Percutaneous penetration of topically applied melatonin in a cream and an alcoholic solution

Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2004 Jul-Aug;17(4):190-4. doi: 10.1159/000078822.


In a clinical study, the skin penetration properties of melatonin 0.01% in a cream and 0.01 and 0.03% in a solution were investigated by evaluation of the serum melatonin levels over a 24-hour time course in 15 healthy volunteers. Blood samples for melatonin measurements were taken at 9.00 a.m. before applying the test preparations and 1, 4, 8 and 24 h after application. The measurements were carried out by radioimmunoassay for melatonin. In 15 volunteers, the serum levels of melatonin before application of the topical preparations were between 0.6 and 15.9 pg/ml. After application of the 0.01% melatonin cream, there was a steady increase starting from 9.00 a.m. up to a mean serum value of 9.0 pg/ml at 9.00 a.m. the next day. The solution of 0.01% melatonin also showed an increase, starting from 5.00 p.m., up to a mean melatonin level of 12.7 pg/ml 24 h after application. The solution containing 0.03% melatonin resulted in elevated melatonin levels 1 and 8 h after application. The values were 18.1 and 19.0 pg/ml. The cumulative melatonin values for each preparation were 7.1, 8.6 and 15.7 pg/ml, respectively. This study shows that the strongly lipophilic substance melatonin is able to penetrate through the skin and leads to dose- and galenic-dependent melatonin levels in the blood. No increase of melatonin above the physiological range was observed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melatonin / administration & dosage
  • Melatonin / blood
  • Melatonin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ointments / administration & dosage
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Absorption / drug effects*
  • Solutions / administration & dosage
  • Time Factors


  • Ointments
  • Solutions
  • Ethanol
  • Melatonin