DMAE: Are There Benefits for Your Brain and Skin?

Woman applying skin cream
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DMAE (also known as "dimethylaminoethanol" and "dimethylethanolamine") is a compound sometimes used as an ingredient in lotions, creams, and other skincare products. It is also available in dietary supplement form.

Uses for DMAE

DMAE is believed to increase production of acetylcholine (a type of chemical that helps nerve cells to transmit signals). Since acetylcholine plays a key role in many brain functions like learning and memory, proponents claim that taking DMAE in supplement form may boost brain health by raising acetylcholine levels.

DMAE is also said to reduce the buildup of beta-amyloid (a pigment that impairs cognitive function and is linked to age-related cognitive decline). Some proponents claim that the use of DMAE supplements has the potential in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

In addition, DMAE is purported to boost athletic performance, elevate mood, and address symptoms of depression.

The Benefits of DMAE: Can It Help?

There is currently a lack of scientific research on the effects of DMAE. Here's a look at several findings from the available research:

Skin Care Products

DMAE cream, lotion, and other skin-care products are said to offer anti-aging benefits by reducing the appearance of wrinkles, dark under-eye circles, and sagging neck skin. While research on DMAE's effectiveness is very limited, there's some evidence that using DMAE-based products may help improve skin.

For instance, a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology states that DMAE may help to increase skin firmness and curb inflammation in skin. In their analysis of previously published research, the review's authors found that DMAE may help to lessen fine wrinkles on the forehead and around the eyes and improve the overall appearance of aging skin. What's more, the review's authors noted that DMAE did not appear to cause common side effects such as redness, peeling, and dryness.

In a preliminary study published in Pharmazie in 2009, topically applied DMAE led to increased thickness of the epidermal and dermal skin layers (in contrast, application of formulations without DMAE increased thickness of the epidermal layer only).

Cognitive Function

For a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease in 2012, 242 people (all of whom were diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's disease) took either a placebo or an oral DMAE extract known as V0191 every day for 24 weeks. At the study's end, there was no significant difference in cognitive function between the two groups.

The study's noted that there may have been several issues in the study design, including a relatively short treatment period, a lack of valid measures to assess the study participants, and issues with assessing changes in cognitive function over time.

There's also no evidence that oral DMAE supplements can treat depression or improve sports performance. 

Side Effects and Safety

Very little is known about the safety of DMAE supplements. However, there's some concern that DMAE may trigger certain side effects, including increased blood pressure, stomach upset, headaches, muscle tension, drowsiness, confusion, and irritability.

Pregnant and nursing women and women who trying to conceive should not take DMAE, due to concerns that it may cause neural tube defects. Also, people with bipolar disorder or epilepsy shouldn't use DMAE. You can get tips on using supplements here.

When used topically, DMAE may cause skin irritation.

The Takeaway

There currently isn't enough evidence to support the use of DMAE. If you're still considering trying it, be sure to talk with your health care provider to discuss whether it's appropriate and safe for you and to weigh the pros and cons.

For more help in protecting your skin, consider using products that contain argan oil, shea butter, or green tea. It's also essential to wear sunscreen to shield your skin from sun-related damage and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

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