Defining DMAE: Why Your Skin Needs It
DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) is considered by some to be a life extender for the cells, organs and brain functions of the body. It is a naturally occurring metabolite that has been used therapeutically in attention and motion disorders. In contrast, it is used topically as an anti wrinkle treatment. (Oxford Dictionary) DMAE is naturally produced in the human brain, but it is also found in anchovies and a few other fish species. It is manufactured as a pharmaceutical compound and is widely available over the counter in capsule, pill or cream forms but it was also used in a number of prescription medications. Let's take a look at its history and current uses.
How DMAE WorksThe story of DMAE is full of twists and turns. Its medical benefits were first investigated in the 1960s and by the 1980s it was sold widely as Deanol, which was marketed as the natural alternative to Ritalin. Eventually its ability to improve focus in some attention deficit disorder (ADHD) patients led to investigation of its potential to treat other disorders involving the brain's function. Examples are cognitive deterioration in Alzheimer's and disruptive disorders such as autism. It has since fallen out of favor for such uses. DMAE acts as both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. It was thought to reduce cognitive deterioration by reducing the so-called age pigment, or lipofuscin (a 'yellow to brown, granular, iron-negative lipid pigment found particularly in muscle, heart, liver, and nerve cells'). This pigment accumulates with age as a product of cellular wear and tear. It may be that the antioxidant nature of DMAE contributes to its effective use in cosmetic applications that promote skin rejuvenation.
Is DMAE Safe?
DMAE is a naturally occurring compound that is found in small amounts in the brain. It can be duplicated in a lab for use in most products. Side effects are that when ingested, it can have a negative effect on the liver or kidney and it has potentially negative effects if overused. It can cause jumpiness or irritation when taken as a supplement.
Always check with your doctor before beginning any supplement. However, it is widely believed to be safe and is recognized as non-toxic in topical applications. It has been occasionally reported as an allergen. In natural production in the body, it may be critical for the skin's functionality.
DMAE in Skin Care and Beauty
When added to creams and serums, DMAE is widely applauded by scientists and dermatologists as being an effective anti-aging compound. In one split-face study that specifically looked at deanol gel efficacy compared to the same formula without DMAE, a marked improvement of the skin's firmness was recognized. (Source) Other studies have referred to the increase in plumpness, tightening or toning that occurs when skincare products with DMAE are used. One such study describes the effects on human skin as increased dermal thickness, increased collagen fiber thickness and enhanced water content of the stratum corneum.
For a time, there were two theories for why DMAE improves skin firmness. The first is that DMAE enhances the hydration of the connective tissue, which allows skin to be more taut. The other is based on its cholinergic features which improve the ability of skin to transmit acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that signals, in this case, the muscles under the skin to tighten. Current thinking is that the water retention mechanism is most accurate.
Additionally, topically applied DMAE has been proposed to reduce age or liver spots, which show up as uneven pigment in the skin. This is believed to be due to the same process that makes DMAE effective in reducing lipofuscin. (Source) And because of its power as an antioxidant, DMAE may be effective in maintaining overall cellular health and well-being. As a topically applied addition to a beauty routine, this compound can stave off some of the deterioration of cells that are seen in the signs of aging.
Unfortunately it has not yet been proven to reverse aging. That said, because DMAE does tighten and tone the skin it has become a key ingredient in many anti aging creams and other beauty and skincare products. (Source) To reap the potential benefits of DMAE it has to be incorporated into an ongoing beauty routine.
Luckily, DMAE is widely available in beauty and skincare products. It can even be found as a key ingredient in facial cleansers, like the Restorative Foaming Cleanser made by Calysta Labs, which can safely be used daily. It's a product designed to deliver effective ingredients directly to your skin, giving the skin what it needs to be firm and beautiful as it wards off aging. (Source).