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DMAE Skin & Brain Health Benefits + Dosage & Side Effects

Written by Aleksa Ristic, MS (Pharmacy) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Aleksa Ristic, MS (Pharmacy) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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DMAE

The quests for natural nootropics and anti-aging skincare products intersect with DMAE. It’s promoted to boost mood, cognition, and skin health – but it might do the opposite instead. We reveal the science behind its benefits and side effects, helping you decide whether it’s worth a try.

What is DMAE?

DMAE (Deanol, 2-dimethylaminoethanol, or dimethylethanolamine) is a substance that occurs naturally in the brain. Sardines, anchovies, and other seafood contain minor amounts of DMAE, but it’s not considered a nutrient [1].

DMAE is a building block for choline and acetylcholine, two components essential for a healthy brain and nervous system. Doctors used to prescribe it under the trade name Deaner for childhood behavioral problems [2].

This drug is no longer available due to questionable safety and efficacy. Despite the Deaner ban, DMAE is still a popular nootropic; it’s an active ingredient in the cognition-enhancing drug centrophenoxine (Lucidril) [3].

You will also find DMAE in anti-aging and moisturizing skin care products: creams, serums, and lotions.

Snapshot

Proponents:

  • May enhance mood and cognition
  • May help with attention disorders
  • Improves skin appearance and hydration

Skeptics:

  • May worsen Alzheimer’s disease and mental disorders
  • May cause confusion and muscle cramps
  • Not safe for pregnant women
  • High amounts may damage skin cells

DMAE Benefits

How It Works

DMAE may provide antioxidant protection and build choline, which is essential for [4, 5]:

  • Healthy nerves and brain cells
  • Heart health
  • Fat metabolism

As a choline precursor, DMAE might increase acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter that plays critical roles in cognition and memory.

However, the impact of DMAE on choline and ACh is complex and not yet fully understood. DMAE raises the blood levels of choline, but it also competes for the same brain transporter. As a result, it may not boost acetylcholine in the brain [6].

Two studies on rats found no difference in ACh brain levels upon DMAE administration [7, 8].

On the other hand, drugs containing DMAE may stimulate ACh production and cognition. They likely require other compounds that enhance the uptake and effects of DMAE in the brain [9, 10].

Possibly Effective:

1) Skin Appearance

DMAE has gained popularity in skin care due to its supposed anti-aging benefits. The science seems to back up some of these claims with emerging evidence.

Facial gel with 3% DMAE (applied for 4 months) reduced the signs of skin aging in a clinical trial of 156 participants. Those who used the gel reported an improvement in [11]:

  • Forehead and eye area coarse wrinkles
  • Lip shape and fullness
  • Dark circles around the eyes
  • Neck firmness
  • Overall skin youthfulness

In 30 volunteers, 3% DMAE gel increased facial skin firmness [12].

A formulation with DMAE hydrated the skin and boosted collagen production in human subjects and mice [13].

Mesotherapy (skin injections with tiny needles) with DMAE and amino acids increased the levels of collagen and had notable anti-aging effects in rats [14].

According to studies on cell cultures and rabbits’ skin, the anti-aging effects of DMAE partly stem from cell damage and skin swelling, which might be a safety concern (more details in “Side Effects” below) [15, 16].

Insufficient Evidence:

No valid clinical evidence supports the use of DMAE for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit.

2) Memory and Cognition Enhancement

In a clinical trial of 60 patients with mild mental disorders, Deanol (DMAE) improved cognition, strength, and energy levels [17].

A special formulation, DMAE pyroglutamate (1,500 mg/day for 6 days), reversed short-term cognitive impairment in 24 healthy men. Tests on rats revealed the same [9].

Pyroglutamate itself may boost acetylcholine levels and cognition, and it likely contributed to the results. Also, the study on human subjects lacked a control group.

Centrophenoxine, with DMAE as an active component, boosted long-term memory and increased alertness in 60 healthy older subjects. The same drug improved memory in 50 elderly patients with dementia [18, 10].

However, DMAE failed to enhance cognition in studies on older people with mild memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease [19, 20, 21, 22].

DMAE may have the potential to boost cognition and mental clarity, but clinical evidence is conflicting. Well-designed studies should investigate this further.

3) Mental Health

A supplement with DMAE, vitamins, and minerals improved mood, energy, and wellbeing in a trial of 80 healthy subjects [23].

In 14 senile patients, DMAE (1,800 mg daily for 4 weeks) reduced the signs of depression, anxiety, and irritability but didn’t benefit cognition. The lack of placebo control and tiny sample prevent us from drawing any conclusion from this study [22].

Centrophenoxine, which contains DMAE, reduced anxiety in rats exposed to stress. In another study on rats, researchers observed its ability to increase the brain levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are essential for good mental health [24, 25].

On the other hand, DMAE caused unpleasant side effects and worsened mental health in sensitive individuals. Caution is warranted until we know more about its mental health effects [26, 27].

4) Attention Disorders

Some users claim that DMAE helps with ADHD and other attention disorders, but the evidence for this is scarce.

Three-month treatment with Deanol (DMAE, 500 mg) improved school performance in 74 children with behavior and learning disorders. However, the study had significant drawbacks such as [28]:

  • Small and uneven sample
  • Questionable subject selection
  • Poor symptom measurement

Likely Ineffective:

1) Alzheimer’s Disease

DMAE provided no significant improvement in two studies with over 260 Alzheimer’s disease patients. Some of them even had to quit due to major side effects (more details in “DMAE Side Effects” below) [19, 20].

2) Movement Disorders

There’s no evidence to back up the anecdotal benefits of DMAE for movement disorders.

Clinical trials have found no significant improvement of tardive dyskinesia, chorea, and other movement disorders [27, 29, 30, 31].

DMAE Side Effects

This list does not cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects. In the US, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch. In Canada, you may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

DMAE is possibly safe for oral and topical application when used in appropriate amounts in healthy people [28, 9, 11].

However, oral application may cause significant side effects on mental health in susceptible individuals. According to some case reports, higher doses of DMAE may cause insomnia, muscle cramps, and twitches [2, 32].

Mental Health and Cognition

DMAE worsened the symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia in some patients with mental disorders [26, 27].

In one clinical trial with Alzheimer’s disease patients, 6 out of 13 subjects had to quit due to drowsiness and cognitive disturbance [20].

Pregnancy

Pregnant women should avoid DMAE because it may cause birth defects. It impaired choline metabolism in mouse embryos, which led to birth defects and growth retardation [33, 34].

Skin

Skin application of gels and creams with DMAE didn’t cause irritation or other side effects in clinical studies [11, 13].

However, 3% DMAE gel caused swelling of the rabbit’s ear skin, suggesting cell injury. In another study, higher DMAE concentrations (up to 10%) inhibited the growth of human skin cells and even shortened their life span [15, 16].

Given the above results, you may want to go slow with DMAE for your skin and avoid concentrated serums.

Drug Interactions

Supplement-drug interactions can be dangerous and, in rare cases, even life-threatening. Always consult your doctor before supplementing and let him know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.

DMAE may increase the levels of acetylcholine and interfere with its brain transport. Hence, it may interact with two major drug classes [6]:

  • Cholinergics, used mainly for Alzheimer’s disease
  • Anticholinergics, used for Parkinson’s disease, COPD, and overactive bladder

DMAE Supplements & Dosage

DMAE supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. In general, regulatory bodies aren’t assuring the quality, safety, and efficacy of supplements. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

Capsulated DMAE bitartrate (130 – 250 mg pure DMAE) is the most popular supplement type, followed by bulk powders.

For those aiming at skincare, different DMAE creams and anti-age serums are available. Most of them also contain coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, MSM, vitamin E, and other beneficial ingredients. In clinical trials, 3% DMAE gel improved skin appearance, used daily for 4 months [11, 12].

Dosage

The below doses may not apply to you personally. If your doctor suggests using DMAE, work with them to find the optimal dosage according to your health condition and other factors.

The following DMAE dosage was efficient in clinical trials:

  • Cognitive impairment
    • Short-term: 1,500 mg daily for 6 days [9]
    • In mental disorders: 1,000 mg daily for 1 month [17]
  • Mood in senile patients: 600 mg, 3X daily for 1 month [22]
  • Attention disorders in children: 500 mg daily for 3 months [28]

User Reviews

The opinions expressed in this section are solely from the users who may or may not have medical background. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on SelfHacked.

People report positive results with DMAE for memory, mental clarity, and energy. Some parents have managed to control their children’s symptoms of ADHD and other attention disorders.

Users are warning about sleep issues and agitation at higher doses. Other reported side effects include dizziness, headaches, and worsened mood disorders (irritability, depression).

Most users have confirmed the anti-aging skin benefits of DMAE for both pills and cosmetics. Some of them add it to homemade creams and face masks. Skin irritation and unpleasant smell are the most common complaints.

Takeaway

DMAE occurs naturally in the body, where it makes choline and acetylcholine. Seafood contains small amounts, while supplements can provide much more.

Many nootropic products contain DMAE, but there’s insufficient evidence to back up its purported benefits for mood, cognition, and attention disorders.

Skincare products with DMAE may tighten your skin and give it a more youthful appearance. Use them in moderation and avoid highly concentrated serums – they may cause skin irritation.

Avoid DMAE if you have mental health problems or Alzheimer’s as it may worsen the symptoms. Pregnant women should also skip it, while others should consult their doctor first.

Where to Buy

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About the Author

Aleksa Ristic

MS (Pharmacy)
Aleksa received his MS in Pharmacy from the University of Belgrade, his master thesis focusing on protein sources in plant-based diets. 
Aleksa is passionate about herbal pharmacy, nutrition, and functional medicine. He found a way to merge his two biggest passions—writing and health—and use them for noble purposes. His mission is to bridge the gap between science and everyday life, helping readers improve their health and feel better.

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