If you’ve developed big brown or gray-brown patches on your skin, there are chances that you may be suffering from melasma.
Melasma is a skin condition caused by hyperpigmentation and is characterized by brown, gray-brown or tan-colored patches on the skin, especially on the face. It is also called chloasma or the mask of pregnancy since it often occurs in pregnant women.
However, it is not an infectious disease and, contrary to popular myths, does not lead to skin cancer. The problem is primarily cosmetic.
This condition is more common in sunny regions, especially during the summer months. In fact, the brown patches can eventually fade away in the winter. Still, prevention is better than the cure, and there are many steps you can take to prevent these patches from occurring.
- Factors Causing Melasma
- Symptoms of Melasma
- Preventing Melasma
- Home Remedies to Treat Melasma
- Method 1: Grapefruit Seed Extract
- Method 2: Castor Oil
- Method 3: Apple Cider Vinegar
- Method 4: Hydrogen Peroxide
- Method 5: Lemon Juice
- Method 6: Chemical Peel
- Tips to get relief from melasma
Factors Causing Melasma
Melasma is caused due to the excessive production of melanin (pigment) by skin cells. While it usually affects more women than men, below are some factors that can lead to this skin condition. (1)
- Sun exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) sunrays stimulate melanocytes (color-producing skin cells) to increase the production of melanin. Exposure to the sun can also cause a recurrence of this condition even after the patches have faded away.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during pregnancy frequently cause melasma. In this case, the brown spots or patches fade away once the pregnancy is over.
- Ancestry: If you are of Latin, Hispanic, African, Asian, Indian, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern descent, which typically means you have darker skin, then you are at higher risk of developing melasma.
- Gender: Women develop this condition more commonly than men. Only 10 percent of melasma sufferers are men.
- Family history: If any of your blood relatives have melasma, you are also highly likely to develop it at some point in your life.
Symptoms of Melasma
Melasma patches most commonly appear on the face. The areas where you most often see these brown patches are the: (2)
- Bridge of the nose
- Just above the upper lip
- Occasionally on your forearms or neck
- Keep your skin covered when you go out in the sun to avoid UV exposure.
- Protect exposed skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day. Reapply it every 2 hours.
- Use gentle skin products that do not burn or sting. Harsh products can cause a recurrence of brown melasma patches.
Home Remedies to Treat Melasma
Melasma can take a toll on your mental well-being, as the prominent brown patches on your face can make you self-conscious while going out or even deter you from leaving your house.
This condition cannot be cured completely, but you can use simple home treatments to fade existing patches and take measures to prevent them from reappearing.
Here are six tried-and-true methods to lighten the appearance of melasma.
Method 1: Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) contains a large number of antioxidants that help fight off free radicals and sun damage to your skin.
Single-Step Treatment: Apply grapefruit seed extract on the melasma patches
- Directly apply grapefruit seed extract on your melasma patches.
- Wash it off with warm water after 15 minutes.
- Gently pat dry your skin with a soft cloth.
Apply GSE every other day until all the brown patches on your skin have cleared up. You will see a visible reduction after 1 week of regular application.
If the GSE stings your skin a little, you can dilute 5 or 6 drops of GSE in 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil like olive or coconut oil.
Method 2: Castor Oil
Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid that helps reduce melasma patches. Additionally, this sticky oil is high in vitamin E, which helps heal your skin naturally for a youthful glow.
# Apply castor oil on the patches at night
- Clean your face using a mild face wash.
- Apply castor oil directly on the melasma patches and leave it on overnight.
- Wash it off in the morning with cold water.
Do this every night, and your melasma patches will be visibly reduced after 7 to 10 days. Continue applying it until your skin is restored to its natural shade.
# Castor Oil, Honey, and Lemon Face Pack
Things you’ll need:
- Castor oil (reduces and fades melasma patches) – 1 tablespoon
- Lemon juice (natural bleaching agent) – ½ teaspoon
- Honey (heals and moisturizes skin) – 1 tablespoon
Step 1. Combine castor oil, honey and lemon juice in a bowl
- Pour 1 tablespoon of castor oil in a bowl.
- Add 1 tablespoon of honey as well.
- Finally, add ½ teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Step 2. Mix well and apply it on the skin patches
- Mix all the ingredients thoroughly.
- Wash your face to remove all dirt and grime accumulated during the day.
- Gently pat dry your skin with a soft towel.
- Use a clean brush to apply the pack on your face or wherever there are brown patches.
- Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse it off with warm water.
Apply this face pack once every 3 days for at least 2 to 3 weeks, or until the brown patches have completely disappeared.
Method 3: Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar can be used for a variety of health and beauty purposes. This elixir has a high content of acetic acid, which acts as a natural bleaching agent.
Applying diluted apple cider vinegar can help you lighten melasma patches, leaving you with a uniform skin tone.
Step 1. Dilute apple cider vinegar in water
- Pour ¼ cup of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar into a bowl.
- Add an equal amount of water to dilute it.
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly.
Step 2. Apply it directly on the problem areas
- Apply this solution directly on the affected skin.
- Let the solution air-dry on its own.
- Wash it off with lukewarm water, then gently pat dry your skin with a soft towel.
Do this once daily to fade dark brown patches on your skin. You will see a visible lightening of the skin after 2 weeks of regular use.
Method 4: Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is highly effective as a bleaching agent and is used in several commercial skin-bleaching creams. Hence, you can use 3% diluted food-grade hydrogen peroxide on your skin to lighten melasma patches.
Step 1. Dilute hydrogen peroxide
- Pour ¼ cup of 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide into a bowl.
- Dilute it by mixing in an equal amount of water.
Step 2. Apply the diluted solution on the affected skin
- Dip a cotton ball into the solution and apply it directly on the dark patches.
- Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Wash it off with lukewarm water, then gently pat dry your skin.
Repeat every other day for 2 to 3 weeks to fade and reduce melasma patches on your skin.
Method 5: Lemon Juice
Lemon juice acts as a powerful bleaching agent. The best part is that since it is natural, you do not have to worry about the possibility of skin damage as opposed to commercial bleaching agents.
However, if you have extra sensitive skin, perform a simple patch test before you begin regular application to reduce the appearance of melasma. Also, lemon juice makes your skin highly sensitive to sunlight, so use this remedy in the evenings or at night.
Single-Step Treatment: Squeeze out the fresh lemon juice and apply it on the skin patches
- Squeeze out fresh juice from a medium-sized lemon.
- Apply it directly on the patches with a clean cotton ball.
- Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse it off with water.
- Gently pat dry your skin with a soft cloth.
Apply lemon juice daily for 2 to 3 weeks, or until the melasma patches have completely faded.
Method 6: Chemical Peel
Chemical peels have also been used successfully to treat and fade melasma patches. (3)
Chemical peeling refers to a process in which a strong chemical is applied to the skin. This chemical causes regulated or controlled destruction of the epidermis, which in turn causes exfoliation and removal of the uppermost layer of the skin.
As the damaged skin is removed, you will soon see the regeneration of a fresh skin layer that will be free of patches or dark spots.
- Alpha hydroxy chemical peels that are performed by using glycolic acid have proved to be most effective in treating melasma in dark-skinned patients. You have to set up an appointment with a dermatologist to get this done. Do not attempt to do a chemical peel by yourself at home.
- First, you must do a test peel to determine your body’s reaction to the applied chemical.
- If the test is successful, the chemical peel can be applied to the skin patches for a duration of 3 to 5 minutes.
- After application, the peel is neutralized using water or 1% bicarbonate solution.
Repeat once every 2 to 3 weeks to successfully treat melasma.
There are also other chemical peels that are used to reduce melasma. Consult a good dermatologist to find out which chemical peel is best suited to your skin.
Tips to get relief from melasma
- Wear a hat to protect your face when you go outdoors during the day. Also, use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on any exposed skin.
- Avoid waxing, as it can irritate your skin and cause increased melanin production leading to melasma.
- Taking fish oil supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent and repair sun damage on your skin. Cod liver oil capsules are an excellent source of these beneficial fatty acids. Consult your doctor before taking supplements.
- Eat foods that are rich in folic acid such as dark leafy greens like spinach; green vegetables like asparagus and broccoli; whole grains like brown flour and rice; and lots of fresh fruits.
- Include white meat like chicken and lots of seafood in your diet.
- Increase your consumption of foods containing copper, such as coffee, almonds, and avocados.
1. Melasma. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/color-problems/melasma#causes
2. Melasma. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/color-problems/melasma#symptoms.
3. Sarka R, Bansal S, Garg VK. Chemical Peels for Melasma in Dark-Skinned Patients. Journal of Cutaneous & Aesthetic Surgery. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560164/. Published 2012.
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