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Where would you expect to find the next big thing in skincare? How about in your brain? Meet DMAE, anti-ager extraordinaire.

Dimethylaminoethanol – DMAE for short – is a compound found in the body which has been widely studied for its beneficial effects on mood, memory, and children’s learning and behavioural disorders; it is also sold as an anti-ageing supplement.

DMAE has now spiked interest in the skincare market, where it is being added to anti-ageing products to reduce wrinkle formation and provide a toning, tightening effect. DMAE boosts production of collagen, the skin’s ‘building block’, and increases the skin’s moisture content.

A natural face-lift

DMAE is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays various roles in the body: stimulating muscle contraction (including facial muscles, in a ‘face-lift’ action), regulating cellular proliferation, and inhibiting interleukin-2, -6, and -10 (proteins which regulate immune defence actions, such as allergic responses). DMAE is also a precursor to the main cell membrane lipid, phosphatidylcholine. All four of these effects contribute to its anti-ageing potential.

Clinical research on DMAE shows promising results. In a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, a three percent DMAE gel or placebo gel was given to test subjects aged 35-60 years, and applied daily to the face for 16 weeks. Subjects using the DMAE gel noted an improvement in wrinkles on the forehead and around the eyes, along with a tightening of loose skin on the neck and a reduction in under-eye circles. These results lasted for two weeks after the gel was discontinued.

Herbal helpers

In a similar study from Sweden, published in Phytomedicine, the gel contained extracts of turmeric and the herbs rosemary and gotu kola as well as three percent DMAE. After four weeks, a significant difference in skin firmness was observed in most subjects using the gel. The most recent research, a Brazilian study published last year in Pharmazie, showed that DMAE increased the thickness of both the dermis (the second layer of skin beneath the epidermis) and the collagen fibres in the skin, as well as elevating the skin’s water content.

Clinical trials support DMAE’s safety when used for a maximum period of 12 months. One Canadian study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, reported some cell damage from patch tests of a DMAE gel on rabbits; however, this is the only study reporting adverse effects. As with any new skincare product, patch-testing is recommended to make sure a cream or gel does not cause irritation.

Try it!

DMAE is available in several skincare products available in Australia, including Non Toxic Skincare’s Hibiscus Firming Moisturiser (www.nontoxicskincare.com.au), Refresh and Revitalise moisturisers and eye creams (www.refreshandrevitalize.com.au) and Shi’Jäno, a Swedish range whose products contain DMAE as well as turmeric, rosemary and gotu kola, based on the Swedish study mentioned here, which is available in chemists. DMAE is also included in some ‘cognition-enhancing’ supplements sold in Australia.

Bridget Carmady is a naturopath. Visit her at http://www.naturalbridgehealth.com.au