Over the years I’ve had a few bouts of melasma. Both my pregnancies triggered hyperpigmentation on my forehead and cheeks, and many years ago while I was experimenting with a fruitarian diet, I got the worst hyperpigmentation ever.
Hormones, sun damage, hot temperatures, inflammation, and even too much sugar in your diet can cause melasma or hyperpigmentation (check out this blog post).
It’s been a little over a year since I gave birth to my second daughter Skye. I’ve been able to reduce the melasma on my face significantly (about 90% is now gone), but there’s still a little that lingers. I’ve noticed that when I use certain sunscreens, my melasma can get better, or worse.
And that’s what I want to share with you today.
If you have hyperpigmentation or melasma, and you’ve tried all sorts of skin care products, diet changes, or in-office procedures to get rid of it – but it’s still not fading, or it fades temporarily but keeps coming back – I want to make sure you’re using the right sunscreen.
This is one detail not many people know about. In terms of getting the best sun protection (and protecting your existing melasma or hyperpigmnetation from getting worse), you’ve got to use a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects you from both UVA and UVB rays (and surprisingly, not all sunscreens are formulated to do that).
With my fair skin and living in hot Bali, Indonesia, I’m diligent about wearing sunscreen, and I’m always trying new ones.
Because I also have breakout prone skin, I much prefer mineral sunscreens (otherwise known as “physical sunscreens”). But, once in a while I do try chemical sunscreens. Living in Asia, sunscreen technology here is more advanced compared to North America, so I like to try new sun protection ingredients and products I have access to. Sometimes too, I try sunscreens that contains a mix of mineral and chemical filters.
What I’ve come to notice is zinc oxide gives me the best protection. I don’t get burned, and my melasma never gets darker when I use a sunscreen with zinc oxide being the main active ingredient. I prefer a sunscreen with just zinc oxide, but sometimes I do use a sunscreen with a mix of zinc oxide and other active ingredients. As long as there’s more zinc oxide in the formula than the other active ingredients, it works.
When I use sunscreens that don’t have zinc oxide, or have more chemical filters, or even more titanium dioxide than zinc oxide – I might not get burned, but the melasma usually gets darker.
That is because zinc oxide sits on the surface of your skin, it doesn’t let the UV rays get into your skin. Whereas chemical filters work inside your skin to absorb the UV rays. Zinc oxide also offers a much better protection from UVA rays than titanium dioxide, so even if you use a mineral sunscreen, make sure it has a higher percentage of zinc oxide than titanium dioxide (and make sure it’s got zinc oxide in there!).
My sunscreen guidelines for melasma and hyperpigmentation
Here’s some guidelines I follow for selecting the best sunscreen to protect existing melasma and hyperpigmentation from getting darker, and preventing any more damage:
– Choose an SPF 30 or higher.
– Use a mineral sunscreen (physical sunscreen) made with all or mostly zinc oxide (can have another active ingredient, but I find the ones that are made only with zinc work the best. If there is another active ingredient, the % of zinc oxide must be higher than the other active ingredient(s).
– Don’t just buy a sunscreen because it says it’s a mineral or physical sunscreen, make sure to read the ingredients and check the active ingredients to make sure there is zinc in there. Sometimes a sunscreen will say it’s a mineral, organic, or a natural sunscreen, but it can end up containing mostly chemical filters with a little zinc, or has a much higher percentage of titanium dioxide than zinc oxide.
– Titanium dioxide does protect your skin from the sun, but it doesn’t offer the same strength of UVA & UVB protection zinc oxide does. It’s ok for it to be in the formula, but make sure the formula has a higher % of zinc oxide.
– If you are using a Japanese or Korean sunscreen, make sure the PA score is PA++++ (not PA+, PA++, or PA+++). There must be 4 “+” signs. The PA score is the measurement of UVA protection, and PA++++ is the highest protection score. UVA rays are the rays that are aging and damaging your skin, and causing the pigmentation and dark spots (UVB rays cause sun burn and more immediate damage).
– If you have dry skin, avoid sunscreens with alcohol in the top 5 ingredients (and definitely avoid sunscreen with synthetic fragrance).
– If you have oily skin, avoid sunscreens with an oil listed in the first 3 ingredients (it’ll be way too oily or emollient for your skin). Usually a sunscreen with aloe being in the first five ingredients is a better choice for oily skin types.
– A tinted mineral sunscreen usually doesn’t have a white cast (and most aren’t heavily pigmented, so it just blends right into your skin).
– For protecting melasma and hyperpigmentation, best to use a sunscreen cream or lotion, not a spray or powder (sunscreen spray or powder can be used as a top-up, but shouldn’t be used as your main sunscreen or base layer of protection). Using a sunscreen cream or lotion ensures your entire face/body is evenly protected. (In the next coming weeks I will put together a blog post and video showing how I apply sunscreen, how much, how I reapply sunscreen throughout the day, etc – stay tuned for that!).
– For best protection, do reapply sunscreen throughout the day.
– If you really don’t like mineral sunscreens at all, I recommend using your regular chemical sunscreen, and on top of that sunscreen, apply the mineral sunscreen where you have pigmentation or melasma. This way, you are making sure you are getting the broad spectrum UV protection on the areas of your face that need it.
– Nowadays there’s more and more mineral sunscreens available. So if you don’t like one, try another. Sometimes you have to try a few until you find a product that really works for your skin and feels good to wear every day.
What’s my favourite sunscreen?
Suntegrity – 5in1 Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 30 is the best face sunscreen I have found, I love it! The active ingredient is non-nano zinc oxide, it’s tinted with no white cast, and it’s moisturizing but never causes breakouts. Something in it makes my skin really soft. It’s suitable for all skin types and it does a great job at protecting your skin (and melasma) from the sun.
What Else Helped fade melasma and hyperpigmentation?
As I mentioned in the video above, over the past year I’ve been able to fade 90% of the melasma I developed during my last pregnancy. What worked the best for me was a combination of regular exfoliation, using products containing vitamin C, and wearing sunscreen every day. Here’s the list of products that I used this past year that really worked for me:
Oskia – Renaissance Cleansing Gel is one of the most effective products I have used to fade most of the melasma and hyperpigmentation on my face. This cleanser has vitamin C, MSM, and other exfoliating enzymes. It’s a gentle, no foaming cleansing gel. Suitable for all skin types, but might not be good for very dry skin.
*update*: Living Libations – Frankincense Best Skin Ever and Rose Renewal + Frankincense Firming Fluid is something I recently found that got rid of the remainder of my stubborn melasma. You have to use the two products together for them to work (wash you face with the Frankincense Best Skin Ever, followed by using the Rose Renewal + Frankincense Firming Fluid as a treatment serum. If you need to moisturize, use a moisturizer or facial oil on top). Something in these two products calms and soothes my skin, fading the deep melasma completely.
Here’s 2 face masks that immediately brighten my skin and have made a significant difference in hyperpigmentation and dark spots. These two masks exfoliate your skin gently and beautifully, and are suitable for all skin types:
VERDURA naturalternatives – Fruit Complex Facial Mask (This amazing mask brightens your skin and leaves it super soft. The fruit enzymes gently exfoliate your skin helping to fade pigmentation and dark patches. The colloidal oats softens and hydrates your skin. Using this mask, you will glow with an even and bright complexion).
UMA – Absolute Anti-Aging Face Mask (Turmeric is a known skin brightener, and has been used by many cultures to fade darks spots and pigmentation. This mask immediately brightens your skin, plus the bentonite clay makes it slightly clarifying. All around, it can help fade dark patches, plus draw out impurities from your pores, leaving your skin super bright and smooth).
More on fading hyperpigmentation and melasma naturally?
If you want more information on how to get rid of hyperpigmentation, check out my blog post and video I did a while ago, Hyperpigmentation – Fade It & Prevent It Naturally. Melasma and hyperpigmentation is a nuisance, I know, but, you can do things to fade it and get it under control.
If you’ve been able to get rid of or improve melasma or hyperpigmentation – do let us know what has worked for you. I know many of our readers (including me), would love to know! (Please post in the comments section below).