Makeup & Skincare/melasma


I don't have ethnic skin.  I am 39 yrs old, fair-skinned Caucasian (English and German - I think) but I have BAD melasma just in the last 2 years.  The worst part is it's in a really strange pattern - upper lip and then from the ends of the upper lip it extends in a thin line along my checkbones on both sides.  It looks like an upside down handlebar mustache!  I also have less noticeable splotches on my lower cheeks, chin, just under my lower lip and even on my neck.  
My dermatologist precribed retin-a, but I think even the low dose used sparingly twice a week made my skin look somewhat inflamed, and inflammation makes melasma worse.  My darker areas seem to get even darker using retin-a.  And Tri-Luma, forget it, that made it SO much worse.  I can't use hydroquinone right now, although it seems to work a tiny bit - I've been using Obagi Clear (4% hydroquinone) for 10 months, and you're not supposed to use it that long, so I have to stop.)
It was doing much better and then my pharmacy changed my generic birth control pill to a different generic - even though it was the same exact hormones, my melasma started getting worse immediately.
I got off the pill a few days ago, but just yesterday I woke up and it all was so much darker.  I avoid the sun like the plague, which is depressing, and I wear a really good zinc oxide sunscreen every single day and reapply every few hours even when indoors.  

I'm convinced sunscreen does not do anything to keep it from getting worse.  It doesn't help even for five minutes.  I can't get rid of it, so I'd like to at least be able to cover it.  The problem is I also have acne-prone skin (hence the reason I was on the pill for 18 years to begin with).  My pores clog very easily, so I can't wear heavy makeup.  Bare Minerals has been very good for my skin for many years, but it just doesn't cover the melasma.  I don't know how to use those color-correcting concealers (the green, yellow, etc).  Whenever I wear them I feel like my skin just looks like the color of the concealer and it still doesn't cover anything.  

Any application tips and or product recommendations would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!

Hello Susan. How are you?  I understand where you're coming from with skin conditions such as melasma and acne. I don't have melasma, but I've battled acne since I was 15 - now I'm closing in on 41 and the fight is still on :-) I'm going to address everything you asked of me, but let's first start with melasma.

I believe you're very familiar with the characteristics and treatments commonly prescribed for this skin condition. Susan, in my professional opinion, I suggest you seriously give products containing Alpha Hydroxy Acid some consideration. In this case particularly, Glycolic or Mandelic acid. Glycolic acid and Mandelic acid are ABSOLUTELY SUPERIOR for correcting melasma AND acne.

You want to start with maybe a 8-10% concentration at first, then as your skin adjusts, you can move up to higher concentrations if necessary. The key here, is not to irritate the skin, as irritation is no friend of melasma. Let's talk about how these two ingredients can be helpful to you.

First, Glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane), is helpful because it will exfoliate or remove discolored dead skin cells that contribute to the hyperpigmentation caused by melasma. Also, it is exceptional for improving the texture of the skin and minimizing fine lines. Glycolic acid would be best for someone who has melasma, but also needs some anti aging benefits.

Mandelic acid (derived from bitter almond) on the other hand, like Glycolic acid, will remove dead skin cells, but will also control break outs by killing acne-causing bacteria, as well as even out the skin tone. Mandelic acid would be best for someone who has melasma, but also needs some acne-fighting benefits.

Susan, when it comes to hydroquinone, in my opinion, it is THE worse skin lightening ingredient one can use on their skin. Why? Because hydroquinone has been shown to be highly toxic to skin (and health) over time, especially in higher concentrations (remember the 4% the Dr. prescribed?)See below:

Hydroquinone Has Been Linked to the Following Serious Conditions:

1. Ochronosis - Causes a darkening and thickening of the skin. It can also manifest yellow or gray domed spots, particularly on African skin types, which is why its ban is so important in countries like South Africa where it is smuggled in for profitable gain.

2. Cancer - Hydroquinone is being investigated for its possible link to certain types of cancer, particularly certain blood cancers like Leukemia.

3. Changes in adrenal function may be linked to hydroquinone use.

4. High levels of mercury have also been present. Steady, long-term exposure through the absorption of mercury by the skin into the blood stream can also cause liver and kidney failure, as well as damage to the nervous system.

Mercury is also extremely toxic to unborn children. Pregnant mothers using mercury-containing creams risk giving birth to babies with brain damage and other deformations.

5. Kidney damage is a possible result of the long-term use of this drug.

Susan, Hydroquinone has been banned in many parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. I believe the EU (European Union) was one of the first to ban this ingredient for use in skin care products. It just seems the U.S (FDA) hasn't caught up yet :-) You can research this issue ("hydroquinone side effects") on the internet to see what I mean. Below is a list of effective, safe and natural skin lightening ingredients to look for when shopping for your products. I believe any number of these will work really well for you.

These ingredients will not harm your skin, and are much healthier. More and more skin care companies are now incorporating these natural skin lightening ingredients into their formulations because they realize how important it is to steer clear of toxic skin lighteners like Hydroquinone and even Kojic acid.

*Azeloyl Glycine
*Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (stable vitamin C)
*Mandelic acid
*Emblica fruit extract
*Pearl powder

Now, as for Zinc Oxide, I beg to differ with you on that, Susan. When it comes to melasma, a well-formulated sun block is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL . The sun and irritation are the worse two aggressors for melasma. Let me say that in order for your skin lighteners to work and melasma to be controlled, the skin needs to be VERY WELL protected from the sun.

Another thing to consider, is that very light or fair skin has a higher tendency toward sun damage which can and does result in prematurely aged skin, such as dark spots, fine lines, wrinkles, mottled skin, splotches, and skin sagging. This type of skin burns quicker and deeper, thereby making the reapplication of sun block even MORE crucial at this point.

In this case also, it may even be necessary to use a much higher range sun block such as SPF 50-70. Susan, I can tell you've done your homework and you are right on target for using Zinc oxide for sun protection. Zinc is the top choice for full, broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection. The reason you may have not had good results with it is because the SPF might have not been high enough.

Or, maybe you will need to reapply more often when you ARE going to be out for longer periods of time. Also, another thing to consider - it may not even be that the sunblock is not working. Sometimes, certain medications make melasma worse because of the hormone imbalance they can cause (example: fighting acne with birth control pills, yet making the melasma worse at the same time). Also, irritation makes melasma worse. Certain hormones can do it as well. Susan I hope this has all been a help to you. Let me know if you have any other concerns, I'll be glad to help...this is my passion. Jesus bless you.

Natural skin lightening for melasma:

P.S. Since Bare Minerals makes natural makeup, you can try using their mineral powder concealers by purchasing 2 different shades and blending the two to make a perfect color for your skin tone. Their concealers shouldn't come in those funny looking colors like green and yellow (I never did understand those weird colors! :-) Concealers as you know, are much better at covering imperfections. You can try it out to see whether you want to use the mineral concealer powder to spot cover, or all over the face instead of the powder foundation which you say doesn't cover well. You may choose to experiment with this suggestion to see what works best for you. God bless!

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Tara Logan-Hearn


I will, according to my knowledge and experience, answer questions that involve providing information, tips, and advice in an effort to help one improve the following common ethnic and black skin care concerns:

Although make-up is not my specialty, I'm happy to help with advice on caring for the skin while wearing makeup. I affirm that I can not answer questions to which attention by a doctor is necessary.


I've written for Bella Online, Beauty and Sugar, Self Growth and Oily Skin Blog. I've written the e-book entitled, "Achieving Flawless Skin of Color - 2 Easy Steps to Clear, Even-toned Skin From the Inside Out", which is now published.


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