Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
You’ve probably heard about people taking a melatonin supplement to help them sleep better. But did you know there’s some research that has found that it may also promote hair growth?
Yup, it’s true. Well, sort of. (You can add that to the list of unexpected melatonin side effects.)
Melatonin actually occurs naturally in the body, but it can also be taken orally for sleep assistance. As for using it to boost hair growth? It’s usually used in topical form.
But what does science actually have to say about it? It’s a little complicated, but let’s break it down.
As mentioned before, melatonin is found naturally in the body. It’s a hormone that’s made in the pineal gland in your brain, and it contributes to your circadian rhythms.
Your body’s production of melatonin increases in the evening when it gets dark to help you sleep.
Then, in the morning, it decreases to help you get up and out of bed. Simply put, the effects of melatonin help regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycles.
Unfortunately, as you age, natural levels of melatonin begin to drop.
In recent years, taking a melatonin supplement orally has become very buzzy. They’re usually made from synthetic melatonin and are thought to help with:
Falling asleep more easily
Seasonal affective disorder
Anxiety before surgery
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.
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 and it affects an estimated 50 million men in the United States. It’s believed to occur because of both genetic and hormonal factors.
Your body produces a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is believed to be one of the main factors in male pattern baldness.
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 thinning hair or baldness.
A review of research published in the International Journal of Trichology dove deep into looking at the effects of melatonin on hair growth.
The good news: it concluded that it may work to treat androgenetic alopecia.
It looked at multiple clinical studies to draw the conclusion that topical melatonin is a viable hair growth promoter.
In one study, researchers found that using melatonin for a study period of 30 or 90 days led to a significant reduction in the severity of androgenetic alopecia.
Interestingly, while there is research that concludes melatonin may work for androgenetic alopecia, how it works isn’t quite understood.
Interested in trying it?
Generally, topical melatonin used for the treatment of hair loss comes in a cream or serum-like formula and needs to be applied daily.
“I tried several different options before but Hims combined approach of all four methods by far created the best results.”
“Hims has been the greatest confidence boost, no more bald jokes! I look and feel so much younger!”
“When I show my barber my progress, he is always in disbelief. I have to recommend Hims to any guy who’s experiencing thinning.”
“Cost effective and affordable. My hair keeps growing thicker, fuller, and at a fast rate.”
“I noticed a huge change in the overall health and fullness of my hairline.”
“Now after 5 months I’m able to style waves first time in 10 years!”
“I decided to jump right in and I'm so glad I did. I definitely feel ten years younger!”
“In just as little over two and half months, I can really see the difference in thickness and in color.”
“4-months strong and my confidence boosted back up to 100% using Hims, future me really does thank me.”
“I’m a 34-year-old father of two and have been using Hims for over a year now. My hair is back to what it was in my mid-twenties.”
If you’re dealing with male pattern baldness, there are many other treatments available to you. Before jumping straight to trying melatonin, consider some other options.
Finasteride prevents your body from converting testosterone into DHT, which is what causes you to lose hair.
Oh, and it’s been proven to be quite effective. One study found that 99.1 percent of men stopped their hair loss from worsening when they took finasteride over a 10-year period.
But that’s not all — of those men, 91.5 percent of them even noticed regrowth.
It comes as a tablet that you take daily. Hims offers finasteride online after a consultation with a medical professional.
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 who suffer from pattern hair loss.
Though it’s not exactly known how minoxidil works, it’s believed to work by increasing blood flow to the scalp, thereby stimulating hair follicles to enter the anagen (or growth) phase of the hair growth cycle.
Because they treat hair loss differently, many people use them together with success.
One study found that 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 minoxidil.
Our Hair Power Pack contains both!
Another option: shampoo specifically engineered to thicken hair and stimulate hair growth. Hims has a hair thickening shampoo made with saw palmetto as one of its active ingredients. This natural ingredient has been found to potentially reduce hair loss.
One study compared finasteride and saw palmetto when it comes to encouraging hair regrowth. Finasteride was found to be most effective, but saw palmetto helped as well.
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.
In addition to the above, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help with hair loss.
For example, a healthy diet is important. Studies have shown that not getting enough iron and zinc in your diet 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.
First, it’s a pollutant that can damage your hair. Cigarettes have also been found to damage the DNA of your hair follicles.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
While it’s not known exactly how it works, research has found that applying melatonin topically can help men and women with hair loss and promote healthy hair growth.
For individuals with hair loss — specifically androgenetic alopecia — treatment with melatonin could be an option, but more definitive studies need to be completed.
Just keep in mind, you'll need to apply it topically rather than taking an oral supplement.
To figure out the best thing for you, talk to a healthcare provider.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.