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Melatonin for Hair Growth: What to Know

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Grace Gallagher

Published 08/13/2021

Updated 04/26/2024

You’ve probably heard that taking a melatonin supplement can help you sleep better —  maybe you’ve tried it yourself. But did you know some research has also found melatonin for hair growth to be effective?

Yup, it’s true. Melatonin promotes hair growth. Well…sort of.

More precisely, there’s a relationship between melatonin and hair follicles, which are key to extending the growing part of the hair growth cycle. Plus, it’s a powerful antioxidant. (You can add that to the list of unexpected melatonin side effects.)

What the science says about melatonin for hair growth is a little complicated, but it’s more than a placebo. We’ll break it down below.

Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body. It’s made in the pineal gland in the brain, and it contributes to circadian rhythms (your body’s internal sleep-wake cycles). 

Synthetic melatonin can also be taken orally or through a transdermal patch to help with sleep. As for using melatonin to boost hair growth? That’s a job for topical melatonin.

Your body’s production of melatonin increases in the evening to help you sleep. In fact, the hormone is produced in response to darkness, which helps explain why you feel ready for bed at six p.m. in the winter.

Then, in the morning, melatonin secretion in the bloodstream decreases to help you get up and out of bed.

What Might Mess With Natural Melatonin Levels

Unfortunately, as you age, natural levels of melatonin begin to drop.

In recent years, taking a melatonin supplement orally has become very buzzy. Usually made from synthetic melatonin, these tablets are thought to help with:

  • Falling asleep more easily

  • Recovering from jet lag

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

  • Migraines

  • Anxiety before surgery or another big event

  • Sleep disturbances caused by certain blood pressure medications

Melatonin also comes in a topical form — and that’s what’s used to address hair loss concerns. 

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For starters, researchers aren’t exactly sure how melatonin works for hair loss, but what’s already understood is pretty cool.

Without going into full science-bro mode (you know we want to, though), here’s what we do know:

  • Hair has melatonin receptors. There are melatonin receptors in each human hair follicle. Basically, follicles can receive signals from melatonin, kind of like antennas.

  • Melatonin extends the growth phase. Melatonin’s mechanism of action always starts after it binds to a receptor. It seems to tell hair follicles to extend the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle (when hair grows). People with male pattern baldness tend to have shorter anagen phases, so it makes sense that a longer growth phase would help with hair growth and retention.

  • Melatonin is a common cosmetic ingredient. Skincare lovers may know that melatonin is not uncommonly listed as an ingredient in face products. Its function in dermatology isn’t to make you sleepy — the powerful antioxidant helps protect skin against free radical damage from things like UV rays, poor nutrition, pollution and smoke.

  • It might help protect and repair. Whatever it does for the face, melatonin also does for the scalp — it can help repair damaged hair follicles and protect hair against external factors that contribute to hair loss.

  • Melatonin for hair growth is a commitment. You gotta stick with it, though. One study found that the most effective topical melatonin dosage was a 0.0033% or 0.1% solution applied once daily for 90 to 180 days.

Generally, topical melatonin used in the treatment of hair loss comes in a cream or serum-like formula and needs to be applied daily. 

There’s also a potential link between a lack of sleep and hair loss.

Stress is really the culprit here (it can trigger a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium, which messes with the natural hair growth cycle). But we all know stress can disrupt normal sleep patterns.

The less you sleep, the more stressed you may feel, and the cycle continues. Melatonin can help you sleep more soundly, which can, theoretically, help you regain hair loss from stress.

The best time to take melatonin is about one to two hours before you’re planning to fall asleep. Melatonin stays in your system for roughly four hours, so it can be a good choice for avoiding sleepless nights and the morning grogginess that often comes with sleep aids.

There are several types of hair loss, but for the purpose of this article, we’re only going to explore one: androgenetic alopecia.

Androgenetic alopecia is more commonly called male pattern baldness. It affects an estimated 50 million men in the United States. The condition is thought to occur because of both genetic and hormonal factors.

Your body produces a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is one of the main factors in male pattern baldness. 

The very short version of the story is that if your genetics predispose you to hair loss, DHT binds to receptors in your scalp and causes your hair follicles to retract. 

Then new hair stops growing — and that’s what results in hair thinning, a receding hairline or baldness.

A review of research published in the International Journal of Trichology explored the effects of melatonin on hair growth. 

The good news: It concluded that melatonin may work to treat androgenetic alopecia. It looked at multiple clinical studies to draw the conclusion that a topical melatonin solution is a viable hair-growth promoter. 

In another review, researchers found that using melatonin for three to six months significantly reduced the severity of androgenetic alopecia. Besides hair growth, participants saw improvements in hair shaft thickness and hair density.

More good news: This review also found that topical melatonin was safe and tolerable by most, meaning there are few downsides to giving it a try.

Does melatonin make your hair fall out? You’re not the first person to wonder (or Google) this.

Rest assured that while it may not be a miracle worker when it comes to regrowing hair, there’s no known link between melatonin and hair loss. So if you’re interested in trying the natural remedy for hair loss, at the very least, it shouldn’t make things worse. 

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Melatonin shows promise in helping slow hair loss and potentially stimulating new hair growth. But if it were the holy grail of hair loss treatments, everyone would be slathering their scalp in melatonin — and we’d be out of business.

If you’re dealing with male pattern baldness, many other science-backed hair loss medications and products are available.

Finasteride Medication

This medication requires a prescription. It is commonly used to treat male pattern baldness, and unlike melatonin for hair growth, we know exactly how it works. 

Finasteride prevents your body from converting testosterone into DHT, which, as noted, is what causes you to lose hair.

Oh, and it’s been proven to be quite effective. One study found that over 99 percent of men stopped their hair loss from worsening by taking finasteride for 10 years.

That’s not all — of those men, 91.5 percent noticed regrowth.

Finasteride comes as a tablet you take daily. We offer finasteride online after a virtual consultation with a medical professional.

Topical Minoxidil 

Like melatonin for hair growth, minoxidil is a topical treatment. This FDA-approved medication doesn’t require a prescription, and it comes in liquid and foam formulas. 

A 2019 review of minoxidil confirmed that it works for both men and women suffering from pattern hair loss.

Though it’s not exactly known how minoxidil works, it’s believed to increase blood flow to the scalp. This stimulates hair follicles to enter the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle.

Wondering about topical melatonin versus minoxidil? They’re both good choices for hair loss, but there’s much more science and research behind minoxidil.

Finasteride and Minoxidil Combo

Since they treat hair loss differently, many people use these two hair loss treatments together to cover all their bases.

In one randomized study, 94.1 percent of men dealing with hair loss showed an improvement in hair growth when taking both finasteride and minoxidil. 

This is compared to 80.5 percent who saw an improvement using just finasteride and 50 percent who saw an improvement using only topical minoxidil.

An easy way to use these two together is with our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray. A perfect for product minimalists (or anyone short on storage), it’s just one bottle containing both FDA-approved hair growth products.

Our Hair Power Pack also has both, but separately (you’ll get minoxidil solution drops and finasteride tablets).

DHT-Blocking Shampoo

Another option is to use a shampoo specifically engineered to thicken hair and stimulate hair growth. We offer a thickening shampoo with saw palmetto as one of its active ingredients.

This plant extract has been found to potentially reduce hair loss. It works kind of like natural finasteride, as some studies show that saw palmetto partially blocks DHT.

One study compared finasteride and saw palmetto for encouraging hair regrowth. Finasteride was found to be the most effective, but saw palmetto also helped. 

Volumizing Shampoo

Our volumizing shampoo and volumizing conditioner can make thinning hair appear more voluminous at the root.

They won’t permanently restore your hair — but just like how a couple of push-ups before taking off your shirt makes your arms look temporarily bigger, using this duo before you head out or hop on Zoom makes your hair look fuller.

Biotin Supplements

You may have seen biotin gummies on social media — they’re pretty popular with the influencer crowd. Don’t know much more about them than that? 

Biotin is a B vitamin that promotes healthy hair and growth. One study even found that taking biotin produces faster hair growth in people dealing with thinning hair, although the supplement studied also included different ingredients. 

Hims biotin gummies also contain vitamin D. This is important because vitamin D deficiency can contribute to hair shedding.

Lifestyle Tweaks

Beyond the above, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help with hair loss. 

For example, a healthy diet is crucial. Studies have shown that not getting enough iron and zinc in can be bad for hair health.

Including more zinc-rich foods in your diet — like oysters, oatmeal, beef, kidney beans, etc. — may potentially help with hair loss.

Smoking is a no-no, too. Researchers have found a link between smoking and hair loss

You know the myriad reasons smoking is harmful. For hair specifically, cigarettes cause oxidative stress on your hair follicles (essentially meaning smoke damages hair’s DNA).

Hair loss treatments, delivered

To recap, melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. It can also be taken in pill or patch form or applied topically.

While it’s not 100 percent understood how it works, research has found that applying a topical melatonin treatment can help promote healthy hair growth.

Here’s what we know:

  • For individuals with hair loss — specifically androgenetic alopecia (run-of-the-mill baldness) — treatment with melatonin could be an option. When applied topically for 90 to 180 days, it works with the hair follicles to extend the growth phase of the hair cycle, which means you keep more hair.

  • Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that can help fight damage from free radicals (that sounds like an emo band, but it’s things like pollution, smoke and UV rays).

  • Just keep in mind a topical application of melatonin is needed for hair growth rather than taking an oral supplement — otherwise, you’ll be very sleepy all day, and your hair won’t get any of the benefits.

Talk to a dermatologist or another healthcare provider to figure out the best treatment options for you.

On the fence about melatonin for hair loss but interested in other natural remedies? Check out our posts on saw palmetto for hair loss (spoiler alert: it’s pretty effective) and apple cider vinegar for hair loss.

23 Sources

  1. Melatonin. University of Michigan Health.. Retrieved from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw193915
  2. Melatonin and Sleep. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/melatonin
  3. Melatonin. MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/940.html
  4. Fischer, T., Trueb, R., Hanggi, G., et al., (2012). Topical melatonin for treatment of androgenetic alopecia. International Journal of Trichology, 4(4):236-45. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3681103/
  5. Androgenetic Alopecia. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/androgenetic-alopecia/
  6. Kinter, K., Anekar, A., (2021, January). Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557634/
  7. Cranwell, W., Sinclair, R., (2000). Male Androgenetic Alopecia. Endotext. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278957/
  8. Finasteride (2018). Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a698016.html
  9. Yanagisawa, M., et al. (2019, January). Long-term (10-year) efficacy of finasteride in 523 Japanese men with androgenetic alopecia. Clinical Research and Trials. 5, 1-5. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337105943_Long-term_10-year_efficacy_of_finasteride_in_523_Japanese_men_with_androgenetic_alopecia
  10. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S. & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. 13, 2777–2786. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  11. Badri, T., Nessel, T.A. & Kumar, D.D. (2020, May 4). Minoxidil. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  12. Hu, R., et al. (2015, June 2). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients. Dermatologic Therapy. 28 (5), 303-308. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/dth.12246
  13. Rossi, A., Mari, E., Scarno, M., et al. (2012, October). Comparative Effectiveness and Finasteride Vs Serenoa Repens in Male Androgenetic Alopecia: A Two-Year Study. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, Volume 25, Issue 4, pages 1167-1173. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/039463201202500435
  14. Ablon, G. (2015). A 3-Month, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Evaluating the Ability of an Extra-Strength Marine Protein Supplement to Promote Hair Growth and Decrease Shedding in Women with Self-Perceived Thinning Hair. Dermatology Research and Practice. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2015/841570/
  15. Khan, Q., Fabian, C., (2010, March). How I Treat Vitamin D Deficiency. Journal of Oncology Practice, 6(2):97-101. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835491/
  16. Guo, E., Katta, R., (2017, January). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology Practical and Conceptual, 7(1): 1-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
  17. Trueb, R., (2003). Association between smoking and hair loss: another opportunity for health education against smoking? National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12673073/
  18. National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Zinc Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
  19. Masters, A., Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Seixas, A., Girardin, L., & McFarlane, S. I. (2014). Melatonin, the Hormone of Darkness: From Sleep Promotion to Ebola Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334454/
  20. Fischer, T. W., Slominski, A., Tobin, D. J., & Paus, R. (2008). Melatonin and the hair follicle. Journal of Pineal Research, 44(1), 1-15. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1600-079X.2007.00512.x
  21. Babadjouni A., et al. (2023). Melatonin and the Human Hair Follicle. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36877877/
  22. Evyatar Evron,E., Juhasz, M., Babadjouni, A., Atanaskova, N.Mesinkovskab(2020, Nov).Natural Hair Supplement: Friend or Foe? Saw Palmetto, a Systematic Review in Alopecia. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7706486/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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