The first thing that comes to mind when there are unusual dark stains around our cheeks, foreheads, and eyes is Melasma. It is a skin disease in which dark spots appear due to melanin pigmentation, which should be taken care of by all ages from 20~ 50 years old.
We usually mix between Melasma and Freckles.
Freckles are common among women in their 10s and 20s and they usually appear in the elementary school age and increase with puberty. Although the reason for freckles is not known yet, it is a spot that is caused by the stimulation of melanocytes in the skin by ultraviolet rays and is influenced by genetics. It often happens to people who have white skin, red, or blonde hair. It is directly affected by sunlight, its color darkens in summer and fades in winter. In order to prevent freckles, it is better to completely block them from sunlight as much as possible. We can differentiate clearly between freckles and melasma since it has an inconspicuous blurry color at the beginning then it changes to a distinct dark brown color when the color darkens.
From now on, let’s learn more about Melasma in more detail.
Why does Melasma appear on our skin and what makes it worse?
Melasma is not something that shows in the skin upon birth. In fact, it is a skin disease that spreads symmetrically into the skin as we get older and becomes overcolored.
It is a common skin disease among women in their 30s and is more likely to happen during pregnancy. At first, it shows under both eyes and around the cheekbones. Over time, the area where it happens widens gradually, ending in light or dark brown fine pigments throughout the cheeks, forehead, chin, and nose.
It is characterized by irregular shape, various sizes, and unclear boundary of brown spots which vary in color of the lesion according to the depth of pigmentation. It is brown when it is mainly on the epidermis, blue-gray when it is on the dermis, and brown-gray when it is mixed.
5 factors that make your melasma worse.
1. UV rays
Ultraviolet rays are one of the most important factors that make Melasma worse. Our skin is stimulated by the slightest amount of UV rays and is easily damaged by various oxidative reactions. In particular, problems with the basilar membrane often happen because the basilar membrane itself is damaged and keratinocytes or fibroblasts in the dermis stimulate melanocytes to produce more melanin leading to more pigmentation.
It is very important that we block ultraviolet UVA while treating melasma because UVA among ultraviolet rays has a longer wavelength than UVB, it penetrates into the dermis and stimulates melanocytes to increase melanin synthesis. For those who are curious about what sunscreen they should apply to block UVA, it could be helpful to read the blog on May 31, 2021.
Melasma tends to occur when the female hormone estrogen is actively produced. It usually occurs after the 20s when female hormones are secreted. Women in their 30s and 40s who are pregnant have the most melasma because women of that age are more exposed to estrogen.
Melasma decreases after menopause because estrogen decreases rapidly menopause. For women with menopause, it tends to get worse because they use estrogen as a substitution therapy for the hormone. In this case, female hormones themselves are the cause of exacerbating the melasma.
It includes both physical and emotional stress. When stressed, a hormone called “Cortisol” is secreted from our bodies. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates stress, but if excessive stress persists, it causes melasma, freckles, and acne. The more an amount of cortisol secretion increases, the more the ratio of estrogen increases. Recently, we go to hospitals to check these stress indices numerically through the Heart Rate Variability test or blood test.
It isn’t easy to go to the hospital to only test the stress index. We know ourselves better than anyone else, so it’s very important to relieve it quickly when we’re under more physical and mental stress than usual.
4. Lack of sleep
You may have noticed that getting enough sleep improves your skin. The reason is Melatonin.
Melatonin that is secreted in large quantities before we go to bed, is usually secreted the most around midnight and plays a role in inducing sleep. But it is also an antioxidant hormone that plays a role in regenerating and returning our bodies to their original state.
When melatonin is secreted well, the quality of sleep improves as a result. Therefore, people who sleep well regularly, have better skin.
On the other hand, people who sleep too late, have irregular sleeping habits, or completely change day and night, are more likely to have bad skin due to reduced secretion of melatonin. In other words, melatonin which is a powerful antioxidant hormone that naturally comes out of our body loses its function to restore and regenerate the skin without being secreted well.
That’s why having a lifestyle of regularly getting enough sleep at bedtime is very important to relieve melasma.
5. Using too much skincare & makeup products
Recently, misuse and abuse of cosmetics are known to cause skin problems. Many women suffer from skin problems due to the wrong use of cosmetics. Nowadays, more people are trying to treat skin diseases caused by cosmetics in dermatology hospitals and clinics.
Many women depend on cosmetics because their faces become much prettier than they are with just a brief make-up. Moreover, their flaws including melasma, freckles, and wide pores, are hidden. However, cosmetics with chemical ingredients come along with side effects as well as the advantages mentioned above. You can easily hide your various skin problems with cosmetics, but they will get worse soon. Not to mention that other skin problems that you have not experienced before will be added to the list.
The side effects of cosmetics are caused by the ingredients contained in them and the auxiliary ingredients essential to the manufacturing process. The most common ingredients are oily ingredients because cosmetics manufacturers use them to make raw materials for cosmetics into cream types.
These oily ingredients are contained in most cosmetic products such as various nourishing creams, lotions, lipsticks, mascaras, and foundations. In addition to vegetable and animal ingredients, these oily ingredients include Lanolin, Synthetic Beeswax, and Liquid Paraffin extracted from petroleum. These chemical oily ingredients irritate our skin.
Let’s take a look at how much cosmetics we put on our faces!
We apply toner, essence, nutrition cream, lotion, moisture cream, etc. These products are called skincare cosmetics. We apply makeup cosmetics like makeup base, concealer, foundation, and powder. Then, we add eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, and cheek powder.
If we often apply so much cosmetics in layers, will our skin be safe?
Of course, skincare cosmetics are essential products to have better skin according to their skin characteristics. We have no choice but to use makeup products in order to have a social life. Therefore, if possible, reduce the types of cosmetics you use. If it is a cosmetic that you have used, we recommend you examine the ingredients of each product carefully and choose the ones that are suitable for your skin type.
So, what are the ingredients and products that help reduce melasma?
10 ingredients that help reduce melasma.
1. Pure Vitamin C(L-Ascorbic Acid)
This ingredient clears the tone of melanin itself making the whole skin better. Vitamin C, an unstable ingredient that is easily oxidized into light or air, has a variety of derivatives. It suppresses melasma with its strong antioxidant effect and excellent moisturizing effect.
This is one of the representative antidote enzymes that activate the ability to detoxify the liver. This ingredient clears the skin like ‘Glutathione injection’. The recently released Glutathione cosmetics to brighten melanin pigments even if you go to a skin clinic, you won’t have to undergo procedures. Glutathione helps to clean your skin tone and improve melasma.
This ingredient is a powerful antioxidant and is used as a principle to increase the level of the Glutathione ingredient in cells. It has the effect of brightening the skin color by increasing the bright melanin when the level of Glutathione increases during the melanin synthesis process.
4 Camellia Sinensis
Not only does this ingredient contain antioxidant effects but also has effective ingredients for skin pigmentation such as proteins, minerals, amino acids, and carbohydrates. It also relieves inflammation caused by damage to skin barriers and dermis. We recommend you to use products containing Camellia Sinensis, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, and Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate.
5. Vitamin A Derivatives (Retinol, Retinal)
Retinoic acid, a vitamin A derivative, is a component that is often used as an anti-wrinkle or acne treatment.
‘Retinol’ is a very unstable ingredient that mutates easily and is mutated to Retinyl Palmitate or Retinal through an enzymatic reaction. Retinal is also mutated to Retinoic Acid. Since only Retinoic acid can be absorbed into our skin. Vitamin A ingredients that can be used as cosmetics include Retinol, Retinyl Palmitate, and Retinal(Retinaldehyde).
These ingredients restore the underlying membrane of the skin and activate the turnover of epidermal cells quickly expelling melanin out of the skin. They are common ingredients for anti-aging as well as treating pigmentation lesions. However, excessive use of these ingredients rather irritates the skin, that’s why we recommend you to increase the amount gradually when using products that contain these ingredients.
6. Niacinamide(Vitamin B3)
Niacinamide, a representative skin whitening ingredient, plays a role in helping cell activation. Energy is needed to recover skin damaged by ultraviolet rays. At this time, Niacinamide helps to restore the skin barrier and relieve inflammation by activating the coenzyme that activates the energy of our body.
7. Tranexamic Acid
Tranexamic Acid, which is used as a hemostatic agent, has been used in melasma treatment for a long time in the hospital. If the amount of melanocytes synthesizing melanin is too large, it will penetrate the dermal layer through the base membrane. The basal membrane can be broken by various enzymes, one of which is Plasmin.
Tranexamic Acid is an ingredient that restores the basement membrane damaged by Plasmin and makes it stronger. It also has an antioxidant effect and makes the color of melasma lighter. It is less irritating and effective than Hydroquinone, a treatment for melasma.
Hydroquinone is a skin whitening agent and is widely used in medicines that suppress excessive pigmentation of the skin, such as melasma and freckles. it cannot be used as a raw material for cosmetics because it is irritating and causes side effects.
The ingredient that solved this problem is Arbutin. it is a substance derived from hydroquinone, which is commonly used as a cosmetic material because it is less toxic and irritated than hydroquinone. Although its efficacy is similar to that of Hydroquinone, Arbutin, which is much less irritating is mainly used in combination with several ingredients rather than alone.
9. Hyaluronic Acid
Skin, which has become dry due to the collapse of the skin barrier, makes the symptoms of freckles worse. At this time, hyaluronic acid hydrates the skin and strengthens the skin barrier to help improve melasma.
Fullerene is a molecular structure material in the shape of a soccer ball consisting of 60 carbon atoms(C60), its antioxidant power is 125 times that of vitamin C, so there are not many products that contain enough of its ingredients because it’s very expensive, but you can get the effect of improving melasma even if you use products made in combination with this and various ingredients.
These ingredients will be a great help in alleviating your melasma. However, there is an important thing to consider for your healthy skin.
Too much of anything is good for nothing
If you use too many products containing them that help reduce melasma, it irritates your skin and causes other skin problems. In addition, we recommend you not to overdo even face cleansing. Excessive cleansing increases the likelihood that it can irritate your skin and cause fine inflammatory reactions. Fine inflammatory reactions consequently create an environment that worsens melasma.
When wiping the water left on your face with a towel after washing your face, do not rub it hard, but gently press the towel with your hands to absorb the water left on your face to minimize irritation.
If you live your daily life paying attention to the 5 things mentioned above, you will definitely get a bright, clear face with no melasma.