New research on the anti-aging benefits of methylene blue dye

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

New research on the anti-aging benefits of methylene blue dye

Related tags: Skin, Senescence

Scientists at the University of Maryland tested the dye, commonly used as an antiseptic and bacteriologic stain, for its potential as a skin care ingredient and saw very promising results.

Senior study investigator Kan Cao and her team—Zheng-Mei Xiong, Mike O’Donovan, Linlin Sun, Ji Young Choi, and Margaret Ren—published their findings late last month in the online journal Nature. The open-access article is titled Anti-Aging Potentials of Methylene Blue for Human Skin Longevity.

“Our work suggests that methylene blue could be a powerful antioxidant for use in skin care products,”​ Dr. Cao, an associate professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, says in a press item from UMD. She goes on to emphasize that “the effects we are seeing are not temporary. Methylene blue appears to make fundamental, long-term changes to skin cells.”

Commercial viability

The UMD researchers are so confident in their findings that methylene blue dye is an effective antioxidant, improves skin thickness and hydration, and increases elastin protein, among other benefits, that they’ve moved ahead and are developing skin care product prototypes. "We have already begun formulating cosmetics that contain methylene blue,”​ says Dr. Cao.  “Now we are looking to translate this into marketable products.” 

Ingredient testing

The UMD research team looked at the anti-aging benefits of methylene blue dye from several angles and compared those results with the anti-aging benefits of other known general and mitochondrial-targeting antioxidants. “Altogether, our study suggests that MB has a great potential for skin care,” ​the team concludes in the article abstract.

That is, methylene blue dye could have greater potential than ingredients currently in common use, including N-Acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), MitoQ, and MitoTEMPO (mTEM).  In this regard, we found that MB was more effective in stimulating skin fibroblast proliferation and delaying cellular senescence,”​ the team notes in the abstract.

“I was encouraged and excited to see skin fibroblasts, derived from individuals more than 80 years old, grow much better in methylene blue-containing medium with reduced cellular senescence markers,” ​Zheng-Mei Xiong tells the press. “Methylene blue demonstrates a great potential to delay skin aging for all ages.”

“Most surprisingly,” ​according to Dr. Cao, “we saw that model skin treated with methylene blue retained more water and increased in thickness—both of which are features typical of younger skin.”

The full-text article and data graphs can be found online here​. 

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