MELATONIN: Allergen or Not An Allergen?

Not An Allergen


While still relatively new to skincare (and an ingredient’s allergenicity is related to how common it is), so far, melatonin does not have case reports of contact allergic reactions.

There are already excellent laboratory studies (ex vivo, or outside the living body) on the anti-aging effects of topically applied melatonin (counteracting UVB radiation-induced damage in human skin). But read the product description well: if you are trying a skincare product with melatonin, make sure it does not contain other allergens like fragrance, dyes, or parabens.

This amazing hormone is naturally secreted by the brain’s pineal gland and is best known for how it helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle or Circadian rhythm. Melatonin is also present in the brains of many animals and for the same purpose. The melatonin in dietary supplements is made synthetically or from animals or microorganisms.

Less well known is how fantastic an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory melatonin is.

Doctors at our research clinic regularly prescribe melatonin as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, especially for people with inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, and with excellent results. All supplements have potential side effects, however, so do check with your physician before taking melatonin.

And look at the ingredients of the supplements themselves: some may contain food dyes and preservatives can could contribute to certain skin problems, especially if you have patch tested to these allergens.

If you have a history of sensitive skin, don’t guess: random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your dermatologist about a patch test.

To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, or for more privacy (such as when asking us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results) contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

For more:

On the prevalence of skin allergies, see Skin Allergies Are More Common Than Ever and One In Four Is Allergic to Common Skin Care And Cosmetic Ingredients.

To learn more about the VH-Rating System and hypoallergenicity, click here.

Main References: 

Regularly published reports on the most common allergens by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (based on over 28,000 patch test results, combined), plus other studies. Remember, we are all individuals — just because an ingredient is not on the most common allergen lists does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it, or that it will not become an allergen. These references, being based on so many patch test results, are a good basis but it is always best to get a patch test yourself.

1. Warshaw, E.M., Maibach, H.I., Taylor, J.S., et al. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012. Dermatitis. 2015; 26: 49-59

2. W Uter et al. The European Baseline Series in 10 European Countries, 2005/2006–Results of the European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). Contact Dermatitis 61 (1), 31-38.7 2009

3. Wetter, DA et al. Results of patch testing to personal care product allergens in a standard series and a supplemental cosmetic series: An analysis of 945 patients from the Mayo Clinic Contact Dermatitis Group, 2000-2007. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Nov;63(5):789-98.

4. Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis 2011 Apr; 22(2):80-97

5. Ruby Pawankar et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary.

6. Misery L et al. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7.

7. Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012.Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59.

8. Warshaw, E et al. Allergic patch test reactions associated with cosmetics: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 2001-2004. J AmAcadDermatol 2009;60:23-38. 

9. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.

10. Kei EF et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.

11. Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629–633.

12. Marks JG, Belsito DV, DeLeo VA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch-test results, 1998 to 2000. Am J Contact Dermat. 2003;14(2):59-62.

13. Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, Taylor JS, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test results: 2009 to 2010. Dermatitis. 2013;24(2):50-99.

14. Skobowiat, C., Brożyna, A. A., Janjetovic, Z., Jeayeng, S., Oak, A. S. W., Kim, T. K., et al. (2018). Melatonin and its derivatives counteract the ultraviolet B radiation-induced damage in human and procine skin ex vivo. J. Pineal. Res. 65 (2), e12501. doi: 10.1111/jpi.12501

15. Slominski, A. T., Hardeland, R., Zmijewski, M. A., Slominski, R. M., Reiter, R. J., and Paus, R. (2018b). Melatonin: a cutaneous perspective on its production, metabolism, and functions. J. Invest. Dermatol. 138, 490-499. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2017.10.025

16. Zhang, W., Jiang, P., Chen, J., Zhu, C., Mao, Z., and Gao, C. (2017a). Application of melatonin-loaded poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) hydrogel particles to reduce the toxicity of airborne pollutes to RAW264.7 cells. Colloid Interface Sci. 490, 181-189. doi: 10.1016/j.jcis.2016.11.075

Want more great information on contact dermatitis? Check out the American Contact Dermatitis SocietyDermnet New Zealand, and your country’s contact dermatitis association.

DrVR LVB 8rDF Bertotto8106e 5May2014 20191023Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)



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