Spring 2020 Update: don't miss my updated glow guide to heal hyperpigmentation on any budget!
I'm giddy with excitement. This is only the tip of the iceberg. This past winter I've seen the most improvement in my melasma since the decade+ I've been trying to treat it. This is part 1 of what has been working to majorly reduce the appearance of my melasma and dark spots...without prescription hydroquinone or retinoids. Even my upper lip melasma has improved!
For most of my pregnancy my melasma did not get worse (read more about my clean beauty brightening treatments and pregnancy skin care), but in the last few weeks it had a flare-up. I was totally bummed but also preoccupied. I went into the hospital to have our lil nugget wearing a full face of makeup. 40+ hours later when our bundle finally made an appearance our first family photo features my melasma and dark spots loud and proud - but it didn't matter.
As I was leaving the hospital I remember thinking it's possible the melasma may fade on its own! I thought "if it's a hormonal thing, I've had a major hormonal shift and it will just resolve itself!". After all within the first week postpartum I was already seeing some changes. For example, those weird blotches that appeared on my right leg and foot (still don't know what that was) faded. And that weird dark velvety underarm skin?...it just fell right off! (ick, tmi, I know).
Tackling my Upper Lip Melasma (and dark spots)
Drunk Elephant Babyfacial Enzyme Exfoliating Mask is the cornerstone to my successful melasma treatment program.
But alas after a few weeks, there was no change to my skin. My melasma mustache was still going strong! Each day I started to make a little more time for me, you know between the feedings and diapering and snuggles and attempts to sleep. I started incorporating my beloved Drunk Elephant Sukari Babyfacial (hooray for BHAs!) into my routine and a slight glimmer of hope returned. (read more about this awesome clean beauty BHA exfoliating mask).
And it shouldn't really be a surprise that these clean beauties have been so effective:
My new shining star: Marie Veronique Lightening Serum. One of my "push presents" post-baby. I had tried other Marie Veronique products before (wasn't a fan of the aroma of the Vitamin C + E +Ferulic serum) from the Detox Market (yay sample boxes!) and while they didn't jive with me I knew this brand could be a contender after scoping out more of their products. I believe the hubs bought it for me from Credo Beauty (they have an extensive collection).
This pigmentation lightening serum definitely has some ingredients I recognize from my years and years of serum and melasma treatment buying: green tea, algae, rosehip seed oil, licorice root, aspen bark, lactic acid, turmeric (read my turmeric brightening review) and geranium (more on brightening with geranium here). Also include coffee (great antioxidant masks with coffee).
But this innovative brown colored serum features some burgeoning heavy hitters:
- B3 / Niacinamide - I'm seeing this everywhere! I haven't used it much before. I just bought the Ordinary's Niacinamide serum...definitely not a replacement for this Marie Veronique product but it is still nice.
- Glucosamine - Never heard of this with brightening before but supposedly Glucosamine combined with Niacinamide is supposed to be a lightening powerhouse combo.
- Uva Ursi - Also known as Bearberry extract. Sounds exotic right? Turns out is very high in Arbutin. I didn't realize that when I first started using it. Arbutin is related to hydroquinone which made me nervous but also surprised me....how did Tri-Luma do nothing for me but a derivative of hydroquinone worked so well?
I'm not a doctor or a scientist so I research the best I can as a consumer and remember what my doctors and I have discussed over the years. It seems hydroquinone actually attacks and kills melanin cells (melanocytes) and inhibits melanin producing enzymes, while arbutin works differently by just inhibiting tyrosinase and doesn't kill any cells. Hydroquinone is known for being harsh, not recommended by my dermatologists for heavy use and it's banned in certain concentrations in the EU.
Per Marie Veronique's team: "arbutin is much less risky option that hq because arbutin only works to inhibit tyrosinase whereas hq affects melanin cells and there is a known cancer risk, which is why it is banned in Europe and Japan. Also bleaching skin can lead to skin discoloration over time, so HQ is really bad news."
Update in 2020: Marie Veronique is discontinuing her lightening serum and her team is just recommending that I try to use her Gentle Retinol Night Serum instead. I've sampled this before and wasn't wowed, so honestly I'd recommend Kypris Moonlight catalyst as my favorite lightening serum replacement.
Before and After my successful, quick melasma treatment (cures melasma mustache on the upper lip)
Not only is this a great clean beauty routine for dark spots, meslasma and hyperpigmentation, but this routine works better for me than long-standing melasma treatment superstars like Tri-Luma! And you don't need a subscription.
So I used to use the Drunk Elephant Babyfacial 2-3 times a week, washed it off, then followed with a layer of the Marie Veronique lightening serum followed by a night cream or my beloved Maya Chia super coupon astaxanthin + chia facial oil. Now I just use the Babyfacial once week.
Here's my most successful before and after! And even months later my skin looks great. And I've actually started including a few makeup free photos on my instagram (eek!) maybe YouTube will be next 🙂
There's no real cure for melasma, but wearing SPF, reducing stress, balancing hormones, getting rest, and finding the right skincare routine combined with PATIENCE works wonders!