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DMAE has been used in anti-aging formulations but few scientifically based data address its efficacy. There is conjecture that DMAE can help protect the cell membrane, but a study published in The British Journal of Dermatology (March 2007) has shown contrary evidence that DMAE may actually pose risks for the skin.

In vitro tests of the pure substance, as well as tests of moisturizers that contain DMAE, demonstrated a fairly fast and significant increase in protective elements around the skin cell. However, a short time later the researchers observed a significant decrease in cell growth and in some cases they found that it had halted cell growth altogether.

Small-scale studies of topical application to human and animal skin showed an increase in dermal thickness after seven days, but that’s hardly conclusive or indicative of what may happen with long-term use. DMAE is also known to induce skin cell death and to reduce the proliferation of fibroblasts, which are cells in skin that manufacture collagen (Sources: Pharmazie, December 2009, pages 818–822; and Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, November-December 2007, pages 711–718).

Interestingly, there is a formulation challenge when using DMAE in skin-care products. In order to maintain efficacy and stability, the product’s pH level needs to be at least 10. A pH of 10 is highly alkaline, which isn’t good news for skin. A high pH like this can increase bacteria content in the pore and cause dryness and irritation. Moreover, since almost all moisturizers (including serums and eye creams) are formulated with a pH that closely matches that of human skin (generally 5.5–6.5, which is on the acidic side of the scale), in all likelihood the DMAE used in skin-care products cannot have any prolonged functionality. (Source: Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, Supplement 72, 2008, pages S17–S22). Additional supporting source for the information above: www.naturaldatabase.com

A positive clinical study on DMAE

In a randomized clinical study, 3% DMAE facial gel applied daily for 16 weeks has been shown to be safe and efficacious (p < 0.05) in the mitigation of forehead lines and periorbital fine wrinkles, and in improving lip shape and fullness and the overall appearance of aging skin. These effects did not regress during a 2-week cessation of application.

Beneficial trends (p > 0.05 but </= 0.1) were noted in the appearance of coarse wrinkles, under-eye dark circles, nasolabial folds, sagging neck skin, and neck firmness. Application was found to be well tolerated, with no differences in the incidence of erythema, peeling, dryness, itching, burning, or stinging between the DMAE and placebo groups.

An open-label extension of the trial showed that the long-term application of DMAE gel for up to 1 year was associated with a good safety profile. The acute skin-firming effects of DMAE have been confirmed by quantitative measures of cutaneous tensile strength.

In vitro studies in peripheral blood lymphocytes indicate that DMAE is a moderately active anti-inflammatory agent. Although its mechanisms of action in the skin remain to be explained, evidence suggests that the skin is an active site of acetylcholine synthesis, storage, secretion, metabolism, and receptivity. Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors have been localized to keratinocytes, melanocytes and dermal fibroblasts, whereas nicotinic acetylcholine receptors have been found in keratinocytes.

The role of acetylcholine and the role of DMAE as a modulator of acetylcholine-mediated functions in the skin remain to be made clear.Thus, the benefits of DMAE in dermatology include a potential anti-inflammatory effect and a documented increase in skin firmness with possible improvement in underlying facial muscle tone. Studies are needed to evaluate the relative efficacy of DMAE compared with other skin-care regimens (e.g., topical antioxidant creams, alpha-hydroxy acids). – Source: American Journal of Clinical Dermatology 2005;6(1):39-47

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