Hello lovelies, happy summertime (gosh hasn’t it been a hot one!) and welcome to our July blog instalment where we will be demystifying the skin condition melasma and challenging society’s views on ageing with some positive pro rather than anti ageing vibes.
So, read on as we delve into the causes of and treatments for skin pigmentation issues including melasma, sun spots and hyper pigmentation, how to manage it from home with natural remedies and tips on how to take on ageing with resplendent, glowing, moisturised skin – whatever it's pigmentation and sensitivities.
What is Melasma?
Melasma is a hot topic at the moment - thanks to that bright golden ball in the sky gracing us with its presence of late – as it spells a skin complaint directly linked to sun exposure.
So, what is it? Melasma, also often called ‘chloasma’ and ‘pregnancy mask’, is a common condition in adults whereby brown, blueish or greyish patches of pigmentation develop on the skin - usually on the face. The name comes from melas, the Greek work for black and is more common in women than men (female hormones often give rise to melasma – more on this later!) and those who tan very quickly.
However, there are other causes and flare up suspects, along with different ways to manage this skin condition. To help us navigate our way through the world of skin pigmentation, please say hello to Claire!
Claire is a Caucasian lady (often melasma affects different ethnicities to various extent with Black people, Asians and Hispanics most affected), an avid nature and animal lover, is 52 years old, has resided in leafy Hampshire all her life, has a grown up son and a rescue greyhound called Toffee.
She is keen to share with all our lovely readers her experiences of living with melasma to raise awareness of this skin complaint that affects so many women’s everyday lives.
Melasma affected Claire particularly when she was pregnant with her son – the British skin foundation notes that this is the time when up to 50% of women are affected by melasma pigmentation (Melasma – British Skin Foundation).
Quick fire Melasma Myths to debunk!
Myth: melasma can’t be treated. Yes, it can, different treatments suit different people with varying successes.
Myth: melasma is permanent. No, Melasma can go away completely after pregnancy or after stopping taking the contraceptive pill or certain types of HRT.
- Myth: one treatment is all that’s needed. No, treatment is long term as melasma will likely return if not managed.
- Myth: if you already have melasma, you don’t need to wear sunscreen. No, you must always wear sunscreen otherwise you risk your melasma worsening.
- Myth: you only get melasma if someone in your family has it. Although it does tend to run in families it is perfectly normal to be affected by the condition when no one else in your family is.
- Myth: drinking collagen will prevent melasma. No, this will do nothing for your melasma.
- Myth: healthy people don’t get melasma. No, anybody can suffer from melasma.
- Myth: melasma is a sign of old age. No, melasma is actually most common between the ages of 20-40 but it can appear to be more noticeable as the skin naturally thins and ages. Melasma is extremely rare in children.
Ok, so how is Melasma different from other types of Hyperpigmentation?
Right, so hyperpigmentation is an umbrella term used to cover a number of conditions where a patch or patches of skin become noticeably darker than the surrounding skin of the same area. This term is used to denote in general age spots, sun spots and melasma - all of which are closely linked to sun exposure whereby harmful UV rays cause damage to our skin.
Melasma however differs from other forms of hyperpigmentation mainly by its cause: rather than being mostly sun-related, melasma is caused in part by hormonal changes in the body – therefore much more commonly found in women (a study found that 90% of melasma suffers are women) than men and in particular affects pregnant women.
Whereas hyperpigmentation caused solely by ageing and sun exposure tends to appear between the ages of 40-50 and gradually worsen as we grow older, melasma generally affects the 20-40 age group and can improve or worsen as we age, all depending on how our own individual hormones might fluctuate over the years through life events such as pregnancy and menopause.
Here in our blog , with the help of Claire, we are focusing on unveiling all the facts and advice surrounding melasma in particular but, bar the hormonal aspect, the causes, advice and natural remedies are often relevant to all types of hyperpigmentation we may find appearing on our skin. In fact, although the treatment options for the other forms of hyperpigmentation are the same as those for melasma , their success rate tends to be much lower when it comes to melasma. This is due to the fact that hormones are our very own personalised set of chemicals and so each person’s melasma responds differently to treatment, making it notoriously difficult to treat. BUT, don’t feel deflated – there are things that we can do to help, just read on!
Reaching a Diagnosis – Claire’s Story
Claire became increasingly aware of flat darker, brown to greyish patches on her cheeks and forehead, sh was 25 at the time so she felt too young for age pigmentation spots and became more and more self conscious about their appearance and concerned as to what was causing them so she booked an appointment with her GP.
Mostly affecting the face, many women find their melasma appearing on the upper lip, nose and chin as well as forehead and cheeks. It can also emerge on other body areas often exposed to the sun, such as the forearms and neck. Apart from the upset caused by the appearance of her skin, Claire had no physical symptoms – skin affected by melasma is not itchy, sore or painful.
Claire’s GP utilised a Wood’s lamp examination – a special light was held up to her skin to determine the presence of melasma and examine how deeply it penetrated the skin. The more deeply melasma penetrates the skin, the more difficult it may be to treat. Following the examination Claire’s GP diagnosed her with melasma, at the time she was taking the contraceptive pill and was a regular sun worshipper – both factors that have been known to trigger melasma. Each diagnosis may vary – Claire’s Aunt who also had melasma, but later in life, was referred to a dermatologist who recommended a biopsy – a small sample of skin was removed under local anaesthetic for examination in order to exclude other conditions, which it did.
Claire was reassured by her practitioner that she was not experiencing a skin infection, that her pigmentation was not contagious or cancerous and she had no higher a risk than those without hyperpigmentation of developing skin cancer. In fact, did you know people with melasma seem to have a much lower risk of developing melanoma? (Why Is My Melasma Getting Worse? (navamd.com)).
Are there different types of Melasma?
Yes, there are three medically recognised types of melasma denoted according to the depth of the pigmentation.
Firstly, we have epidermal melasma where the pigment is in the more superficial layers of skin (epidermis), tends to be dark brown and responds more quickly to treatment. Secondly, we have dermal melasma which appears brown or blueish in colour and penetrates into the deeper layers of skin and is harder to treat. Up thirdly we have mixed melasma – as the name suggests it’s a combination of the two, is the most popular type of melasma and is likely to show some response to treatment. Claire has mixed melasma.
So, what causes Melasma?
The science bit: melasma is caused as a result of the pigment-producing cells in the skin (melanocytes) producing too much pigment (melanin). With top dermatologist guidance teamed with Claire’s insider insights, let’s address the top 7 melasma triggers!
1. Sun exposure
We are putting this in premier position as sun exposure is the most significant commonality between general hyperpigmentation and melasma specifically. Like many of those managing melasma and age spots, Claire notices that her skin pigmentation becomes more noticeable during the summer months and improves during the winter.
Natural light stimulates the production of even more brown pigment (melanin). Frustratingly, it is impossible to know how much sun exposure is too much until it’s too late and the damage to the skin has already been done. That said, by using adequate sun protection, wearing hats, sitting in the shade and donning sunglasses, you can put a stop to hyperpigmentation, from age or melasma, worsening. If you are currently fortunate enough to have pigmentation free skin then Claire’s advice to you is to be sun savvy RIGHT NOW and pigment-protect your skin as much as possible before its too late!
Melasma is not strictly hereditary but has been shown to be more common in people with a family history of the condition. Claire’s mum and sisters do not suffer from it, but as we mentioned her Aunty did. In fact according to What Is Melasma? | Chloasma | Conditions | Changing Faces 40% of those with melasma report that family members were also affected.
3. Hormone imbalance
Hormone imbalance is a major contributor to melasma, in particular it is thought that the elevated levels of oestrogen during pregnancy can cause it or worsen it – as was the case for Claire. Dr Keira Barr, author of The Skin Whisper explains that female hormones stimulate the melanocyte releasing hormone (MSH), thus increasing the production of melanin, which is responsible for darkening the skin.
When it comes to melasma research has found that elevated progesterone levels are also associated with increased skin pigmentation – this is also why melasma often crops up during pregnancy or use of some contraceptive pills when progesterone levels are elevated and stimulate melanocytes to increase pigment production.
4. Use of sun beds or phototherapy
This exposure to (UV) ultraviolet light can cause or worsen melasma – avoid tanning booths, sun beds and phototherapy completely.
Cortisol – the stress hormone - has been proven to aggravate melasma. As we become physically, psychologically or emotionally stressed our body produces increasing levels of cortisol to help us cope with the stress we are experiencing. This high amount of cortisol surges through our bodies creating an imbalance in oestrogen levels which, again, increases that MSH melanin producing hormone, triggering pigmentation. Re-establishing a balance in stress and therefore hormonal levels can really help in melasma prevention and management. For Claire the stresses of her job in teaching often led to a flare up of her melasma.
6. Certain Drugs and some HRT
The breast cancer drug tamoxifen, which blocks oestrogen receptors has been linked to melasma and melasma of the arms has been linked to hormone replacement therapy – this does not mean HRT is completely unsuitable for melasma sufferers, you will just need to discuss the best hormone therapy options for you with your GP.(https://connect.uclahealth.org/category/dermatology/).
7. Thyroid dysfunction
Problems with thyroid functioning leads to hormone imbalances. In fact ‘people who have melasma are four times as likely to have thyroid disease’ (Why Is My Melasma Getting Worse? (navamd.com)).
So, can Melasma be cured?
No, at present there is no cure for melasma but there are treatments, natural and chemical, that can help improve it’s appearance and help to manage it effectively. Also melasma may lessen or go away completely after pregnancy - if this caused it to appear in the first place. Claire’s melasma cleared up significantly a couple months after the birth of her son. You can expect melasma to come and go in waves mirroring times of hormone fluctuation in your life.
Ok, so how can we manage Melasma?
Here Claire makes no qualms in saying that it is a long journey of trial and error to find out what works for your own melasma and is a case of incorporating practices repetitively and consistently into your every day life to see any results at all. When trying something new she warns that you must try it for at least a couple of months to see if there are any improvements.
Below she shares with us her 'Top 11 Tips' for managing melasma to guide us through the ‘melasma minefield’ and help us with our own hyperpigmentation journeys.
1. Protect against the Sun
The most important thing you can do if you suffer from melasma is to protect your skin from the sunlight. Claire always ensures that she wears a hat and UV protective sunglasses when out in the sun. She slathers on a sun cream, topping it up regularly, using a 30+ SPF to protect against UVB, and one that has the UVA circle logo and/or 4 or 5 UVA stars to protect against UVA.
For maximum protection pop your sun cream on as your last step in your skincare routine - when your serum/oil and daily moisturiser have had a few minutes to sink in.
Her word of warning about sunglasses! Be wary of classic aviators style frames as, ‘exposure to the sun causes the metal frames to accumulate heat and then transfer it to the skin’ warned her dermatologist Dr. Green. Plus, as anyone who’s ever sunbathed with a foil reflector knows, metal catches rays, intensifying a tan—and melasma. The weight and rubbing of metal rims on skin can also take its toll and, ‘it’s so important to remove sunglasses at regular intervals and apply and reapply sunscreen under and around sunglasses while wearing them’ (7 Sneaky Things That Can Trigger Melasma | RealSelf News).
2. Be aware of triggers such as pregnancy, HRT and birth control pills
As previously mentioned, oestrogen and progesterone sensitivity are associated with the skin condition. When Claire’s melasma was diagnosed she was taking the contraceptive pill but soon ceased with it as she wished to fall pregnant. During this time she did find an improvement in the severity of her melasma but once she fell pregnant she found it reappeared worse than it was before.
Claire shared with us that she is currently going through the menopause and feels she is managing her menopausal symptoms at the moment so is not currently taking HRT. However, she confides with us that as a melasma sufferer ‘to HRT or not to HRT’ has been weighing heavily on her mind. Her experience of the menopause so far has seen an improvement in her melasma, but for others it can spell a worsening of the condition - it is totally dependent on each individual.
Fully aware that taking HRT may worsen her melasma, she feels reluctant to partake in this type of therapy but at the same time would like to have the option available to her if she finds her menopausal symptoms become hard to manage alone. With this in mind, she has asked her GP to refer her to a menopause specialist who will be able to help her navigate which HRT option would suit her best with her melasma.
3. Avoid irritating skincare
Be careful with harsh creams, retinoids and waxing in particular – Claire avoids waxing at all costs. Dr Geraghty warns, ‘anything that causes injury or irritation to the epidermis has the potential to trigger melasma’, and that you can expect, ‘melasma to worsen with skin irritation. Call it what you want, but if you have melasma, you’ll likely see your affected areas darken following any sort of insult to your skin’ (7 Sneaky Things That Can Trigger Melasma | RealSelf News).
Dermatologists will often aggressively treat any rashes or irritation with cortisone or other chemical calming creams, to help those prone to melasma whereas for Dr Geraghty, ‘preventing irritation is a far better plan.’ She recommends you, ‘bolster your moisture barrier at night, with creams rich in lipids like ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids’. 7 Sneaky Things That Can Trigger Melasma | RealSelf News. Why not try our Sensitive Bee universal balm to naturally nourish and protect your melasma patches as an overnight treatment?
4. Try Skin lightening creams
Claire was recommended Hydroquinone, a topical skin lightening cream as a first-line treatment which can work for some with melasma after about a month's use. However for Claire the cream didn’t have any noticeable effect on her pigmentation so after a return visit to her dermatologist she was prescribed a triple combination cream that combined hydroquinone, tretinoin and corticosteroid, which did work to lessen the melasma for Claire.
Unfortunately though the constant use of the triple combination cream needed to keep the melasma in check started to cause burning and itching to Claire’s face and she noticed a redness appearing around her mouth which she had not suffered from previously.
With Tretinion (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/tretinoin#side-effects) known to thin the skin’s outer layer leaving it more vulnerable to irritation, environmental pollutants, and with prolonged corticosteroid use being associated with, ‘common side effects including atrophy, rosacea, acne’ Corticosteroid Adverse Effects - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)) as well as ‘infections around the mouth’ ( How Do Topical AntifungalsCorticosteroids Work? - Uses, Side Effects, Drug Names (rxlist.com), it is not surprising Claire started to experience skin irritation and feel like she did not wish to continue using the cream long term.
She decided to completely stop using the cream as, although her melasma does cause her some upset emotionally, it is painless and she found the uncomfortable irritability of her skin from using the cream not a viable trade off for her personally. However it is worth noting that for many people with melasma they work very successfully without problems.
Dr Geraghty explained further how difficult it is finding creams that work but don’t irritate: ‘it may be the ultimate beauty irony: even the gold-standard stuff Derms rely on to fade melasma can spark pigment synthesis and darken persistent patches. Melasma really is like the touchy friend you’re always worried you’re going to set off by doing the wrong thing. That wrongdoing could be applying an irksome brightening agent, like hydroquinone or vitamin C, or treating the skin with a laser or light-based device, like IPL, both of which emit triggering visible light and heat that can trigger melasma.” ( 7 Sneaky Things That Can Trigger Melasma | RealSelf News). In fact whilst for many vitamin C is a trendy ingredient used in many brightening treatments, its inability to penetrate the skin deeply makes it less than useful for treating melasma.
5. Consider chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser therapy
Chemical peels are a favourite treatment procedure amongst many melasma sufferers and a treatment that Claire found effective when used monthly. She was treated with Cosmelan, which is generally safe and effective for all skin types and works by decreasing the skin’s melanin production by inhibiting certain enzymes( 7 Sneaky Things That Can Trigger Melasma | RealSelf News). However after many many months of treatments Claire found her skin feeling more and more tight and sore and the melasma started looking worse following treatment so she decided to stop.
With laser treatment she recommends proceeding with caution and finding an experienced provider as it can worsen melasma for some people, which happened to be the case for her. As Dr Christman notes: ‘with laser therapy melanocytes may behave unpredictably. I can treat melasma with improvement several times with a pigment, vascular or resurfacing laser and then the next time, same device, same patient, same parameters, and it (the melasma) gets worse’ ( 7 Sneaky Things That Can Trigger Melasma | RealSelf News). Melasma can be really tricky and unpredictable to treat.
Dr. Sirisha Singh also advises being wary of lasers: ‘several lasers have been tried in melasma. This is an expensive option and the results are dubious. Many people with melasma actually have a worsening of their pigmentation with laser therapy. Even if there is a slight reduction in pigmentation with lasers, the cost of repetitive treatments makes it unaffordable for the majority. Although lasers are very effective for freckles and pigmented spots that appear with ageing, I am yet to see benefits in people with melasma.’ (15 Facts About Melasma You Didn't Know: Causes, Prevention, Treatment – Vanitynoapologies | Indian Makeup and Beauty Blog).
6. Avoid Skin Friction and Trauma
Claire’s experience with peels, creams and laser therapy brings us nicely along to another ‘ no no’ for melasma suffers – any product or procedure that irritates your skin whether due to heat, inflammation or causing friction that, ‘can worsen melasma by stimulating melanin production. This has been shown to be the case with intense pulsed light therapy, microdermabrasion and chemical peels’, and is perhaps why Claire started to experience sore skin (https://www.gennev.com/education/what-hormone-causes-melasma).
Those of us with melasma are most likely to feel compelled at some point to try harsh exfoliating scrubs in an attempt to even out skin tone, ‘but these can actually make the problem worse as melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation that can occur because of friction on the skin, so harsh products can sometimes make it worse’ (Why Is My Melasma Getting Worse? (navamd.com)).
If you suffer with melasma, consider using gentle, natural scrubs instead to help exfoliate your skin without irritation and inflammation. Have a look at our Queen Bee face scrub which, instead of harsh chemicals, uses the natural power of sugar and gentle jojoba beads to slough dead skin cells. Being also naturally oil based, it glides seamlessly over your face to avoid causing any friction against the delicate skin. Check it out HERE.!
7. Use a skin concealer
As a ‘quick fix’ to cover up her melasma, Claire really finds confidence in using a concealer, particularly when she has an important occasion to attend. She recommends the Green People's one which is chemical free, non irritating and hydrating – check it out HERE.
8. Manage stress
We touched on this earlier when we looked at the link between cortisol levels and increased melanin production. Jenn, a fellow melasma sufferer who Claire met through online blogging helped her with stress management explaining, ‘when you're under continual stress, cortisol can stay too high for too long. Eventually that can lead to other hormones, like oestrogen and progesterone, getting out of balance. If progesterone is too low, you can end up in 'oestrogen dominance' which will increase the release of the melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) which increases melanin.
Melanin is what gives your skin pigment and too much melanin can result in darker skin.’ So for Claire it would very likely be the stress she mentioned in her job that was triggering her bouts of melasma. (5 things I did to get rid of melasma dark patches on my face — Rejuvenate With Jenn). Claire worked through ways to manage her stress which included, art therapy, 10-15 minutes meditation a day, slotting in ‘me’ time and signing up for an online yoga programme.
9. Check your diet
Sometimes a low level of vitamin D or zinc may be a predisposition for developing melasma. A diet which is rich in anti-oxidants (all those brightly coloured fruits and vegetables) helps to maintain the health of your skin and reduce pigmentation. (15 Facts About Melasma You Didn't Know: Causes, Prevention, Treatment – Vanitynoapologies | Indian Makeup and Beauty Blog).
Claire also takes supplements before heading outdoors that contain polypodium leucotomas (a fern from South America) and omega -3 fatty acids that ramp up her phytonutrients to help protect her against the sun from the inside out.
10. Limit your blue light exposure
This is still quite a controversial one but worryingly the most recent research shows that blue light emitted from our many devices can trigger reactions in the skin that lead to hyperpigmentation, particularly melasma. Dr Alexis advises those who suffer from hyperpigmentation, especially melasma, ‘to take appropriate measures to protect yourself from blue light, including limiting time around devices when possible and opting to wear a sunscreen with blue light protection, particularly iron oxide’ (Https://www.self.com/story/blue-light-skin/amp.).
11. Avoid cooking over a hot stove
Throughout her melasma journey Claire learnt that it wasn’t just the sun she needed to be cautious of, but actually heat and high temperatures in general, including cooking over a hot stove, using saunas and steam rooms and cuddling up too close in front of an open fire – things she admitted she hadn’t even thought of before as possible triggers!
Dr Waldorf explained for her and us, ‘heat causes blood vessels to become more open and flow more freely, which brings in more of the cellular stimulators of pigmentation. Furthermore heat can ratchet up inflammation,further boosting darker pigment production.’ ( 7 Sneaky Things That Can Trigger Melasma | RealSelf News).
Claire subsequently manages her melasma by avoiding saunas and steam rooms, keeping her distance when hygge-ing fireside and cooking using lower heats. She has also found it useful to avoid super hot baths and showers as she noticed that her melasma patches always appeared darker after bathing if the water was very hot – which she found particularly irritating part if she was getting ready for work or to go out.
For her, notching up the body heat during her work outs also seemed to exacerbate the look of her melasma. She recommends to other sufferers being proactive about keeping cool – sip cool water, keep a fan, cool towels and a cooling face mist nearby to help constrict those troublemaking blood vessels. Why not try our ultra refreshing Bumble Bee Spritz with anti inflammatory aloe vera (known to help melasma) and refreshing organic orange flower water?
Melasma and Natural Ageing
Melasma is most greatly affected by hormonal changes rather than the ageing process, but as Claire found it can seem that melasma worsens over time as we grow older. There are several reasons for this: firstly as we grow older our skin has gained more exposure to sunlight, some women’s melasma may be triggered by the menopause or HRT- more on this next! – and as our skin naturally loses collagen and wrinkles become more apparent during the ageing process, as too can any pigmentation become more noticeable.
To keep skin fresh and glowing, have a look at these key elements of a natural pro ageing routine suitable for those with hyperpigmentation and melasma:
- A non drying cleanser – try our natural, moisturising cleansing balm HERE
- A facial oil — seal in hydration to soothe wrinkles and repair blemishes with our plant based Bumble Bee facial oil
- Apply a broad spectrum, natural SPF – check out Green people’s natural range HERE
Melasma and Menopause
This is an interesting one.
Despite the many links to oestrogen levels and melasma, some studies have shown that menopausal women treated with progesterone HRT may develop melasma while those who were given oestrogen alone did not thus, this implicates progesterone as playing a primary role in the development of melasma. This could be helpful information for Claire to be armed with when she discusses HRT options with the specialist.
What’s more, melasma can happen for the first time or reoccur during menopause. Dr Klein recognises that during menopause some women experience more pigmentation on their face, melasma, caused by ‘a combination of hormonal changes' (https://www.mainlinehealth.org/blog/skin-changes-during-menopause). Whereas for other women their melasma may improve as they go through menopause and their natural oestrogen and progesterone levels drop - a phenomenon that Claire currently seems to be experiencing.
We know that Claire found that despite some chemical peels and creams improving the appearance of the pigmentation on her face, she became worried about the impact they were having on her overall skin health – her face often felt irritated, tight, sore and stripped of its natural glow.
Like us, Claire would much prefer to put natural, chemical free, gentle products on her skin but had initially felt guided down the chemical route, deciding to give it a to try in the hope of improving her melasma as quickly as possible as it was bothering her so much in her day to day busy life.
Realising that there was no long term fix to her pigmentation by using chemical interventions, she has since opted to embrace a natural approach to help her manage the condition. She researched, consulted with natural skincare experts and tried out some natural hacks and recipes to treat her melasma herself from home (she also was never keen on having to go visit places all the time for treatments!). Read on to discover her picks of natural recipes, oils and botanicals that might also help you with any hyperpigmentation or melasma.
Almond and Raw Honey Mask
Try this one as raw honey and almonds are both rich in proteins which have been proven to lighten the skin tone! Almonds also contain vitamin E that helps to correct skin discolouration.
Take 2-3 almonds and immerse in water overnight. Pulp into a paste the next morning and add raw honey to make a thick consistency. Apply to face and neck, allowing to rest on skin for at least 20 minutes before washing off – repeat every day for three weeks to see results.
Fancy an easier way to give your skin a vitamin e and raw honey fix? Give our Sensitive Bee universal balm a go by clicking HERE.
Turmeric and raw honey
The curcumin present in turmeric acts as an antioxidant and antiseptic that helps kill any bacteria settled on the skins surface and also has skin lightening properties. Try mixing 5 tablespoons of turmeric powder with raw honey to make a paste – apply to the skin and leave for 20 minutes and then rinse.
Lemon Juice/apple cider vinegar
Topical application of lemon juice works as a natural bleach that lightens the grey-brown patches and is, ‘considered a potent melasma natural treatment that works by peeling off the damaged outer layer of the skin, thus removing the melasma.’ (https://www.thefitindian.com/blog/home-remedies-for-melasma-pigmentation/)
Squeeze out the juice from one lemon and apply it thoroughly over all the affected areas rubbing gently for a couple of minutes, then leave for 20 minutes and wash off. Repeat twice a day for three weeks for results. Claire didn’t get on so well with this natural fix – she found the lemon juice had a tendency to sting her sensitive skin and the twice a day application was too labourious.
However, she tried an apple cider vinegar application instead of lemon juice which did help the appearance of her melasma with once a day application. To give it a whirl yourself, mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water, apply generously to the skin, allow to air dry and then wash off.
Papaya and raw honey
Yum! Not just refreshing and delicious, the natural active enzyme papain present in papaya works as an exfoliant that removes the damaged and dead skin cells and helps restore even skin tone. Simply mash a few pieces of papaya and add two teaspoons of our raw Welsh honey to make a paste. Apply the mask, wait 20 minutes and then wash off. Repeat every week for 2-3 months and see if it helps you with your pigmentation.
Notice how honey crops up time and time again in these home remedies?! Isn't it just such wonderous nectar - thank you bees!. If you fancy trying our very own unpasteurised, unfiltered, local raw Welsh honey for your skin and body's nutritional needs, have a peak HERE.
Pure aloe vera gel contains mucilaginous polysaccharides that lessens dark spots caused by excessive sun exposure and melasma discolouration. Simply apply pure aloe vera gel on the affected skin, massage for a couple of minutes, leave on for 15 minutes and then wash off. For best results repeat twice daily for a few weeks. Claire enjoyed this treatment and found it soothing on her skin and noticed that it did calm and improve the appearance of her melasma patches. In fact ,did you know a 2017 study (https://www.healthline.com/health/melasma-home-remedies#remedies) on pregnant women found that using a topical aloe Vera preparation significantly improved their melasma? Find natural aloe vera in our refreshing Bumble Bee facial spritz.
Rich in antioxidants, red lentils (masoor dal) can treat melasma-induced hyperpigmentation as well. A DIY face mask prepared with mashed lentils is used in Ayurvedic beauty practices as a skin brightening treatment. To make your own mask, soak red lentils in water overnight and blend it into a thick paste the next morning. Apply the paste on your face for 20 minutes and rinse with cold water. Follow it up with a light moisturiser such as our Bumble Bee face cream to counteract any dryness.
A DIY mask made by mixing tomato paste and a few splashes of olive oil used twice a week can help fade melasma in a gentle way. For more inspiration take a look at: 14 Best Home Remedies For Skin Pigmentation & Prevention Tips (stylecraze.com)
Switch to Natural Skincare
As melasma is worsened by irritation, Dr Keira advises choosing, ‘skin care products that are gentle on your skin. Avoid and discontinue products that sting or burn your skin as those worsen melasma’ (https://www.gennev.com/education/what-hormone-causes-melasma).
Claire has actually opted to not use any scented skincare to look after her melasma patches – to follow in her footsteps have a look at our Sensitive Bee range which is completely free of essential oils and fragrance for those with skin prone to irritation or reactive pigmentation.
Be careful when choosing perfumes and make up as, ‘certain perfumes, cosmetics, oils and creams can cause irritation and may even become activated by exposure to sunlight to irritate the skin. This is known as phototoxic reaction and can trigger melasma’ (https://www.healthline.com/health/melasma-home-remedies#remedies). To avoid this consider switching to chemical free perfumes – have a look at our all natural perfume balms HERE.
Also, think of using a non phototoxic oil under your sunscreen that offers some extra natural sun protection such as our hydrating Busy Bee face oil with amber rich premium cold pressed rosehip oil containing the natural antioxidant vitamins A and E, known to synergistically combat sun damage and reduce the negative effects of UV exposure.
Essential oils that are phototoxic – generally citrus oils such as lemon and bitter orange - should be treated with caution in your ‘leave on’ skincare, particularly if you suffer from hyperpigmentation or melasma. Love citrus in your skincare though? Don’t worry, look to avoid 'cold processed' lemon, lime and bergamot and instead look for 'steam distilled' oils which removes the furocoumarin, the component which creates the photosensitivity.
At HBB we are careful to use only 'steam distilled' essential oils to avoid the risk of photosensitivity for our customers. We also opt for gentle oils such as 'steam distilled' mandarin oil in our Guard bee lip balm formulation and non photosensitive citrus oils of sweet orange in our hand balms and neroli in our face oil, so that you can enjoy a zesty citrusy blast of fragrance without worrying about triggering any irritation from sunlight!
Natural Oils for Melasma - look out for these in your skincare!
If you love a scent to your skincare but suffer with hyperpigmentation be sure to swerve synthetically fragranced options and plump instead for artificial fragrance free ones scented solely by nature’s pure essential oils. Did you know we only ever use premium quality, pure essential plant oils in all our ranges?
In fact, pure essential oils found in high quality natural skincare such as tea tree, frankincense and myrrh are, ‘high in the antimicrobial properties that can decontaminate and prevent the skin from risk of infections and the attacks of Melasma’ (Essential oils for melasma – MEVEI) .
For example, thanks to the antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties of myrrh, ‘ this essential oil can get soothe away wrinkles, eczema, acne and melasma.’ (Essential oils for melasma – MEVEI). Find nature’s marvel myrrh in our Bumble Bee facial oil!
Here are some others natural oils to keep an eye out for if you suffer from hyperpigmentation or melasma:
Apricot Kernel Oil
Apricot Kernel Oil is derived from dried seeds of apricots that are cold pressed and ‘this light coloured oil rich in vitamins A, C and E along with fatty acids which provide intense nourishment to the skin and lightens melasma spots on the face’ (https://www.thefitindian.com/blog/home-remedies-for-melasma-pigmentation/). Interested? We use apricot kernel oil in our Queen Bee face scrub.
Sandalwood Essential Oil
If you too suffer with melasma, opt for skincare oils containing sandalwood essential oil, beloved for its skin evening and skin whitening properties. Why? Well to get all scientific, ‘the alpha-santalol component of sandalwood is an inhibitor of tyrosine season, a key enzyme in the synthesis of the skin pigment melanin’ (Https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/sandalwood-benefits-for-skin#benefits-for-skin). Basically meaning sandalwood oil can act as an inhibitor of the pigmentation of melasma that is associated with exposure to sunlight. Isn't nature just fab? Find sandalwood our Bumble Bee face oil.
Castor oil is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which help penetrate scar tissue and heal it, eliminating scar tissue that might contribute to dark pigmentation and stimulating healthy tissue growth (Do Essential Oils For Melasma Work? | ClearifiRx Blogry). Try massaging castor oil directly onto your face for 5-10 minutes, then rinse off. Find castor oil in our Cleaner Bee Make-up Remover and Cleansing Oil.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is another common ingredient in skincare treatments designed for melasma thanks to its natural anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties (Do Essential Oils For Melasma Work? | ClearifiRx Blog). Find it in our Busy Bee cleansing balm - formulated to clean your skin without causing friction or irritation. Also find it in our Honey Bee Soap with teatree & rosemary.
If you are interested in learning more about a natural approach to healing melasma, why not have a look at Jenn's blog and courses HERE
Love the Skin Your In
This has been a battle to achieve for Claire and still is at times she feels her melasma is very noticeable. She readily admits she has always felt self conscious and suffered from anxiety as a result of her melasma. Claire mentions that throughout her life she has often conversed with people in chat rooms, or support forums and in recent years connected with people on Facebook and Instagram, who have helped her with her confidence. She understands the feeling that no concealer, make up or treatment is going to make any dent in how you feel about your skin pigmentation.
Here are some of her hints to help if you are feeling like this:
- Surround yourself with supportive friends, positive melasma role models, seek out a dermatologist/ GP who is sympathetic and helpful – ask to be referred to a specialist armed with the information you have discovered here. A great resource for advice for people living with all skin conditions is This website designed by the British Association of dermatologists – its packed full of tips on navigating the NHS and finding a dermatologist who can help (Support & Resources - BAD Patient Hub (skinhealthinfo.org.uk)) Champion positivity and try following these Instagram accounts for uplifting and helpful insights into others melasma journeys: @melasmame, @nomoremelasma and @morethanmelasma, to name but a few.
- The right make up really can make a difference. Each to their own but as mentioned earlier Claire found that concealing her melasma with make up for special occasions really makes her confidence soar. Check out the range by Green people or Ecco verde.
- Explore different treatments until you find what works for you. Claire finds that natural remedies, protecting herself from the sun and a chemical free, clean skincare routine works best for her after much trial and error over the years. However everyone is different, many melasma sufferers find steroid creams and/or chemical peels work best for them, others choose to treat their melasma from the inside, focusing on their diet and supplements.
- Don’t let it hold you back. Remember we are all self conscious of different parts of us that we see as ‘flaws’. In her younger years Claire found herself refusing invitations from friends if her melasma was experiencing a flare up, terribly self conscious about how it looked. With the confidence gained from surrounding herself with a supportive circle of friends who she explained her feelings too she soon realised that she was much more critical of her pigmentation than anyone else was and was giving it far more thought than anyone else was, instead of getting out there and enjoying herself.
Ditch Anti-ageing for Pro-Ageing!
Whilst channelling positive vibes and proactive approaches to dealing with melasma pigmentation and considering how natural skincare can really give harsh, chemical treatments a run for their money, brought us around to thinking about how we view our skin’s ageing process and how society has often influenced us to think how chemical enhancements such as Botox and fillers are the solution for fulfilling that constant drive for dewy, younger looking skin.
Our society has always perpetuated ways to ‘turn back the clock’ when it comes to ageing, but that clock is thankfully beginning to change course as we start to wise up to the fact that looking younger isn’t realistic, nor the goal: we simply want our skin to look moisturised, healthy and more importantly feel comfortable.
However, we still have a long way to go, especially when everywhere we are surrounded by the façade of filters, touch ups, and photoshop on social media. A glowing, happy complexion, lit from inside and out, is beautiful at any age. Becoming older is a privilege and isn’t it great to see beautiful actresses such as Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Helen Mirram & Andy McDowall embracing their natural radiance as they grow older saying – and don’t they look gorgeous for it?
Here at HBB we believe in supporting you to enjoy naturally, radiant, glowing, moisturised and comfortable skin without the need for chemical intervention, believing that the key to naturally younger looking skin is ample hydration and skin barrier protection using nature’s larder without the addition of any ‘gimmicky’ anti ageing actives. Check out our range designed to moisturise and replenish naturally maturing skin HERE and channel French author Jules Renard by remembering, ‘wrinkles are engraved smiles!’ :)
For further pro ageing vibes immerse yourself in this article: Ways to Embrace Aging in This Youth-Obsessed Culture (nextavenue.org)
Big, well HUGE, thank you to Claire for all your insights, help and the advice you have shared with us and our lovely followers. Please get in touch if any of you ‘bee-utiful’ people are affected by melasma or if you have any hints and tips of your own to share back – we would love to hear from you!
Here’s to loving the skin we’re in and raising a glass to pro ageing attitudes!
Cath, Bec and Claire xxx
7 Sneaky Things That Can Trigger Melasma | RealSelf News
Clear And Unbiased Facts About MELASMA (Without All the Hype) (dermasurge.co.uk)
15 Facts About Melasma You Didn't Know: Causes, Prevention, Treatment – Vanitynoapologies | Indian Makeup and Beauty Blog
Myths and Facts About Melasma: Hines Dermatology Associates Inc.: Dermatology
5 things I did to get rid of melasma dark patches on my face — Rejuvenate With Jenn
14 Best Home Remedies For Skin Pigmentation & Prevention Tips (stylecraze.com)
Ways to Embrace Aging in This Youth-Obsessed Culture (nextavenue.org)
Why Is My Melasma Getting Worse? (navamd.com)
Melasma – British Skin Foundation
What Is Melasma? | Chloasma | Conditions | Changing Faces
Essential oils for melasma – MEVEI