Your genetic makeup is unique, and if you’re managing melasma, that means your treatment protocol will be, too. If you have a darker complexion, treating melasma may require a different approach than for individuals with lighter skin. Your skin texture, moisture levels, and oil production will influence your melasma treatment, too. Luckily, no matter your skin type, there are steps you can take to even your skin tone and restore your glow.
1. Research Which Prescription Medications Work Best for Your Skin Type
Melasma may fade over time or when its triggers are relieved, like stopping medication, reducing stress, or birthing a child. However, melasma can also persist for years or even a lifetime, meaning prescription treatment is needed to reduce its appearance.
Tretinoin is a popular skincare treatment for a variety of skin issues, and melasma is one of them. Especially effective on those with deeper complexions, this concentrated dose of vitamin A reduces pigmentation. Additionally, users can enjoy tretinoin’s other benefits, which include improved texture and moisture retention, both of which enhance the skin’s overall appearance.
Hydroquinone cream works to reduce discoloration by limiting the amount of melanin your body produces. Most prescriptions are short-term and are meant to be applied on the areas of the skin where melasma appears. Azelaic acid gel reduces the appearance of discoloration and dark spots for patients of all skin tones. It can be safe to use when prescribed with hydroquinone or after the recommended use period of hydroquinone.
2. Update Your At-Home Skincare Routine
Pair your prescription’s powers with at-home skincare habits that help prepare your skin for treatment and healing. Regular exfoliation is a skincare standby, but it’s even more important if you’re targeting an uneven complexion. Employ chemical exfoliants to gently slough away spent skin cells, revealing brighter and more even skin.
Alpha hydroxy acid is one of the most popular acids that can safely be applied at home. Pre-soaked AHA pads ensure you’re applying just the right amount, preserving the product and avoiding over-application. Glycolic acid, one of the most popular AHAs, is also safer for those with melasma and can be used with tretinoin and hydroquinone. This acid is also best for those with oily or acne-prone skin and is safe for darker complexions.
Lactic acid can come to the rescue for those with dry skin, thanks to its more gentle properties. Often the go-to starter acid, lactic acid can be less irritating to sensitive skin while still addressing unevenness and discoloration.
Add skin-brightening vitamin C to get an antioxidant boost and even your skin tone. Vitamin C serums also improve collagen production and can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, making this add-on extra effective. Individuals with dry skin should mix vitamin C serum with moisturizer to prevent irritation. Those with oily or combination skin can apply serum directly but should start with a lower concentration first.
3. Pursue In-Office Treatments From an Expert
Dermatologist- or esthetician-led treatment can increase your melasma treatment options and boost results. These providers have access to treatment types, formulas, and tools that are more challenging — if not impossible — to use at home.
Try a microneedling procedure in-office to boost cell turnover, reduce lines and wrinkles, and even skin tone. The pen-like tool imparts thousands of micro-injuries to the skin, which encourages cell structures to regenerate and strengthen.
Professional tools also apply targeted treatment while needle pricks are made, for immediate skin absorption and maximum product impact. This option is effective for all skin types and tones. However, you should consult with your provider on the best serum to use with your treatment.
Chemical peels are also an effective way to even skin tone impacted by melasma. Peels done by a provider are typically more potent and can offer quicker results than those done at home. In-office treatments can also be safer with an expert’s recommendation on the peel concentration and the type of acid used. For instance, glycolic and kojic acids are safe choices for dark-skinned patients, whereas trichloroacetic acid poses the risk of serious side effects. Both dry and oily skin types can safely undergo chemical peels, so long as the concentration is adjusted for skin sensitivity.
4. Prevent Worsening Pigmentation
All skin needs sun protection, but making a habit of slathering on daily sunscreen can be challenging. Assess your current sun habits and consider meaningful and achievable changes you can stick with. Most formulas are compatible with all skin types, and those with ceramides help lock in moisture all day.
First, choose a daily moisturizer with sunscreen to establish a barrier against UV rays. Look for formulas with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and/or iron oxide for the best protection. Lightweight formulas melt into the skin, leaving a foundation for a fresh face or makeup regimen. For those with deeper complexions, a tinted moisturizer with SPF of 30 or better may reduce a dulling white cast.
Similarly, overall sunscreens with a skin tone tint are increasing in availability. Lotion-style sunscreens provide the best coverage, so if a tinted formula helps ensure you’ll apply it, make the investment. Touch up lotion formulas with easy-to-apply mists according to the product instructions and after water exposure.
Keep hats and sunglasses handy, even on non-beach days. Sun damage is lifelong, and it only takes one major burn to increase health risks. Stash a hat or visor in your car and keep sunglasses always available to reduce the temptation of forgoing protection.
Achieving the Best Outcomes Requires Persistence
As with any endeavor, consistency helps drive results, and treating your melasma is no exception. Achieving visible improvements in overall skin tone, texture, and color takes time. Instead of giving way to frustration, revise how you think of your treatment regimen.
Incorporate self-care best practices into your melasma treatment routine that help you wind down for the evening. Apply and wear sun protection with a gentle reminder that you’re supporting healthy skin and avoiding damaging UV rays. Treat your melasma while nourishing and protecting your skin, and you’ll be on your way to a brighter, more even complexion.