July 12, 2018Skincare

Melasma 102: Game Plan

What can I do to address my Melasma? The first thing I tell my patients is that we cannot “cure” this condition. BUT, we can get it under control. You have to be like a tortoise—slow and steady wins the race! Here is a step by step guide that I would discuss with my patient if she presented with Melasma:

1. Sun Exposure

  1. I recommend that my patients wear a broad-rimmed hat when they are outside during the summer months without exception. If someone looking at you can see a criss-cross pattern of sun on your face, that’s not effective enough. Here’s an example of tightly woven hats with built in sun protection: wallaroohats.com, coolibar.com, sunhatsbyronigirl.com.
  2. Of course, it goes without question that you have to wear a topical sunscreen and you should be generous with your sunscreen and reapply frequently. Many of my patients swear by mineral/physical blockers, as they find that the chemical blockers (even though they test incredibly effectively), seem to aggravate their Melasma symptoms. Think Sport and Pacifica are two brands which I regularly have in our family’s rotation.
  3. Seeking shade is non-negotiable. No matter how powerful your sunscreen, or how wide your hat, you must seek shade between the hours of 12 and 2. And not just under an umbrella. Studies show most beach umbrellas do NOT provide sufficient protection from UVA and UVB rays. I tell my patients to seek shade under a wood canopy or go indoors. REAL shade.
  4. Light reflects off of the water, so when you are swimming, even if you are wearing a hat, the rays are bouncing off the water and hitting your face. I recommend that my Melasma patients try to swim in the morning or late afternoon when the sun isn’t as strong – or opt to swim in the shady part of the pool.

Heat ExposureIf you feel heat on your face, that can make your Melasma worse. I have patients who are chefs, opening and closing the oven all day, and when they finally take a vacation from work their Melasma clears up simply because they aren’t getting that heat from the oven. Infrared heat can also make Melasma worse— that means infrared saunas and at home devices are NOT good for people prone to Melasma. Time to give up your hot yoga- most hot yoga classes are heated using IR devices. IR can also come from space heaters and certain hair dryers. Rule of thumb: if your face feels hot, chances are your Melasma is about to get worse.

Diet

  1. I recommend that my Melasma patients begin taking a Heliocare antioxidant supplement that works as a complement to your sunscreen to increase your protection from the inside out. This is not the type of “sunscreen pill” that the FDA warned about. See my post here about “sunscreen pills” (   https://drwhitneybowe.com/sunscreen-pills-are-they-putting-you-at-risk/).  Instead, Heliocare is a proven supplement, backed by science, which has shown to be highly effective.
  2. There are also some strains of probiotics that can boost the effect of your sunscreen and protect against UV rays from within. I include this information and examples in my book, The Beauty of Dirty Skin.

Thinking outside the boxUVA rays penetrate through window glass. You can get yours tinted with UV protective tints, or you can reapply your sunscreen every time you take a drive. Today, UV-screening residential and commercial film is available for home and office. UV absorbers are added to clear or tinted polyester or vinyl to create the film, which comes in varied tints, allowing 30-80 percent of visible light to get through. The installers apply it on the interior glass surface of the windows from flat sheets. Window film will help prevent sunburn and skin cancer, as well as the brief daily UV exposures that accelerate skin aging over time. To learn more, check out this link on skincancer.org.