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Melatonin, yes the sleep aid you're likely familiar with, is a new trendy ingredient cropping up in skin care. The hormone is released at night with your natural circadian rhythms, which is why it is commonly ingested as a drug-free way to fall asleep. (Find out once and for all: Will Melatonin Really Help You Sleep Better?)
But you probably don't know that melatonin is highly lipophilic (fat-soluble) and water-loving which means it can easily penetrate into skin cells to impart important cellular functions such as repairing mitochondrial and DNA damage, says Hadley King, M.D., a dermatologist and clinical instructor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. This is great news for your skin: When applied topically, like in a serum or cream, it is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that works to neutralize free radical damage from UV light and pollution.
And no, in case you're concerned, melatonin has not been shown to cause sleepiness when applied to the skin. But it is recommended to be used in your nighttime skincare routine when the body's natural melatonin levels are highest because the product will work most effectively then, says Suzanne Friedler, M.D., a dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology P.C. in New York City.
While derms say it is perfectly safe to use, and there are some promising results on melatonin skin care, more research is needed to better understand the exact skin benefits. In the meantime, pop a melatonin vitamin (to help you sleep), and layer on one of these melatonin skin care products (to repair your skin) before you drift off to dreamland.
1. Peter Thomas Roth Green Releaf Therapeutic Sleep Cream
This luxurious sleeping cream uses cannabis sativa seed oil and melatonin for the antioxidants, retinol to prevent fine lines and uneven texture, and colloidal oatmeal to soothe redness or inflammation. Because it is gentle on the skin, this product can be used nightly in your routine. (Buy It, $65, sephora.com)
2. ISDIN Melatonik 3-in-1 Night Serum
This night serum is hydrating, rich in antioxidants, and anti-aging. In addition to the melatonin, it also contains the much gentler form of retinol, plant-based Bakuchiol. "Bakuchiol has been shown to induce collagen production, improve pigmentation and improve skin elasticity without causing irritation or dryness," says Dr. King. (Buy It, $160, isdin.com)
3. Asutra Melatonin Lotion with Magnesium
Not ready to switch your beloved night serum? Try swapping your body lotion out for this melatonin version, which is formulated with sweet almond oil and shea butter to soften skin and scented with calming lemongrass. As a bonus, it contains magnesium, which has also been shown to promote sleep in addition to easing muscle cramps and joint pain. It'll feel amazing rubbed on your sore post-weightlifting legs before climbing into bed. (Buy It, $32, amazon.com)
4. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Dark Spot Sun Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50
While most melatonin products are in nighttime products, it's powerful antioxidants make it great for daytime, too. "One of the roles of melatonin is to improve your skin's ability to prevent UV damage and aging," says Dr. Friedler. The combination of antioxidants and SPF 50 in this moisturizer is a one-two punch to sun damage. (Buy It, $42, sephora.com)
5. Zelens Z Melatonin Night Repair Serum
Pricey yet effective—this serum creates a "second skin" which smooths the appearance of fine lines and targets environmental damage from pollution, light, and stress. The possible results are supported by science: "Clinical studies looking at topical melatonin have shown reduced crow's feet and signs of aging when it is applied to the face," says Dr. Friedler. The active ingredient list is impressive and is supercharged with melatonin, peptides, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. (Buy It, $215, zelens.com)