How to Get Rid of Melasma: This post has been a long time coming. I’d planned to write a blog post about melasma only after I got rid of it – every last blotch. In the end, I eradicated 90% and gave up trying. Why? My pigmentation problem has become so minimal that I stopped thinking about it. These days it never crosses my mind other than making me smile because it’s (almost) not there. I’m calling that a success.
So let’s start from the beginning. What exactly is melasma?
Melasma is diffuse pigmentation that appears on the face. Often the first hint of melasma comes during pregnancy, and then it’s termed mask of pregnancy or chloasma. It’s also influenced by oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy because it’s not purely a skin issue – it’s a hormonal issue. I’ve read a lot about melasma and discovered a few things. Firstly, it seems as though it’s not easy to get rid of. Secondly, (and I have no scientific basis for this), I believe that pigmentation marks that appear very similar have different root causes. I reached this conclusion after reading how treatments that worked great for one person seemed to do nothing for another.
As for myself, I noticed that different treatments had different effects. What cleared up the melasma on my forehead did nothing for the melasma on my cheeks, for example. So in the hopes that something I did may help someone else, I’m going to describe my own melasma adventure, step by step.
A Little History
My melasma first appeared sometime in my 30s, unrelated to my pregnancies. It sort of crept up on me very gradually, so I’m not really sure when it arrived. I had quite dark blotches on the left and right sides of my forehead. A large section of my cheeks was covered in a faint lacy pattern of pigmentation, but there wasn’t any in the center of my face.
My first attempt to do something about it started with a trip to a dermatologist. She prescribed a cream containing hydroquinone that… get this, makes you photosensitive. In other words, the cream that cures the hyper-pigmentation also makes you prone to developing new blotches when you’re exposed to the sun. Um… no. I used the cream for a few weeks. It did nothing for me. Then I did more research on it and stopped using it. Among other things I discovered that hydroquinone is banned in some countries because it’s a carcinogenic. Preferring pigmentation to death, I chose to discontinue the cream. But that’s just me. I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from using a carcinogenic cream to clear up a cosmetic problem.
Around ten years ago, a melasma mustache arrived. Oh joy. My advice is, if you’re going to get melasma, don’t get it on your upper lip. For some reason I never figured out, the upper lip melasma only appeared when I was exposed to the sun. It disappeared completely in winter only to return the next summer. My coping mechanism was to apply sunscreen only on my upper lip when I was exposed to sunlight. It wasn’t a cure, but it kept me from looking too macho.
Curing Melasma Step One: A Switch to Paleo and adopting Apple Cider Vinegar
A few years ago, I switched to a paleo diet and soon after started taking 1 -2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in water orally. Two things happened. My mustache didn’t reappear the next summer, and the pigmentation on my forehead faded a little. I don’t know what made my mustache go away. It could have been the diet or the ACV or something else entirely. However, I was able to verify for myself that it was the ACV that worked on my forehead. How? When I decided to stop taking ACV, within a day I felt a sort tingling on my forehead. It became super sensitive, to the extent that I couldn’t stand having my bangs touch my forehead. I had to pin them up. A few days later, I noticed that the pigmentation was coming back. I had a hunch it was because I’d stopped the apple cider vinegar – it was the only thing I’d changed. Sure enough, when I started taking ACV again, the melasma faded again, and while it did so, it tingled. For me, whether the melasma is worsening or getting better, I feel that very particular tingling/sensitivity. I’ve heard others report the same thing.
Note: It’s best to drink ACV with a straw so as not to expose your teeth daily to the acidity.
Very gradually, over the course of a year or two, the melasma on my forehead faded completely. See for yourself. The darkest bit of melasma was now gone. Interestingly, the rest of the melasma remained unchanged.
Curing Melasma Step Two – Maca!
I originally bought maca because I’d heard it could help with pigmentation problems. This makes sense because it’s known to balance hormones, and melasma is a hormonal problem. The problem was, I couldn’t find a palatable way to take the powder – so I stopped taking it. And then, an unrelated problem cropped up and someone suggested maca as a solution. I pulled it out from the back of the cupboard. This time I found a yummy way to take it (scroll down for my recipe). Maca solved that other problem and also had a quick and dramatic effect on the melasma on my cheeks. It started pushing back the “front line” of the melasma from close to the middle of my face to the sides. I have to confess, it was fading so fast, that during the couple weeks that it was retreating, I must have looked at myself in the mirror 100 times a day. My cheeks were tingling intensely. I was almost tempted to draw a line in pen to see if I could see the movement from the morning to the evening. You can just imagine what it’s like, watching the pigmentation disappear before your very eyes! In the end, I jinxed it. One day I said out loud, if it continues at this pace, it’ll be gone in about two days and it abruptly stopped improving. Didn’t matter, I was thrilled. The melasma was relegated to the sides of my face, half – hidden under hair. What an improvement.
Curing Melasma Step Three – Cocoa Butter
I like products that are simple – the fewer ingredients, the better and the more natural, the better. That’s why I was happy to try Cococare, Cocoa Butter Lip Balm. It sells for the grand price of $1.99 on Amazon.
It has one all-natural ingredient. I remember seeing that cocoa butter helped fade a friend’s freckles and so I thought it was worth a try. I started applying cocoa butter a few times a day. For the first couple of months it helped the remaining melasma become fainter, but not so much that it disappeared. After a while, I stopped using it. It’s possible that it worked so slowly that maybe it would make the melasma disappear completely after a year or two of constant use, but I’m not very diligent about moisturizing (which actually means I usually don’t bother) so after a while I stopped using it.
Other methods: If you google natural melasma treatments, lots of people list the same things without any actual personal success stories. I’m always suspicious about the value of this information. It seems to me that they are all copying each other’s information without having tried these remedies on themselves or on clients.
One remedy that is often mentioned is lemon. It might help you, but I tried it and found it did nothing. I also read about applying apple cider vinegar directly on the skin. I tried it diluted. I tried it undiluted. It’s not the most pleasant thing I ever put on my face. For me personally, this did nothing.
Another treatment I planned on trying was grapefruit seed extract First of all, don’t confuse grapefruit seed extract with grape seed extract – they are two different things. From my reading, some people get good results from this while others see no improvement. The taste is very bitter, not pleasant at all. I only took it a few times and never gave it a proper trial, but I think this can potentially help more than other remedies. If I ever get motivated to try removing that last bit of pigmentation, I would try this first.
Yet another oft mentioned remedy is onion juice. It gets more mention for age spots than melasma (they’re not the same, but people on the intertubes seem to mix up these terms up). This isn’t entirely crazy because onion juice is rich in sulfur which is supposed to do be a good thing. Of course, you would smell like an onion. It could be a great way to clear your skin and lose all your friends. Who knows? Might be worth a try – your call! I haven’t tested this one.
Maca is a small root that grows in South America, and comes to us in powder form, after being dried and ground. It doesn’t taste bad, but I find that it’s strong earthy taste overpowers other flavors, so I personally don’t like it added to something like yogurt (though others don’t have a problem with it). To mask the taste, I like to make the following dish. The taste of the maca blends well with the other ingredients, which are also healthy (except for the sugar).
Maca Squares 10 Tbsp. coconut oil 6 Tbsp. maca 3 Tbsp. cocoa 2 Tbsp. tehina or other nut butter As little sugar/honey/maple syrup as possible Place coconut oil in a small bowl. Add sifted cocoa and maca. Stir well. Add remaining ingredients and stir until blended. Refrigerate. It quickly solidifies. I cut off a chunk once or twice a day. You can make it more interesting by adding chopped walnuts.
Have you tried any of these cures? Share your successes and failures in the comments below.
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