The It Ingredient: DMAE

It’s not as common as vitamin C and retinol, but this under-the-radar ingredient is a potent skin anti-ager that is only now just getting more attention.

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Meet DMAE (dimethyl MEA or dimethylaminoethanol), a chemical the brain makes in small amounts. It first came to attention in 2000, when Dr Nicholas Perricone (a former Yale University dermatology professor turned celebrity doctor), wrote that a diet high in DMAE (from salmon and anchovies) could improve mental clarity, protect cells from free radical damage, and increase muscle tone in the body and face.

That theory led to him starting Perricone MD skincare. Across the Pacific Ocean in Japan, his research also inspired the founding of MT Metatron in 2004, which stars DMAE in its anti-ageing MT Lifting Line. The brand is slated to launch in Singapore in July.

Recently, aesthetics clinic SW1 Clinic launched its Chai DMAE gel. Its founder and director Dr Low Chai Ling says: “DMAE’s benefits include a potential anti-inflammatory effect and a documented increase in skin firmness, with possible improvement in underlying facial muscle tone.”

The ingredient is considered on a par with retinol in combating lines and firming skin. So why has it been so low-key?

Dr Low says it could be that DMAE is expensive to make. “It is made in a lab with a structure atomically identical to that found in nature.” This ensures that the source is safe and sustainable.

It’s also tricky to add to a formula. Chris Caires, Perricone MD’s chief innovation officer, says: “DMAE doesn’t always work if it’s not formulated correctly.”

Dr Low adds: “On its own, DMAE is dangerously alkaline.” However, in skincare, “it’s commonly mixed with tartaric acid to make it usable”.

The ingredient also has its detractors, with Paula’s Choice founder Paula Begoun stating on her website that using it doesn’t yield long-term results, and may even end up destroying the very substances that keep skin firm.

Still, a 2005 clinical study by The American Journal of Dermatology found that a 3 per cent concentration of DMAE in a facial gel, used daily for 16 weeks, was safe and efficacious in treating forehead lines and periorbital fine wrinkles.

Newby Hands, global beauty director for Net-a-porter, also says that DMAE products are well-received by its customers. She says: “It tightens skin without appearing to have side effects such as dryness, redness or peeling.”

DMAE Skincare To Try 

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1. The water-based and oil-free Chai DMAE Gel ($107) is an anti-ageing moisturiser with 24K gold flakes to give skin a glow. From SW1 Clinics and 

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2. MT Metatron MT Essential Serum ($185.10) protects skin and prevents collagen breakdown. From Isetan Scotts in July.
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3. Dubbed a “neck lift in a tub”, Perricone MD Cold Plasma Sub D/Neck, US$142.31 (S$203) tightens and lifts skin. From

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