Melasma is a common skin condition that manifests in the form of brown or tan skin discoloration. This happens because of the overproduction of pigment, and this condition affects mostly women who are going through hormonal changes. These women are usually of ages 20 to 50, women who use contraceptives, take hormone replacement medication, or are pregnant. According to the National Institutes of Health, over 6 million women in the United States are affected by melasma at some point in their lives. Besides the aforementioned risk groups, people with darker skin, people who live in tropical climates, and women who work around heat (such as cooks or factory workers) are prone to getting melasma as well.
Treatments for Melasma
Hydroquinone is available in the form of lotion, gel, cream, or liquid, and deals with melasma by lightening the skin. It is the only FDA-approved skin bleaching product, however, it can be harsh to sensitive skin. Hydroquinone oxidizes quickly and it is quite hard to stabilize, however, it still remains one of the most popular treatments for melasma. You can find it as an over-the-counter product, or, alternatively, your doctor can prescribe a higher strength version, depending on your condition.
Take note that if the cream turns into a pale yellow to gold and brown color, it is no longer good for use and you should dispose of it properly. It is very important to stay out of the sun as much as you can while you are using these creams, as the sun rays can make the hydroquinone ineffective.
Corticosteroids and tretinoin
Corticosteroids and tretinoin help with the skin lightening process and work best when combined with hydroquinone. There are also products that contain hydroquinone, corticosteroid, and tretinoin at the same time, and these products are referred to as triple creams.
Kojic acid and azelaic acid
Kojic acid was discovered in 1907 in Japan, and it is a popular bleaching agent and an alternative to hydroquinone. Some people can be sensitive to it, so always make sure to do an allergy test. Azelaic acid is a natural skin brightener, and it is found in barley, rye, and wheat. Most commonly it is used in concentrations of 20%. When combined with alpha hydroxy acids or tretinoin, azelaic acid works much better and can even match the effects of hydroquinone. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and it is also good for treating acne and rosacea.
Arbutin is also known as bearberry extract, uva ursi extract, and alpha arbutin, and it is derived from the bearberry plant. It is a good alternative to hydroquinone. A clinical trial was conducted in Japan where a 3% concentration of arbutin showed amazing results with women suffering from melasma.
Licorice extract is one of the gentlest and safest skin lightening agents with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains liquidity and labia din, which have proved to be excellent in the treatment of melasma and other hyperpigmentation issues.
Turmeric is very popular in ayurvedic medicine and is quite effective when it comes to the treatment of skin issues. The active ingredient of turmeric powder is curcumin, which has antioxidant and skin lightening properties. It helps with the melanin pigmentation and gets rid of the toxins. To make this natural remedy, mix 10 tablespoons of milk with five tablespoons of turmeric powder, and if needed, add one teaspoon of gram flour to form a thick paste. Apply it to your skin and leave it on to dry completely. Rinse off with tepid water and repeat daily for best results.
Horseradish is well known for its benefits when it comes to skin care. It can reduce scars, blemishes, and discoloration, and is very effective when it comes to melasma. Mix two tablespoons of horseradish with one cup of sour curd, combine the ingredients well and apply to your skin. Leave it on for about half an hour and rinse off with tepid water. You can do this once a week until you get the results you desire.
Lemon juice is great for the treatment melasma, as it works by peeling off the damaged layer of the skin and removing the pigmentation caused by this condition. It is a natural bleach that works wonders against skin discoloration. Simply squeeze the juice of one lemon and apply to the affected areas, and rub gently for two to three minutes. Let the lemon juice sit for 15 minutes and wash off with tepid water. You can do this two or three times a day until you start seeing results.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar seems to be the treatment for every skin condition or another health issue out there, so why not try it for treating melasma? The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar is a great natural skin lightener which makes your skin smooth and radiant again. Mix equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar and apply with a cotton swab to the areas affected by melasma. Let the solution dry completely and wash your skin with tepid water and pat dry with a clean towel. You can repeat this daily for best results.
Papaya is not only delicious but also great for battling numerous skin issues. Simply mash a few chunks of ripe papaya to form a paste and add two teaspoons of organic honey to it. Mix the ingredients and apply the paste over the affected areas. Leave the mask on for about 20 minutes, and rinse with tepid water. You can do this once a week for amazing results.
Almonds and almond milk have numerous benefits to the skin, and the high protein content in almonds can actually help lighten the skin naturally. Also, vitamin E takes care of all the skin issues and nourishes your skin in a gentle manner. To make this mask, grind about 10 almonds and add some honey to them to form a paste. Apply the paste to the affected areas, massage gently for a few minutes, and let the mask sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water and repeat three times a week until you are satisfied with the results.
Onions are a common kitchen ingredient with amazing benefits to the melasma affected skin. You will need to get the onion juice by crushing a few pieces of yellow or white onion until the juice comes out. Then, mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and onion juice and apply the mixture with a cotton ball. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, and rinse off with tepid water. You can repeat this daily for best results.