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Melasma is characterized by the appearance of darkly colored spots or patches on the skin. It is caused by the stimulation of melanocyte cells to produce excessive melanin locally.
Various factors can contribute to the development of hyperpigmentation, including sun exposure and hormonal fluctuations.
While melasma spots generally don’t require treatment, you can try different home remedies to help fade the spots and get an even-looking skin tone. Some self-care measures can also help manage and prevent melasma spots better.
Home Remedies to Reduce Melasma
The following home remedies can help reduce and fade melasma spots, depending on the severity of the problem and your skin type.
Disclaimer: Always conduct a patch test of the home remedies on the underside of your arm to rule out any adverse skin reactions such as burns and rashes. If irritation occurs, avoid its use. Needless to say, people who are allergic to any of the ingredients in the remedy should not use it.
Those with sensitive skin are advised to take special precautions before trying out any topical remedy. Moreover, avoid using any remedy if the spots are a result of your pregnancy, as they will resolve after delivery.
1. Dab some lemon juice
Lemon juice contains high amounts of vitamin C, which can inhibit tyrosinase enzyme and thus control melanin production. (1)
How to use:
- Mix 1–2 tbsp of lemon juice with water. You can also mix in vitamin E. (2)
- Apply the mixture to the affected areas using a cotton ball.
- Wash after 15 minutes.
Note: Since the use of lemon can increase the risk of solar damage, avoid stepping out in the sun after using this remedy, or apply sunscreen and wear protective clothing.
2. Apply turmeric
Turmeric can also help block tyrosinase enzyme and thus limit melanin production efficiently. (3)
How to use:
- Mix 2 tsp of turmeric powder with some milk and add lemon juice.
- Apply the paste to the affected areas.
- Rinse with lukewarm water after 20 minutes.
3. Use alpha hydroxy acids
Lactic, malic, and glycolic acids are alpha hydroxy acids that contribute to skin whitening by limiting the activity of tyrosinase enzyme. (4)
How to use:
- Mix lactic acid sources such as milk cream, yogurt, milk, or antioxidant berries such as Indian gooseberry (3) with 1 tbsp of rose water or 1 tsp of lemon juice, and apply the mixture to the affected areas.
- Use AHA-based skin-lightening creams.
4. Massage with oils
Oil such as sandalwood oil, rosehip oil, and almond oil or any vitamin E oil can help manage melasma. (3) These oils inhibit tyrosinase activity and also help in depigmentation. (7) The topical use of these oils is generally safe.
How to use: Massage a few drops of the oil of your choice on to the affected areas. Make sure to dilute sandalwood oil with any carrier oil before using.
5. Apply honey
How to use:
- Mix raw, organic, or medical-grade honey with yogurt or lemon juice to form a paste.
- Apply the paste to the spots
- Rinse after 15–20 minutes.
6. Use aloe vera gel
How to use:
- Extract fresh aloe vera gel from a leaf and apply it to the skin. Rinse after 20 minutes.
- Prepare an aloe vera facial mask by mixing 2 tbsp of aloe vera gel with 1 tsp lemon juice and use.
- Buy aloin-based creams available commercially.
Caution: Avoid ingesting the gel and creams as it can have various side effects.
7. Try pomegranate juice
Pomegranate juice also works by blocking tyrosinase enzyme and lowering the number of melanocytes, thus helping manage hyperpigmentation. (12)
How to use: Apply pomegranate juice to the spots and rinse after drying.
8. Use OTCs
Various over-the-counter fade creams and lotions can help control hyperpigmentation when used for several months.
You can try nonprescription creams containing kojic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin E, niacinamide, N-acetyl glucosamine, (13) soy extracts, (14) rose extracts, (15)(16) licorice, (17) or grapefruit seed extracts.
Caution: Be careful of treatments that are not FDA approved, such as glutathione injections and oral medications that can cause thyroid and kidney problems.
Acupuncture as an Alternative Therapy
It is suggested to use acupuncture with acupressure therapy for best results. (20) However, more studies are needed to establish the use of acupuncture as an exclusive therapy.
Always consult your doctor before trying acupuncture for your condition, and seek out a professional to perform the therapy.
Self-Care and Preventive Measures
The following self-care measures can help prevent the worsening of melasma or its development in the first place:
1. Always wear sunscreen
The World Health Organization suggests the daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. It is best to apply generous amounts of sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out and reapply it every 2 hours or after swimming, exercising, or working. (21)
It is recommended to use sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium oxide. You can use lotions, gels, creams, sprays, wax sticks, and ointments.
2. Use sun-protective gear
Always wear full-length clothing and use wide-brimmed hats to cover your face. You can also wear cotton gloves to protect your hands.
It is also essential to cover yourself while snow skiing and snowboarding as alpine regions have higher levels of UV radiation. Moreover, snow reflects UV rays efficiently, thus increasing the risk of sunburn. It is best to avoid such activities.
3. Avoid tanning
In addition to sunlight, tanning beds and radiation lamps also emit UV rays, which can be harmful to the skin. Instead, use self-tanning products, but always wear sunscreen.
It is also important to avoid going out between 11 am and 4 pm, as the sun is strongest in these hours. If you have to step outdoors, seek shade whenever possible.
4. Manage stress
Practice stress management techniques such as meditation, tai-chi, and aromatherapy to help manage your stress.
You can add a few drops of lavender or frankincense essential oil to your bathwater and soak in it.
Moreover, you can join melasma support groups to help manage anxiety and depression due to the skin condition.
5. Exercise regularly
Daily exercising can help flush out toxins from the body and also help balance the mind, keeping stress levels at bay.
6. Keep your skin clean
Always cleanse your skin using a mild cleanser twice a day, especially at bedtime, to remove any environmental pollutant bound to your skin. These pollutants can affect the skin’s protective barrier and make the skin prone to damage.
7. Moisturize your skin
Moisturizing your skin is essential to restore the lipid barrier and to protect it from damage.
8. Avoid using chemicals
The use of toiletries, cosmetics, and other skin products that contain chemicals such as parabens, alcohol, formaldehydes, and sulfates can worsen melasma.
9. Avoid waxing on melasma spots
Waxing the affected areas can cause skin inflammation, which can aggravate the condition.
10. Include antioxidants in your diet
Since sun exposure causes melasma by increasing oxidative stress in the body, it is recommended to increase your intake of antioxidant-rich foods. These include berries, leafy greens, and citrus fruits.
You should also add oysters, whole grains, Brazil nuts, and dairy products to your diet for their content of zinc and selenium, which are antioxidant minerals.
Moreover, omega-3 is an excellent antioxidant that can be found in freshwater fishes and flaxseeds. Glutathione-containing avocado, asparagus, and spinach can also help reduce melasma. (22)
11. Take supplements
Most-Asked Questions About Melasma
Can the use of apple cider vinegar and/or onion juice help manage melasma spots?
The use of apple cider vinegar (ACV) and onion juice for melasma spots is based purely on anecdotal evidence.
There is no scientific study conducted to evaluate the effect of these remedies in treating melasma. Therefore, it is better to try proven remedies.
However, since these ingredients are generally safe to use, you can try them to see what works best for you. Always dilute ACV with water before using.
Is green tea effective in treating melasma spots?
Green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate, which can lower melanin concentration. (25) However, further studies and clinical trials are needed to determine the efficacy of green tea flavonoids in treating melasma.
Can arbutin-containing creams and serums help improve melasma spots?
Arbutin is a popular depigmenting and skin-lightening agent that is widely used all over the world.
However, high concentrations of arbutin, while effective, can increase the risk of paradoxical hyperpigmentation. Therefore, controlled trials are needed before considering arbutin as a treatment.
Moreover, arbutin is found to be less effective than kojic acid for the treatment of hyperpigmentation. (17)
Melasma is a common skin condition that rarely causes any serious health problem and fades over time. However, it can be bothersome to people who desire an even skin tone.
You can try various home remedies to help lighten melasma spots. In addition, you must take care of your skin by avoiding sun exposure to prevent worsening the condition.
Since melasma spots can affect your confidence and self-esteem, visit a dermatologist if you are bothered by their appearance.