Demystifying Melasma | Beyond Dark Spots & Hyperpigmentation

How I Found Out my Uneven Skin Tone was Actually Melasma

When I turned 30 I began to develop very patterned dark spots on my forehead, then it appeared on my cheeks and ultimately spread to my upper lip. I thought to myself “I’m aging, and these are some gnarly dark spots!” At the time my skincare regime consisted of washing my face, applying my skincare – glycolic acid to be specific, then I would use a facial device with micro-current and a moisturizer and go out in the sun with no SPF!

Little did I know that using active ingredients (that were deeply penetrating into my skin - because of the device) with no sun protection, plus poor diet and an added predisposition because of my heritage, would be a recipe for disaster. 

After a year or research, I learned a lot about my skin and the difference between hyperpigmentation and melasma. I learned that hyperpigmentation is an umbrella term used to cover a number of conditions where the skin develops darker spots or patches.

This term covers more specific conditions such as liver spots, freckles and melasma. The most important thing to note is that hyperpigmentation can be caused by various factors such as acne scarring, medications or inflammation but the main cause of hyperpigmentation is sun exposure.

I then set out to find something that would help get rid of my melasma, but I soon found out that the condition is hard to get rid of because it involves a myriad of factors. 

One of the most interesting learnings was that about 90% of people that experience melasma are women - this is because of hormonal imbalances (elevated levels of estrogen and progestogen) which as a result cause women who become pregnant to develop the condition. In fact, they call melasma the “pregnancy mask” that can often leave women with postpartum dark spots.

Here are some of the main causes that attribute to melasma:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Heritage (African American, Middle Eastern, Latin, Asian)
  • Gender (Females mostly experience melasma)
  • Heat (sun exposure, saunas, steams rooms)
  • Blue Light (from computers and smartphones)

Luckily, I work for Vanity Planet, an amazing skincare brand where I get to try out the latest skin care devices on the market. On top of serums and creams, these are my top two favorite products and why.

The Senia Hot and Cold Facial Steamer, I mentioned earlier that exposure to heat even steam can inflame the skin. This is because heat activates the melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment and causes them to become hyperactive.  So, I like to use Senia on the “cold setting”, it lets out an effervescence cool steam cloud that leaves your face feeling and looking dewy and hydrated with no repercussions.  

My other go-to product is the Exfora Microdermabrasion Wand. This device helps to exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells via it’s suctioning technology. People don’t realize that clogged pores and blackheads cause inflammation so it’s important to introduce a device that allows for cell turnover.

Another perk of removing dead skin cells is that it allows topicals and serums to deeply penetrate the skin. This is important for people with melasma because melasma lives at the Basement Membrane Zone (which is the deepest layer of the skin) so in order for the products to work they need to arrive at the last layer.

Hyperpigmentation has become more common and as a solution I believe topicals paired with devices and the adoption of an overall wellness regime is necessary to overcome melasma. It wasn’t until I shared my melasma journey on Instagram that I realized there are so many people, especially women, who are experiencing what I am going through.

I’ve now learned to embrace my skin, instead of looking at melasma as a problem. I look at it as something that should be managed but not an issue to stress to get rid of. I've become so passionate about my skin journey that I started a community called Damastíque, that aims to celebrate women and encourages them to share their melasma stories.

I feel honored to be part of the Skin Confidence Campaign. I think that we need more reminders to love the skin we’re in and to be proud to #WearYourSkinNaked.