When you get back from the beach, are you noticing the slightest hint of a Tom Selleck? If it’s not hair, then WTF is happening North of your upper lip?!
This is how I felt a few years ago when I started to notice that I looked like I had an ink smudge on my upper lip all summer long. Even SPF 75 would not stop it from getting darker. After a few people told me they thought I was due for a lip wax, I went in to see my Derm. They told me I had melasma. WHAT?!
Melasma is a very common skin condition, and you’ve probably noticed it on someone this weekend, but no one is talking about it. Tired of my faux-’stache, my solution has been to wear a zinc mustache whenever I am at the pool or beach because I’d rather have a yellow mustache for a couple of hours, than a permanent dark shadow above my lip.
Think sunscreen will do the job? Think again. Any amount of direct sunlight can make melasma darker. You need a physical blocker, like my Zinka! Zinka is a company that creates high-performance sunscreens, and is also credited with creating the first-ever colored zinc oxide sunblock (I wear mine in yellow, green-blue and tan ‒ fun!).
Got questions about your ‘stache?
My beloved dermatologist, Dr. Samer Jaber, answers the question of why we get melasma and how to get rid of it / keep it under control. Also, if you know someone who might be “in the dark,” on this issue, please pass along this article…they’ll thank you for it!
Q (Katie): Is using colored zinc better for melasma than using an SPF because it is a physical blocker?
A (Dr. Samer): I think your question is, is a colored-zinc sunscreen better than a regular sunscreen as it offers a total block? The colored zinc sunscreen should be better than a regular sunscreen, as per the Zinka website:
“It is a total block. The color is meant to be seen on your skin and does not rub in. This total block uses 25% zinc oxide to completely block harmful UV rays.”
If no UV rays are able to get through, then it is certainly better for someone with melasma, and can be more fun : )
Q: What is melasma?
A: Melasma is a very common skin problem primarily seen in young women. It is patchy, brownish, hyperpigmentation of the face, most commonly affecting the forehead, cheeks, nose and upper lip. It is more common in women with olive skin that can tan well, and is only rarely seen in men.
Q: Why do women get them?
A: The primary causes of melasma are sun exposure and hormonal changes. That is why for most women, melasma is worse in the summer. Birth control is a very common trigger, and it is so common during pregnancy that it is often referred to as, “the mask of pregnancy.” There also seems to be a genetic component as well, as people with melasma oftentimes have other family members with it.
Q: Is this true that SPF doesn’t help with this?
A: Vigilant sun protection is actually the best way to prevent melasma as sun is the main trigger for it. When picking a sunscreen, it is important to pick one with the physical blockers, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as chemical sunscreens oftentimes are not effective in the prevention of melasma. Even just a few minutes of sun exposure can trigger melasma, so it is important to use a hat, and re-apply sunscreen every two hours and really protect yourself from the sun.
Q: What can women do to get rid of it?
A: The most important thing to do is protect yourself from the sun. If you are on birth control, you can try pausing your regimen to see if that helps. Other treatments your dermatologist may recommend include: bleaching creams like hydroquinone, regular glycolic acid peels, and fractionated lasers.
Q: Once you have melasma, will it ever go away?
A: Unfortunately, melasma is oftentimes a chronic condition, but with vigilant sun protection and appropriate treatment by your dermatologist, you can keep it under control.