melasma treatment

Each week we explore your questions in Ask An Aesthetician with Seti Mayet; former instructor at the International Dermal Institute and founder of skin care practice, Enliven Your Skin, in Los Angeles, CA. Check out last week’s question – “What are the bumps on the back of my arms and how do I get rid of them?” – and if you have any, send us your questions via social media or email! 

Hi Seti, I just had a baby and am dealing with melasma. What’s the best way to get rid of it?

Seti: For those who are not familiar with melasma, also called ‘chloasma,’ it is a common skin condition of adults in which light to dark brown or grayish pigmentation develops, mainly on the face. Melasma usually becomes more noticeable in the summer and improves during the winter months. 

The exact cause is not known, but several factors contribute. These include pregnancy, hormonal drugs such as the contraceptive pill, and very occasionally medical conditions affecting hormone levels. Some cosmetics, especially those containing perfume, can bring on melasma. There is research to suggest that it can be triggered by stress. Sunshine and the use of sun-beds usually worsen any tendency to melasma.

Pigmentation is one of the more volatile skin challenges that cannot be remedied with a “quick fix” such as skin lighters like hydroquinone that is a known carcinogen and has been banned in 5 continents, and has side-effects such as increased sun sensitivity, breakdown of collagen and elastin and potentially HYPO-pigmentation that is often irreversible. By the way, even though it’s still available in the US, the warning label lists breastfeeding and pregnancy as a contraindication, ironic. 

Laser is also a tricky and expensive option with unpredictable results. Your first and best line of defense in preventing further pigmentation is protecting the skin daily with a broad spectrum sun block and re-applying if you’re exposed to the sun for more than 2-3 hours. This includes running errands and sitting in your car that has un-tinted windows. In other words,  it’s “incidental sun exposure” that’s most prevalent. Add another layer of protection with a physical block in the form of a hat or visor. 

Now, start changing your skin by regularly sloughing off dead skin cells that contain the old pigment with the use of a non-toxic and gentle exfoliant formulated for your skin type. Step it up and consult with a professional for microdermabrasion treatments parterend with LED and peels that are also very effective. Also look for products that contain natural lightening ingredients such as vitamin C, white willow bark and kojic acid (derived from Japanese mushrooms) that inhibit melanin production. 

Remember to avoid products that contain artificial colorants, fragrance and toxic preservatives that are irritants to the skin which can stimulate melanin production as a protective response. Get creative! There are endless home concoctions you can create at home to treat your skin.

Try this: 1 Tablespoon of finely pulverized white rice; I use my coffee grinder. 1 teaspoon of lemon and pinch of powdered vitamin C. Mix with distilled water until smooth and not tacky. Gently exfoliate 2-3 times a week and adjust the ratio based on your skin’s sensitivity.

Written by aesthetician Seti Mayet; former instructor at the International Dermal Institute and founder of skin care practice, Enliven Your Skin, in Los Angeles, CA. Photographed by: Wing Ta. 

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