We have been talking extensively about Melasma and its causes previously. Due to the extensive offer of skincare products for Melasma and treatments for its symptoms, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and choose a product whose ingredients might worsen the symptoms. In this article, I will go over the most widely used ingredients in treating Melasma, understand their efficiency, and compare them so that you can make an informed decision the next time you buy a product to help you reduce the effects of Melasma (and Chloasma too).
Understanding Melasma and Chloasma
Melasma is a recurrent skin condition characterized by patches of darker skin. It typically appears on the face, most commonly on the cheeks, forehead, nose, and upper lip. It is more prevalent in women, particularly those with a higher number in the Fitzpatrick Skin Classification, although it can affect anyone. When melanin, a natural pigment in our bodies, is overproduced, it can cause unwanted skin problems like hyperpigmentation, Melasma, and Chloasma.
Melasma and chloasma are usually viewed as the same problem, while there are some subtle references that can change the way we manage them. Chloasma is also called “pregnancy Melasma,”. It is a form of Melasma that appears only during childbearing.
The symptoms of Melasma and Chloasma are often triggered by hormonal changes, sun exposure, and genetic factors. While various treatment options are available, using skincare products with effective ingredients can play a crucial role in managing and reducing the appearance of dark patches. For an in-depth understanding of these skin problems, check out our guide: Understanding the Causes of Melasma: A Guide to Hormones, Sun Exposure, and Genetics.
Kojic Acid: A Natural Brightening Agent for Hyperpigmentation
Kojic acid is a wonder given to us by different types of fungi. It’s also a byproduct of the fermentation of certain foods, such as Japanese sake and soy sauce and it has gained recent popularity for its skin-brightening properties. It inhibits the formation of tyrosine, an amino acid needed to synthesize melanin, effectively slowing down melanin production.
Therefore, kojic acid helps to fade dark spots, even out skin tone, and improve the overall appearance of Melasma-affected skin.
A study published in the Journal of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery tested the effectiveness of kojic acid in comparison to the most common brightening compound: hydroquinone.
Thirty-nine patients were treated with kojic acid on one side of the face and hydroquinone in a similar vehicle on the other side of the face. The results were very positive: more than half of the patients responded equally to kojic acid than hydroquinone, while twenty-eight percent had a more dramatic reduction in pigment on the kojic acid side.
Hydroquinone: Why Should You Consider Other Alternatives Instead?
Hydroquinone is a commonly used ingredient in skin care products for treating hyperpigmentation disorders like Melasma. It works by inhibiting the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color and those dark patches on the face.
However, there are concerns regarding its long-term safety and potential side effects, such as skin irritation, redness, and hypersensitivity. As a result, it has been recommended by experts to avoid using topical treatments that include this chemical compound.
Despite its popularity and effectiveness (…), some research studies showed that it was a carcinogen, but it has not been definitively proven to cause cancer. Hydroquinone is also the source of a serious dermatitis condition known as exogenous ochronosis, which causes the skin to darken further. That’s the opposite of its intended use to fade dark spots. (…) And if that’s not enough of a red flag, it’s also worth mentioning that many skin whiteners containing hydroquinone also contain mercury, a toxic chemical to the human nervous system.
This is why skincare brands that are committed to offering genuinely natural skincare products without harmful side effects, like Fields of Yarrow, have swapped this compound with other natural ingredients that have been proven to be just as effective as hydroquinone in treating Melasma, Chloasma, and Hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin C: the antioxidant powerhouse for an even skin tone
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a potent antioxidant that offers numerous benefits for the skin. It inhibits melanin formation, reduces oxidized melanin, protects against ultraviolet-induced pigmentation, and regulates collagen production. Vitamin C is Field of Yarrow’s go-to natural ingredient to target melasma, chloasma, and hyperpigmentation due to its high efficacity and multifactorial benefits. That’s exactly why I have created the Super C range, which is as the name says “Super Charged” with Vitamin C.
Vitamin C inhibits melanin production by interacting with the enzyme tyrosinase, reducing its activity. By binding to the active site of tyrosinase, vitamin C prevents tyrosine (the amino acid) from binding and being converted into melanin precursors. As a result, the production of melanin is reduced. Studies have effectively concluded the benefits of topical vitamin C in the treatment of melasma and photoaging.
Additionally, vitamin C helps to protect the skin from harmful free radicals and UV-induced damage, which can worsen melasma. The guide of a professional that prescribes regular use of skin care products containing vitamin C can lead to a brighter, more even complexion and improved melasma management.
Other Promising Ingredients for Melasma Treatment
Aside from the ingredients mentioned in this article, several other promising options are researched daily and proven efficient for managing Melasma. These include:
- licorice extract
- azelaic acid
Each ingredient has its own way of helping to reduce symptomatology, either by inhibiting melanin synthesis, promoting cell turnover, or reducing inflammation.
However, it’s important to note that every case is unique and individual results may vary. It’s always recommended to consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional to determine the best ingredients for your specific needs.
Choosing the right product for Melasma and Chloasma
When selecting skincare products for Melasma and Chloasma, it’s crucial to look for those specifically formulated to address hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. Try choosing products free from harmful chemicals and irritants, and instead focus on natural, plant-based ingredients that have been proven effective.
Check out Field of Yarrow’s dedicated page for hyperpigmentation, where you can find certified natural products like our SUPER C collection that contain an optimal concentration of 8% Vitamin C that’s stable, easily absorbed, and gentle on the skin.
Are there Lifestyle Factors that could worsen Melasma?
Yes, certain lifestyle factors can worsen Melasma. Hormonal fluctuations, such as those during pregnancy or while taking hormonal medications, can contribute to its development. Additionally, excessive sun exposure, stress, and certain cosmetics or skincare products can trigger or aggravate Melasma.
Can Melasma go away on its own?
In some cases, Melasma may fade on its own, especially if the triggers are avoided. However, for many people, it tends to be a chronic condition that requires ongoing management to control its appearance
Can over-the-counter products effectively treat Melasma
Yes. Over-the-counter products can help in managing Melasma, but the effectiveness varies for each individual. It's important to choose products with active ingredients specifically targeted for Melasma treatment, such as kojic acid, vitamin C, licorice extract, or niacinamide. However, for severe or persistent cases, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist for prescription-strength treatments.
Does diet affect Melasma?
There is limited evidence to suggest that diet plays a significant role in Melasma. However, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of antioxidants and avoiding triggers like alcohol and spicy foods may support overall skin health and potentially help manage Melasma symptoms