Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle by causing drowsiness and lowering body temperature through sensitivity to ambient lighting. It works best at night with the natural circadian rhythm. While sleep is incredibly important, melatonin also operates directly with the central nervous system, which ultimately really puts us to sleep.
In the 1990s, it was discovered that melatonin had other functions in our bodies, such as the elimination of free radicals, which makes it an endogenous antioxidant. Need more?
It can cross cell membranes and also the blood-brain barrier, a filter that regulates fluid and materials that enter the central nervous system. Upon entering, and unlike other antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione, it does not undergo the “redox cycle”. The redox (reduction-oxidation) cycle occurs when an electron-poor antioxidant, such as those mentioned above, donates its electrons to cancel the effects of free radicals (highly reactive molecules that cause damage precisely because they do not have paired electrons, and molecules that need electrons to stabilize). Because they don't have a lot of electrons to donate, they can become “pro-oxidants”.
Melatonin is an electron-rich molecule and can interact with free radicals through an additive reaction, forming various stable-end products excreted in the urine. From this point of view, melatonin can be considered a terminal antioxidant. Many already know that its production is directly related to sleep cycles. But what few know is how good it can be for the skin.
From the age of 30, the synthesis of melatonin begins to decrease, which explains the insomnia crises of adulthood. Melatonin deficiency is also related to depression and obesity. But what does it have to do with beautiful skin? As we said before, melatonin decreases cell oxidation endogenously, being one of the most powerful antioxidants ever found in nature.
Antioxidants in turn decrease the premature aging of cells and, consequently, the skin; smoothing and preventing wrinkles and eliminating the "tired" appearance that we dislike so much. It also helps control changes in skin pigmentation by adding melanin to melanocytes, causing the skin to change color. This interaction is also responsible for the paler color of the skin of the elderly and people suffering from insomnia.
In addition to skin pigmentation, it is also related to melanoma control, because melatonin receptors are expressed in various skin cells, including keratinocytes (keratin-producing cells, predominant in the epidermis) and fibroblasts (cells related to healing and other functions). Melatonin can also suppress ultraviolet (UV) light that causes damage to skin cells, exhibiting strong antioxidant activity in cells exposed to UV rays. Therefore, melatonin synthesized locally or topically applied* could neutralize environmental stress.
Our skin acts as a barrier between the environment and the grand organism (our body), since it is constantly subject to the actions of solar, thermal, mechanical energy, chemical and biological agents. Evolution has allowed it to develop unique properties to deal with these stressors, making it endowed with abilities to recognize, discriminate, and integrate specific signals within a highly offensive environment and integrate them into a neuroendocrine and stress response system. Further, the skin has the ability to generate new vessels, cellular tissues, and rehabilitate scars and wounding.
Melatonin is not yet used in sunscreen creams, probably due to incompatibilities with the substances used to protect against UV rays, which require a very high pH to be stable. But the use of its properties for topical purposes is already being used in humans: melatonin in a pliable cream formulation can form a deposit in the first layer of the skin from which is continuously released into the blood vessels. Thus,the skin becomes a target organ, not only for the treatment of local routes, such as topical application, but also allowing a transdermal supply (that passes through the skin) reaching our circulatory system, creating internal treatment through this constant within the skin.
We leave you a list of foods that help in the production of this hormone: oats, berries, corn, red wine, tomatoes and oranges, potatoes, nuts and rice.
Easy, right? Nothing outside of our usual diet.
In addition to the food, to have a better production of melatonin, we must monitor environmental factors: seasons, temperature, ambient lighting, and endogenous factors such as stress and age. The story that you shouldn't sleep with the lights on, or with the TV on, can be considered correct. If there is a minimal light source in the room or if the temperature is not pleasant, you can have an uncomfortable night or a series of them. It must have happened to you, right?
Melatonin in supplement form is easily found in drugstores.