High-Low Products That Keep My Melasma In Check

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Lisa John
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Until two years ago, my skin was perfect. All of this changed after the summer of 2012, when I noticed a darkening above my upper lip. Do I have a mustache?! I panicked, looking at my skin from all different angles in various lights and mirrors. Seeing that there were no dark hairs, I began to panic even more. 

After my mother, the breaker of all my denials, asked me about my “shadow,” while also noting that my BB cream was too yellow for me, I went straight to the dermatologist, who told me I have melasma.

melasma on face

Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation commonly found in women with North African, Southeast/East Asian, Indian, Latin American, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern heritages. Though I inherited my paternal grandfather’s Russian/Northern European paler complexion, my Italian maternal great grandmother was said to have the exact same “shadow” in the exact same spot. Doctors don’t know what causes melasma exactly, and there is no cure, but it’s linked to heritage, pregnancy, and birth control pills.

After my doctor wrote me a prescription for an eight-week ointment treatment, Tri-Luma, I upped my skin care game. The ointment worked, but I still needed extra help to hide the pigmentation or even out my skin while I was turning back the clock on my upper dermis layer. Here is what I’ve used in my battle.

Exfoliation 

skin exfoliants

During my panic stage I was exfoliating like crazy, trying to scrub the discoloration off my face and renew skin cells for fresher, brighter, better ones. Then I started breaking out. Over-exfoliating was bringing up old dirt and then also drying out my already dry skin, creating a whole new skin problem. So, please learn from my mistake and don’t do that.

Budget

Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub is very gentle, so much so that I can use it at least once a week. I use this if my skin is irritated in any way, because the microbeads feel sparse enough in the formula not to make matters worse.

Luxury

Embryolisse Crème Exfoliante is also fairly gentle and it doesn’t have a strong smell. This has more of a milk-cream texture, whereas the Aveeno is a gel. I use this sparingly, when I need more of a deep clean, like when I fake an at-home facial. The microbeads feel a little larger or rougher in this mixture but because the rest of the exfoliant is so creamy, it’s not too harsh.

Masks

face masks' products

Budget

Garnier Skin Renew Dark Spot Treatment Mask is really hydrating and gentle, great for the winter when I want added moisture while fighting my discoloration. Every mask contains a half bottle’s worth of their hydrating serum, and it’s loaded with vitamin C, which is great for “aged skin” (wrinkles and dark spots) because it may help to protect and reverse UV damage.

Luxury 

Dr. Sebagh’s Deep Exfoliating Mask in the Sensitive Skin Formulation is the real deal. I mulled over this product--and its price--for six months before buying. Every single time I use it I feel like I have brand new skin, like years of grime and stress have been sucked from my pores, and I’m born again cutaneous.

One of the main ingredients is azelaic acid, which can reduce inflammation and the production of extra melanin. Lactic acid is another main ingredient, which isused in some chemical peels because it helps with cell turnover. Because of this it can make skin even more sensitive. I only use this mask once a month when I’m in hermit mode and know I won’t be in direct sunlight the next day.

Brighteners

skin brightening products

Budget 

L’Oréal’s Magic Lumi Light Infusing Primer is a favorite. It has a rich texture that doesn’t make me dry, sticky, or oily. My foundation has longevity and it blends really nicely so that it doesn’t look white or artificially bright.

Luxury

Chanel’s Le Blanc Light Revealing Brightening Makeup Base has SPF 30 and ingredients include licorice extracts, which combat dullness and unwanted extra melanin. Used over Lumi primer, this product protects, hides, and fights the problem all while physically evening skin tone--even before foundation is applied.

Protection And Coverage

low-end skin protecting products

Budget 

I don’t “lay out” anymore unless I’m under an umbrella and/or wearing a hat. This summer I tried CeraVe’s Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Body Lotion with SPF 30 with ceramides, a type of lipid that acts as a skin barrier. This product is thick and a little hard to rub in, like traditional zinc oxides, and dry if used without body lotion, but it does the job.

To further prevent darkening, I apply Palmer’s Skin Success Eventone Fade Cream right to the target ’stache area. It contains cocoa butter, synovea, soy, niacinamide, vitamin C, and licorice extract--all ingredients that will smooth, lighten, brighten, and restore tone. Be mindful of light peeling--it’s the same reaction I had with Tri-Luma.

Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Spot Concealer and Treatment is great on days when my “shadow” seems more noticeable. I like when products hide my problem while also fixing it, and this contains vitamin C. Divide and conquer!

high-end skin protecting products

Luxury 

I’m obsessed with Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum. Taylor recently reviewed their eye and lip cream from the same line, and I’m going to piggyback on her appreciation of the dropper’s control. I put this on before my moisturizers--morning and night--and noticed how tight (not unnaturally so), plump, and rich my skin felt. This product is also chock-full of vitamin C as well as polyphenol, a type of chemical that acts as an antioxidant, also great for melasma.

I also use Smashbox Camera Ready CC Cream with SPF 30 daily, which DaMonica recently reviewed. At first I had a hard time with caking, but then I started spritzing myself with mineral water after application, then dabbing it in again. 

YSL’s Youth Liberator Serum Foundation with SPF 20 is my go-to at night or for special occasions for a dewy look. I also custom mix Giorgio Armani’s Maestro Fusion Foundation and Chanel’s Vitalumière Aqua (both SPF 15) when my skin tone changes, or if I want more of a matte look.

Anyone else out there dealing with melasma or hyperpigmentation issues? How has your skin been after this summer?