How to Cure Melasma From the Inside

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Melasma is a common skin ailment also known as the mask of pregnancy. It affects your face, causing dark patches on your chin, cheeks, upper lip, and nose. It can sometimes appear on your shoulders, forearms, and neck.

The causes of melasma aren't fully known. Changes in hormones—like those that occur with pregnancy—may trigger the problem.

Melasma is not harmful or a sign of disease. However, it can affect your quality of life. Dark patches on your face may impact your self-image.

While surface melasma treatments exist, you can also fight it with a holistic approach. Treating it from the inside out targets physical and lifestyle factors linked to the problem.

This article explains the causes of melasma, how holistic treatments can help, and other options.

Melasma

Toa55 / Getty Images

Melasma Causes

It's not clear what causes melasma, but it begins when the activity of melanocytes accelerates. These are the cells that give skin its color. The result is the production of too much melanin, the pigment that gives your body its unique color.

While anyone can develop the problem, melasma is most common among young women. It is often linked to the higher levels of estrogen and progesterone that occur in the mid-to-late stages of pregnancy. These changes can also happen with the use of birth control pills at any age or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause.

Other factors can increase your risk of melasma. Triggers linked to melasma include:

Treating Melasma From the Inside

Treatment for melasma varies by individual. The condition can be hard to correct because it isn't well understood. Typically, results differ on a case-by-case basis.

Some treatments address the internal factors linked to melasma. This approach attempts to heal the problem from the inside out with the below strategies.

Balance Hormones

If you develop melasma as a result of a hormonal imbalance during pregnancy, you may be advised to wait until after your baby is born to treat the problem internally. The good news is that melasma that occurs during pregnancy usually corrects itself. You can expect the spots to fade a few months after your baby is born.

When melasma is linked to birth control pills or HRT, you may be able to correct the problem by changing to another oral contraceptive or adjusting the dosage of hormones. Switching to non-hormonal birth control can also resolve the problem. When linked to oral contraceptives or HRT, melasma usually begins to fade shortly after you stop using these treatments.

Enhance Diet

A healthy diet and adequate amounts of water can give you the foundation for healthy skin. Enhancing a balanced diet with certain supplements or foods can improve your results and help lower your risk of melasma.

For example, the properties of vitamin C are effective in reducing melanin production and providing photoprotection to reduce the effect of sun damage.

The following nutrients can also help improve your skin melasma:

  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids
  • Retinoids
  • Unsaturated fatty acids

Reduce Stress

There is evidence that stress may be a factor in the onset of melasma. Stress promotes the production of cortisol. This elevates estrogen levels, which can increase the amount of melanin you produce.

Reducing stress can help you avoid the chain reaction that leads to melasma. Try these strategies to reduce daily stress:

  • Establish and maintain a regular exercise program.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Practice meditation or another form of guided thought.
  • Learn relaxation training.
  • Stretch your body.
  • Use deep, relaxed breathing.
  • Work to reduce worry and anxiety.
  • Develop a positive attitude.
  • Set realistic goals at home and work.
  • Make time to do activities you enjoy.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs.

Increase Rest

Getting adequate sleep is key to overall physical and emotional well-being. It may also play an important role in the onset of melasma.

Researchers believe that poor sleep may be a factor in melasma. After the problem occurs, the stress of living with a visible condition like melasma may contribute to inadequate sleep, thereby making the problem worse.

You can improve the amount and quality of sleep that you achieve by taking these steps:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Sleep in a room that is quiet, dark, and set at a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid using electronic devices in the bedroom.
  • Don't consume a large meal, caffeine, or alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Exercise daily.

Liver Support

Your liver plays an important role in regulating hormone levels in your blood. Maintaining a healthy liver can help ensure that it functions normally.

Take these steps to prevent liver disease:

  • Establish and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a balanced diet low in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and sugars.
  • Follow a regular exercise program.
  • Avoid toxins from cleaning products and insecticides.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Don't use illegal drugs.
  • Avoid contaminated needles.
  • Practice safe sex by using condoms and limiting partners.
  • Wash your hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, and before preparing food.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
  • Use medications as instructed.
  • Don't share razors, toothbrushes, or other personal hygiene items.
  • Seek medical care if you're exposed to another person's blood.

Other Treatments

Since the causes of melasma are complex and unclear, the problem can be difficult to treat. While improving internal factors can help, many people benefit from a combination of therapies.

Your healthcare provider may advise adding one or more of the following topical melasma therapies to your treatment plan:

When melasma is stubborn, or you want to promote faster results, your healthcare provider may advise using one of the following procedures:

Cases of extremely stubborn melasma may improve with tranexamic acid, a medication given in topical or pill form.

Summary

Melasma is a harmless skin problem that causes dark patches on facial areas. It is most common among women and is often linked to changes in hormone levels.

The problem often appears during pregnancy. It also affects women using birth control or HRT. Certain factors, such as genetics and darker skin color, can increase your risk of the ailment

Treating the internal factors that affect melasma aims to cure the problem from the inside out. Addressing these physical and lifestyle issues may help improve the problem and reduce your risk of it recurring.

There is much more to learn about the causes and treatment of melasma. It can be stubborn and affect every person differently. This can make it hard to find the right treatment.

A Word From Verywell

While melasma doesn't pose a threat to your well-being, it can have a serious impact on your emotional health. The problem can be devastating to your self-image. It's common to feel embarrassed about the way the problem changes your looks.

Consult your healthcare provider to find out the treatment most appropriate for your age, medical history, and current condition. Most people benefit from a combination of therapies, so it may take time to find what works for you. Don't give up on your goal to improve your appearance if it will make a difference in your life.

While you wait for your melasma to improve, consider using camouflage makeup to improve your self-image. With the right products and instructions, you can achieve a natural look. The change can help you feel more like yourself, so you can live normally until your treatment is done.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is melasma curable?

    Melasma is a chronic condition with no cure. However, treatments can fade dark spots and improve your appearance.

  • How long does it take melasma to go away?

    Treatment results vary by individual. Melasma caused by pregnancy, birth control pills, or HRT, usually disappears a few months after birth or stopping hormone therapy. It usually takes from three to 12 months to see results in other types of melasma.

  • How is diet related to melasma?

    While melasma isn't caused by a poor diet, eating healthy can give your body the nutrients it needs to support healthy skin. Enhancing your diet with nutrients such as vitamin C and antioxidants can help prevent sun damage, which is a factor in melasma.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Anna Giorgi
Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer who specializes in health and lifestyle topics. Her experience includes over 25 years of writing on health and wellness-related subjects for consumers and medical professionals, in addition to holding positions in healthcare communications.