DMAE (also known as dimethylaminoethanol) is a compound produced naturally in small amounts in the brain and found in salmon, anchovies, and sardines.
Sometimes used as an ingredient in lotions, creams, and other skincare products, DMAE is also sold in dietary supplement form.
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 (including memory), it's suggested that taking DMAE in supplement form may boost brain health by raising acetylcholine levels and reducing buildup of beta-amyloid (a pigment that impairs cognitive function and has been linked to age-related cognitive decline). Some proponents claim that the use of DMAE supplements may help prevent and/or treat Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, DMAE is purported to boost athletic performance, elevate mood, and treat depression.
There is currently a lack of scientific research on the effects of DMAE.
DMAE cream, lotion, and other skin-care products are said to help improve the appearance of wrinkles, dark undereye circles, sagging neck skin, and offer other anti-aging benefits. While research on DMAE's effectiveness in skincare is fairly limited, there's some evidence that using DMAE-based products may help improve skin.
For instance, a 2005 research review from the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology states that DMAE may help increase skin firmness and curb inflammation in the skin. In their analysis of previously published research on the use of DMAE in skincare, the review's authors found that DMAE also may help 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 note, DMAE does not appear to cause common side effects, such as redness, peeling, and dryness.
One of the few available reports is a small study published in the European Journal of Medical Research in 2003.
For the study, 80 people (all of whom were known to have "borderline emotional disturbance") took either a placebo or a supplement containing vitamins, minerals, and DMAE every day for three months. Six weeks into the study, all participants were shown film excerpts with a range of emotional content. After another six weeks, participants were shown the film excerpts again.
Looking at data on the study participants, researchers found that those who took the vitamin/mineral/DMAE supplements had a greater increase in wellbeing than those who took the placebo. Members of the treatment group also appeared to experience improvements in mood and attention. Given these findings, the study's authors suggest that use of DMAE supplements may be of some benefit to people experience emotional disturbance.
There's no evidence that DMAE can treat depression, fight Alzheimer's disease, or improve sports performance.
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 trying to conceive shouldn't take DMAE. 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.
Widely available for purchase online, DMAE supplements are sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.
Also available online, DMAE gels, creams, lotions, and other skin-care products are sold in some drugstores and specialty beauty shops.
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 right for you and to weigh the pros and cons.
For more help in protecting your skin, consider 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.
Dimpfel W, Wedekind W, Keplinger I. Efficacy of dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) containing vitamin-mineral drug combination on EEG patterns in the presence of different emotional states. Eur J Med Res. 2003 May 30;8(5):183-91.M
Grossman R. The role of dimethylaminoethanol in cosmetic dermatology. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2005;6(1):39-47.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.