antioxidant properties, acting as a scavenger of highly reactive molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals are notorious for causing oxidative damage, which is implicated in the aging process.

Melatonin’s antioxidant effects may help alleviate oxidative stress and safeguard cells from harm, essentially working against the aging process.

In addition, melatonin regulates inflammation, mitochondrial function, and the immune system, all of which play a role in aging. Melatonin may also aid in producing other hormones, including growth hormone, which is essential for tissue repair and regeneration.

Does melatonin decrease with age?

Research suggests that melatonin production tends to decline with age. This reduction in melatonin levels may result in the body’s reduced ability to counteract oxidative stress and protect against free radical damage.

As a result, the skin cells may become more susceptible to damage from environmental factors, such as UV radiation from the sun, pollution, and other sources of oxidative stress. This leads to accelerated skin aging, including the formation of wrinkles.

Can melatonin slow the aging process?

Though melatonin has strong antioxidant properties and may counteract the aging process, its ability to slow the aging process in humans directly has not been definitively proven.

Still, some animal studies have shown that melatonin supplementation can extend lifespan and improve health span in some animal models. For instance, a 2002 study found that melatonin can extend the life of fruit flies by 33%. But these findings may not directly translate to humans.

Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant. But it’s important to note that there’s likely no single “best” antioxidant for pro-aging.

Antioxidants are a diverse group of compounds that work together to neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, which is associated with aging and various age-related diseases.

Other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, among others, also play vital roles in the body’s defense against oxidative stress.

Some of the reported pro-aging benefits of melatonin include:

Antioxidant properties

Melatonin acts as a potent antioxidant, which can help neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a process that damages cells and has been implicated in the aging process. By reducing oxidative stress, melatonin may help protect against cellular damage and counteract the aging process.

Sleep regulation

Melatonin is well-known for regulating the sleep-wake cycle, and adequate sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. Good quality sleep is linked to improved cognitive and immune function and overall health, which can have potential pro-aging effects.

Mitochondrial health

Mitochondria are the energy-generating powerhouses of cells, and their dysfunction plays a role in aging. Melatonin has been shown to protect against mitochondrial damage and improve mitochondrial function.

Topical benefits for skin

Applying topical melatonin may improve the clinical signs of skin aging, including reduced wrinkles.

A 2018 study found that melatonin-based topical creams significantly improved skin tone and hydration and reduced roughness among women with aging skin.

In addition, 2019 research shows that topical melatonin can promote wound healing and help treat many skin conditions such, as eczema, dandruff, and vitiligo. And unlike oral administration, topically applied melatonin may protect against the effects of UV radiation.

Potential impact on collagen

As we age, our skin loses elasticity and collagen.

Collagen is a protein that provides structural support to the skin, bones, tendons, and other connective tissues. It plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity and elasticity of tissues.

Though more research is needed, some studies suggest melatonin may play a role in collagen synthesis — melatonin receptors have been found on cells that produce collagen.

The appropriate dosage of melatonin can vary depending on several factors, including age, health condition, and your reason for taking melatonin.

In general, however, 1-10 milligrams (mg) tends to be the recommended dosage range for pro-aging benefits. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to start lower, such as between 1 and 3 mg.

It’s important to note that melatonin is a hormone, and it should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Taking too much melatonin can potentially result in side effects. Some possible side effects of taking too much melatonin include:

  • daytime drowsiness or grogginess
  • disruption of the sleep-wake cycle
  • headache
  • mood changes (irritability, depression, mood swings)
  • nausea and digestive issues

Melatonin is best known for its role in the sleep-wake cycle, but in recent years, it’s been studied for its potential pro-aging properties.

While more research is needed, we know that melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that can help regulate inflammation, the immune system, and mitochondrial function.

But whether it’s applied topically or taken orally, it’s important to remember that melatonin is a hormone, so be sure to reach out to a healthcare professional to know whether you can safely take it.