How To Treat Melasma: Internally + Externally
Melasma, otherwise known as "Pregnancy Mask", is a form of hyperpigmentation from sun exposure that is hormonally driven, and the hardest to treat. This hyperpigmentation can develop during times of heightened hormones or imbalances like pregnancy, BCP (birth control pill), thyroid conditions, menstrual disorders like endometriosis and PCOS, or anytime there may be hormonal issues, which makes it predominant in women. Melasma manifests symmetrically on the face, meaning that it will appear on both the upper cheeks, both sides of the forehead, or the upper lip. At the medical spa I worked at for years, this was the #1 thing we treated, which goes to show just how common it is.
As I mentioned before, Melasma is the hardest hyperpigmentation to treat, which means it needs a multi -step approach to treatment, especially with skincare.
Sunscreen is in THE most important part of treatment when it comes to any sun damage, especially Melasma. It doesn't matter what kind of treatment you do at the end of the day, if you're not wearing sunscreen, you won't get anywhere! I recommend a high SPF of at least 40-60, especially if you plan to be in direct sunlight, and remember to reply as needed!
Sunscreens: Elta MD, SUPERGOOP!, Coola, La Roche Posay.
Vitamin C is an absolute necessity for treating Melasma. Vitamin C works to treat + prevent free radical damage from UV rays, inhibit melanin production, and increases cellular turnover *just a little side note - most people don't know that Vitamin C is actually considered a resurfacing product because it's acidic on the skin.* Apply daily during your AM skincare routine.
Vitamin C: Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, Skin Regimen Vitamin C Booster, Obagi Vitamin C+ Arbutin Brightening Serum, Vivier Radiance Serum.
An important step for treating hyperpigmentation is exfoliation. Using a product that increases cellular turnover will speed up the healing process and allow the pigmentation to slough off faster. There are two roots you could go - acids or retinol. I prefer retinol because it is less drying to the skin then acids and has lots of other skin benefits for aging and acne.
Resurfacing Products: Skin Regimen Retinol Booster, Shani Darden Retinol Reform, Biossance Squalane + Phyto Retinol Serum, Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Oil.
Brightening + Lightening Products
Skin Brightening/Lightening products are another necessary addition to your Melasma treatment. Most products work by inhibiting melanin production (aka - they inhibit the production of the enzyme Tyrosinase in the skin, which is how melanin in produced). Some key ingredients you want to look for are: Arbutin, Niacinamide, Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Licorice Root + Peony Root, to name a few. *just a quick note about the ingredient Hydroquinone - this was used for many, many years to treat any pigment related skin condition, and it does work really well, but a few years back it was deemed a possible carcinogenic by Health Canada and the FDA, so I don't recommend using it).
Brightening/ Lightening: Skinceuticals Discolouration Defense, Obagi Nu-Derm Blend FX, Vivier Skin Brightening Cream, IS Clinical White Bright Serum.
There are a few differnet roots one can take when getting skin treatments done to heal Melasma, You can get chemical peels, which will work to increase cellular turnover and exfoliate the skin. And there are now certain laser treatments that work as well (there never used to be in the past).
I recommend getting a consultation done with a medical spa to see what treatment might be best for you!
As I mentioned earlier, Melasma is characterized by an underlying hormonal imbalance, so dealing with that imbalance (besides being pregnant) is going to be step one!