What Is Dimethylaminoethanol or Deanol

Deanol, otherwise known as dimethylaminoethanol or DMAE, when applied to the face produces acetycholine levels, which leads to increased tone in muscles under skin, prevents sagging, reduces saggy eye syndrome, and increases circulation and tone to lips – plumping lips.
My vanity says,“Wow – wonderful! Sign me up!” However, my inner skeptic, says, “Uh, yeah…right,” and practically forces me to investigate this incredible claim.

First of all, what the heck is deanol?

According to webmd.com, deanol, a substance, is naturally produced in the brain, and is a precursor of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is an extremely important chemical messenger: in our bodies it is required for proper function of our muscles and aids in proper mental functions.

Deanol has been used for many years in treatment of neuromuscular diseases. As reported by the British Medical Journal, it is particularly effective in treatment of a disease called tardive dyskinesis, which results when naturally occurring acetylcholine is depleted by use of drugs. In these cases, however, deanol was administered orally.
I needed to find a study of topical application of Deanol.   I did find one study in the Biochemistry Journal that where topical application of deanol to neurons in chick embryos did result in production of acetylcholine. However, this was a culture of neural cells in a petri dish, not a live person clothed in the most effective barrier known to medication: skin.

So, I embarked on the fascinating journey into scientific journals to see if I could find any studies to substantiate LifeCell’s claims that Deanol could reduce wrinkling. First, I checked Webmd.com, which reported minimal effects when deanol was applied topically to the skin, resulting in reduction of fine lines and wrinkles.

Minimal effect? Not very convincing:  so I kept researching.

In a randomized clinical study reported by the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 3% deanol gel applied daily for 16 weeks was shown to be safe and efficacious in reducing forehead lines and wrinkles around the eye. It also improved lip shape and fullness and the overall appearance of aging skin, with improvement in appearance of wrinkles, dark under-eye circles, sagging neck skin and neck firmness.

These effects did not go away even when the study participants stopped applying the deanol for two weeks! Furthermore, deanol was shown to be safe and well tolerated when applied long term.
So, after finding out that yes, topical application of deanol improved the signs of aging, researchers studied deanol in a test tube to try and figure out how it works.

They studied skin strength and confirmed that deanol did increase skin firmness and also that it had anti-inflammatory properties. However, they were unable to elucidate whether or not deanol could increase acetylcholine functions in the skin. They know that skin is an active site of acetylcholine activity, and postulated that deanol could improve underlying facial muscle tone, but they never proved it.

A study out of Canada (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Quebec) investigated the anti-wrinkle effect of deanol, and concluded that it does reduce wrinkles by directly affecting the skin. The researchers there studied the direct affect of deanol on the cells, and saw that deanol caused vacuolar cell expansion. That means that deanol made the cells expand in size, and that this could account for the very rapid effect on the apparent skin fullness.

Well, after learning this, I am convinced that deanol is an effective anti-wrinkle ingredient, but I’m not totally convinced it works by increasing acetylcholine production in the underlying muscle layers.


I could not find any studies to back up muscular acetylcholine production when deanol was applied topically. Furthermore, the deanol would not only have to penetrate all the layers of skin, but it would also have to penetrate the fascia before it gets to the muscle. Lastly, to me, it seems counterintuitive to increase muscular tone when another ingredient, acetyl hexapeptide-3 works in exactly the opposite manner: mimicking Botox® injections by relaxing the underlying facial muscle.  So, personally, my jury is still out, but I welcome any questions or comments to this article that would help me clear up this mechanism of action.

Having said that, I still think it is an incredible anti-wrinkle ingredient due to the clinically-proven effects it has on skin, and is an excellent and credible addition to any anti-wrinkle cream product.