Is DMAE a Recommended Ingredient in Skin Care Products?

I'm curious what the doctors have to say about DMAE(dimethylethanolamine), both topical and oral. Does it help make estrogen that then makes for firmer, plumper skin? Or not?

Doctor Answers 1


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The use of DMAE or dimethylaminoethanol, for the skin stems from much of the work of Dr. Nicholas Perricone. Dr. Perricone believes in what he terms the beauty-brain connection. The general thesis of this is that since both the skin and brain are derived from the ectoderm ( if you recall your embryology) they share many of the same traits. DMAE is a natural chemical which improves mental alertness. DMAE is similar to choline which is a precursor of acetylcholine, the famed neurotransmitter. In fact DMAE can be methylated ( a methyl group is added) to form choine.

Interestingly, although now commonly found in health food stores, DMAE was once a prescription drug. However, when the FDA asked for proof of its effectiveness, the small drug company making it lacked the financial resources to perform the requisite studies. It lapsed into becoming a supplement of sorts.

Copious amounts of DMAE are found in sardines and anchovies. Another reason to add anchovies to your pizza or chose the Caesar's salad. Salmon has a fair amount too.

Taking DMAE orally may be helpful. The literature is unclear. Some studies have shown it to be helpful and others not. Its best use may be for an OTC treatment of ADD ( (attention deficit disorder). It may help with mood disorders and memory loss. Certainly, it can not approach the usefulness of coenzyme Q-10 or even ginkgo biloba.

As for its role in skin care. Dr. Perricone and its advocates claim that it is a strong anti-inflammatory agent. Since much of skin aging may be due to inflammation, if this is so, DMAE should help. Besides Dr. Perricone, there are a host of web sites which extolls its virtues, "the facelift in a jar".

However, like many such ingredients, the jury is still out on its effectiveness for skin care. There was a study in the British Journal of Dermatology ( May 2007) which sought to address this issue. Although application of creams with DMAE caused a definite increase in protective factors around skin cells, this was short-lasting and actually decreased cell growth.

Two other papers were more positive, one in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology (June 2005) and the other in Skin Research Technology ( August 2002). These were small studies but they concluded that there was some skin tightening due to DMAE. Whether this was from stimulation of the synthesis of a chemical called phosphatidylcholine ( which DMAE can do) which helps cell membranes or boosting acetylcholine, it is not known.

While DMAE may help with facial sagging, if you are expecting the results you would obtain from a face lift, you will be disappointed.

I do not believe DMAE plays any role in estrogen production, activation or metabolism.

DMAE is actually quite cheap to make, costing about as much as aspirin in this regard. One wonders why the cost is so high in so many of the skin care products containing DMAE.

Virginia Beach Dermatologist

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