Suppression of UV-induced erythema by topical treatment with melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine). Influence of the application time point

Dermatology. 1997;195(3):248-52. doi: 10.1159/000245953.


Background: In a previous study, we reported a significant and dose-dependent suppression of UV-induced erythema in human skin by a topically applied melatonin preparation.

Objective: The present double-blind randomized study was designed to examine the influence of the application time point of topical melatonin on this antierythema effect.

Methods: Defined small areas on the lower back of 20 volunteers were treated with 0.6 mg/cm2 melatonin dissolved in a nanocolloid gel carrier either 15 min before or 1, 30 or 240 min after UV irradiation with twice the individual minimal erythema dose delivered by a Multiport Solar UV Simulator (UVA and UVB). The erythemata induced were evaluated by visual scoring and chromametry 24 h after irradiation.

Results: Treatment of the skin with melatonin 15 min before UV irradiation proved to almost completely suppress the development of an UV-induced erythema. In contrast, no significant protective effects of melatonin were observed when it was applied after UV irradiation.

Conclusion: Topically applied melatonin has a clear-cut protective effect against UV-induced erythema. Free radical scavenging of UV-generated hydroxyl radicals and interference with the arachidonic acid metabolism are possible mechanisms of the melatonin action.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Erythema / etiology
  • Erythema / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Free Radical Scavengers / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melatonin / administration & dosage*
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Sunburn / prevention & control
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*


  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Melatonin