I’ve been getting so many questions about which skincare ingredients are most effective when dealing with melasma, or the type of hyperpigmentation known as the “pregnancy mask.” 

Overall, the strategic combination of complementary ingredients to target different aspects of melasma is, in my opinion, the best approach. Here’s why: some ingredients slow down pigment production, while others stop the transfer of pigment from the melanin producing cells to the other cells in the skin. Other ingredients help exfoliate away the uppermost layers of pigment-stained skin, and others act as antioxidants, neutralizing the free radicals and oxidative stress that makes melasma worse. So, combinations are going to be more effective than single modalities.

But, it’s a delicate balance because we don’t want to overdo it with potentially irritating ingredients. If you cause too much irritation in the skin, this can make melasma worse. 

In this post, I’ll cover both products you can get online or in stores, and ingredients that come in prescription strength, through your doctor. I’ve put together a list of the ingredients I find most effective in addressing melasma, and of course, I’ve added products in each category that I love to use:

Glycolic acid and/or lactic acid: 

While in office peels are going to get you more dramatic results more quickly, you can absolutely see improvements using at home peels if you use them right! 

First, look for ingredients like glycolic acid and lactic acid. If you have oily skin, you might enjoy a peel with salicylic acid, but that can be drying in more sensitive, dry skin types.

The peels you purchase online or over the counter, that are meant for at home use, tend to be much weaker than in office peels. However, you can still run into trouble. At home peels contain many of the same ingredients as in-office peels, so they do come with a risk of burn or skin irritation if used improperly.

Despite what the instructions say, the first time you use one of these at home peels, consider leaving it on for 5 minutes and then rinsing off, and immediately applying a moisturizer – this is the recommendation I make to my patients. This short exposure is a “test run” for your skin to see how you tolerate that peel. Another good rule of thumb is that tingling is ok, but stinging/burning is NOT ok.  If you feel anything more than a tingle, then wash it off immediately and apply a nourishing moisturizer. Burning does NOT mean it’s working- it means it’s triggering too much inflammation in your skin and that can make your melanocytes react by pumping out MORE pigment.  

If your skin feels healthy and you don’t experience any stinging/burning or red blotches in the days following the first peel trial, then you can consider leaving the product on the skin either for 10 minutes, or even overnight, depending on the strength of the product and how sensitive your skin tends to be. The goal is to try to work your way up to using one of these products twice a week at night, with each application spaced 3-4 nights apart.  

Some of my favorite at home peels are:

Moon Juice Acid Potion Resurfacing Exfoliator: (glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid)

Skin Fix Correct+ Dark Spot Corrector: (glycolic acid and lactic acid) 

Herbivore Botanicals Prism 12% Exfoliating Serum: (lactic, glycolic, and malic acids)

Vit C and other antioxidants (turmeric, Vitamin E, honey)

Cover FX Brightening Booster Drops (these drops have an oil soluble derivative of vitamin C called Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate.  It’s one of the most stable forms of vitamin C and stability is critical for vitamin C because it is prone to oxidation)  

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic with 15% L-ascorbic acid. (Strong science behind this one, but note that it is expensive)

Bakuchiol (a retinol alternative)

Check out my full blog post on this topic HERE.

Other topical ingredients to consider: azeleic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, licorice root extract, mulberry extract and tranexamic acid, arbutin and soy. Licorice root seems to be more soothing, while niacinamide can cause irritation in some people. Topical tranexamic acid can sometimes help, but can also cause some irritation. Topical use is much less effective than when I prescribe tranexamic acid orally (more on this immediately below).

Turning to Prescription strength topical ingredients to address melasma:

In my office, I’ll often compound or blend my own prescription strength ingredients for my melasma patients.  Oftentimes, these products combine tretinoin or tazorac (forms of prescription strength vit A) with hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is a controversial ingredient with some very real side effects, so I strongly discourage anyone from using this ingredient if they are not under the direct supervision of a dermatologist. I have an entire post on the safety of hydroquinone here.  I talk about the risks and benefits of these treatments with my patients, and customize my approach for each patient based on their pigment pattern, medical history, budget and comfort level.

For info on how to address your melasma from the inside out through diet and supplements, check back soon!

Dr. Whitney

 

Guest post by Amy Rains of Wholesomelicious.

Dandelion Greens pack a powerful nutritious punch to your berry smoothie. You’ll love the delicious taste of this refreshing smoothie, and the many health benefits. A perfect healthy breakfast smoothie to kick start your busy morning!

I owe this gorgeous looking, refreshing tasting, nutrient dense, and deliciously tasty Dandelion Greens Smoothie to Dr. Whitney Bowe. Let’s get down right nutritiously nerdy on this Friday afternoon and talk two of my favorite topics: prebiotics and antioxidants!

Before we do, did you read my Avocado Truffles post last week?? I introduced you Dr. Whitney. She is one of the most in-demand dermatologists in the country, and specializes in the link between nutrition and proper skin care.

YES!!!!!!!

A leader in her field, and author of the brand new book,The Beauty of Dirty Skin. Both this Dandelion Green Smoothie and Avocado Truffles are all part of Dr. Whitney’s 21 day plan; healing the gut through nutritious foods!

Dandelion Greens Smoothie from The Beauty of Dirty Skin

Let’s talk a little prebiotics here. We all hear plenty about probiotics, but prebiotics are just as important! All prebiotics are a form of fiber that we cannot digest, but they get consumed by the “good” bugs in our gut to benefit us. As our gut metabolize these otherwise non digestible foods, they produce short-chain fatty acids that help us meet our own energy needs. The more prebiotics we can feed our body, the healthier the gut!! Although not all forms of fiber act as a prebiotic, dandelion greens are one of the best sources and work perfectly in a smoothie or salad.

With the addition of berries, this smoothie is also packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants supply the rich and vibrant pigment of foods. Antioxidants are essential when it comes to radiant, healthy skin! They pack a powerful punch to fight free radicals (highly reactive forms of oxygen that can destroy cell membranes, and other structures including DNA and collagen). You can read more about the importance of antioxidants on healthy skin on Dr. Whitney’s blog post here.

A healthy dose of prebiotics for the gut, a huge boost of antioxidants, and delicious!! Did I mention protein packed, too? I used a scoop of marine based collagen for an additional nutritional boost. Dr. Whitney explains that collagen protein or a plant based protein should be used in place of whey because of its strong link to acne!

I loved this refreshing smoothie 3x this week as a post workout treat. But this works perfectly for a nutritious on-the-go breakfast, or even afternoon snack.

Enjoy my friends!

Print Recipe


This post was originally published on April 27th on wholesomelicious.com.

Not only did leading NYC dermatologist and author of “The Beauty of Dirty Skin,” Dr. Whitney Bowe, walk us through her three-week probiotic skin care plan AND teach us why we need to love having a little bit of dirt on our skin, she also shared her antioxidant face mask with us.

(Spoiler alert: It only has THREE ingredients!)

“One of my favorite power-packed antioxidant skin masks is simple and easy to make but will leave your face feeling radiant and renewed! Cranberries and apples are rich in wrinkle-fighting antioxidants, including vitamin C, which helps collagen production and strengthens your hair and nails. Almond oil is packed with vitamin E, which softens and smooths the skin, improves tone and complexion, and has been shown to slow down the visible signs of aging.”
– Dr. Whitney Bowe

I love Valentine’s Day. It’s not only a day to share love with my family and friends, but it’s also my birthday. In honor of this celebratory day, you have doctor’s orders to indulge for glowing skin!

Today’s post highlights three of my favorite Valentine’s Day Treats -champagne, strawberries, and chocolate – and how each benefits your skin, including DIY options, which I know we all love.

STRAWBERRIES

Strawberries contain alpha-hydroxy acids which act as a natural exfoliant, sloughing off dead skin cells in a very gentle way so the skin is smooth and soft. Strawberries also have skin-lightening properties thanks to their ellagic acid, which is great for evening out skin tone. They are also high in antioxidants that protect the skin from sun damage and pollution. The pigment that makes strawberries red actually neutralizes free radicals and protects the skin from environmental stressors.

Best Ways to Eat Them:

  • Add strawberries to smoothies, rather than fruit or vegetables juices, to keep as much of their nutritional value as possible. Juicing gets rid of the pulp, and there’s a lot of good stuff, including fiber, in the pulp.
  • When it is not peak season, look for frozen strawberries. Berries are frozen at the peak of freshness, so they retain their nutritional value longer.
  • Avoid processed, strawberry flavored, treats or sauces as they are often high in sugar and void of nutrients.

DIY Options:

  1. Strawberry Hair Mask: Blend 2-3 strawberries with an egg yolk and a few drops of olive oil. Massage into scalp for 10 minutes then rise away with shampoo. The hydroxyl acids in the strawberries are great for gently sloughing off dandruff flakes.
  2. Rough ‘n’ Tough Foot Scrub: Thoroughly mash 6-8 ripe strawberries and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of coarse salt, and mix well. Soak feet in warm water for about 10 minutes and gently scrub your feet with the mixture. Wash feet clean with cold water.

CHAMPAGNE

Enjoy your bubbly AND have glowing skin!

Skin benefits of drinking champagne: champagne contains resveratrol, a potent antioxidant that is key for anti-aging benefits. For topical treatments, the polyphenols found in champagne help reduce inflammation and skin redness, while the tartaric acid evens out tone.

Best Way to Drink It:

  • add sliced strawberries for added flavonoids.

DIY Options:

  1. Hair treatment: Champagne is great for helping you achieve smooth and silk hair, especially for blondes. Just mix one-half cup of champagne with one-half cup of hot water and distribute evenly throughout your hair. Let it marinate before rising with and styling as usual.
  2. Skin Toner: mix an antioxidant-rich Sparkling Wine Toner, ideal for normal to oily skin. Just soak a cotton pad in chilled sparkling wine and wipe thoroughly across a cleansed face, neck and décolleté. Just remember that alcohol can be drying, so only use this treatment 1-2 times per week and be sure to follow with moisturizer.

CHOCOLATE (of course)

The key is that not all chocolates are created equal. Cocoa beans fresh from the tree are very rich in flavanoids. Flavonoids are plant-derived antioxidants that are the main reason why beautifully colored flower petals can bake for hours in the blazing sun without drying out or being damaged by harmful UV rays. The process used to make conventional chocolate strips the chocolate of these potent antioxidants. Thus, white chocolate and milk chocolate hardly contain any flavanoids at all! The highest flavonoid content is in the darkest of chocolate containing at least 70 percent cacao (cocoa) or in cocoa powder. This type of chocolate is high quality and even tastes a bit bitter (but still delicious).

The Yummy Facts (Studies):

  • A London study compared a group of subjects who ate flavanol-rich dark chocolate with a group of subjects who ate standard milk chocolate for a three month period. Over the 12 week period, the milk chocolate group was no more or less protected from UV radiation. However, the high flavanol chocolate group DOUBLED their protection from UV radiation as compared to the baseline. In other words, they could spend TWICE as much time in the sun before they started to see a burn! The study found that eating this type of dark chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light and sunburn!
  • Another study in Korean women ages 43-86 showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for 24 weeks had positive effects on facial wrinkles, skin roughness, hydration AND skin elasticity.

Now, even though these findings are so exciting given my love for chocolate, we can’t go overboard. Chocolate is high in sugar and eating processed sugar leads to inflammation and the risk of increasing the potential for acne and other inflammatory conditions like heart disease or diabetes. I eat a square or two per night after dinner and really try to savor them!

DIY Option:

While you are eating your rich, dark chocolate, you can also indulge in a rejuvenating chocolate face mask which will leave your skin refreshed and radiant!

  • 2 Ingredient Chocolate Face Mask: Mix 1 tablespoon warmed coconut oil with 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder until creamy. Apply to face with brush or fingers and let sit for 15-20 minutes before washing off with a warm wash cloth.

Did you know that antioxidants supply the rich, colorful pigments that make our fruits and veggies so vibrant? The brighter the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidants it contains. For instance, lycopene makes tomatoes and watermelon red, and beta-carotene gives carrots and sweet potatoes their orangey hue.

In Antioxidants 101, I explained why antioxidants are so critical to restoring and maintaining your skin’s health. Now, I’m going to give you the scoop on how to get the right antioxidants into your diet to help you achieve your glowing skin goals.

Here’s my list of 5 antioxidants which boost your skin’s health and where you can find them:

  • Vitamin C, to help synthesize collagen and prevent and treat UV-induced damage: Vitamin C is found in oranges, red peppers, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, strawberries, grapefruit, guava
  • Lycopene, to help stabilize DNA structures in the nuclei of skin cells and promote smoother skin: Mostly found in tomatoes, small amounts in guava, watermelon, and pink grapefruit
  • Polyphenols, to help repair damaged skin and restore elasticity: These are the flavonoids and catechins (powerful antioxidants) found in green tea, dark chocolate, blackberries, cherries, guava, and apples.
  • Zinc, to help support antioxidant pathways overall: Oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains
  • Vitamin E, one of the most important antioxidants in the skin: it protects sebum from inflammatory damage, found in: almonds, spinach, sweet potato, avocado, sunflower seeds. olive oil.

And, in very exciting news -here’s our twist- sunscreen dietary supplements are starting to emerge on the market which are based on the power of antioxidants. As I share on my Dr. Whitney’s Picks Page, which is a curated collection of my favorite products backed by strong science, Heliocare dietary supplements are a patented specialized extract of Polypodium leucotomos (PLE), a tropical fern native to Central and South America that has been used for centuries as a remedy for skin related conditions. The science behind Heliocare is strong and solid, which is critical to me when I recommend a product to people who trust me or use it myself.

Made of a powerful blend of antioxidants, Heliocare protects your skin from the inside out from free radicals. Those free radicals can come from UV light, infrared light, visible light, pollution, or even from our natural metabolic processes. Heliocare is one extra layer of protection against premature signs of aging, including brown spots, and skin cancer. I suggest that my patients take one pill every morning. If you’re heading out in the sun, consider taking 2 each morning. But it’s not a substitute for sunscreen. It’s meant to work synergistically with sunscreen.

So, there you have it! Not only will your body feel energized and strong by these antioxidant-packed picks, but your skin will thank you, too! Next up: which antioxidants you should be incorporating into your skincare routine, including product recommendations. Stay tuned!

Antioxidants are absolutely essential when it comes to radiant, healthy skin. Let’s start with what antioxidants do: antioxidants pack a powerful punch to fight free radicals. Free radicals are like bullets or missiles, and they destroy everything in their path. They are highly reactive forms of oxygen whose effects can damage cell membranes and other structures in the body, including DNA and collagen. Free radicals come from both normal metabolic processes such as exercise and respiration, but they also come from external sources such as pollution and the sun. When you are exposed to a lot of free radicals, it means you are suffering from oxidative stress, and too much oxidative stress can lead to premature aging, skin cancer, and chronic skin conditions like acne. The take home message here: we do not like free radicals.

Enter antioxidants! Antioxidants help squelch and neutralize free radicals so they stop them from damaging your skin. Studies show that antioxidants not only slow down the development of wrinkles and age spots, but they also fight against skin cancer and even keep inflammatory skin conditions under control—conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. The take home message here: we love antioxidants!

When it comes to addressing skin conditions, antioxidants are key! For example, because antioxidants help control inflammation, if you’re prone to any skin issue rooted in inflammation- which can mean eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis – they will help relieve those stubborn conditions.

Antioxidants are also proving to be helpful in combating acne. New evidence suggests that free radicals and oxidative stress play a role in the initiation of acne. It is now documented that people with acne tend to have lower levels of cellular antioxidants and higher levels of markers of oxidative damage. We are learning that inflammation is actually one of the very first steps in the acne process. One theory is that free radical damage to skin’s natural oil, or sebum, appears to be a match that lights the inflammatory process. The process is called “lipid peroxidation,” or “sebum oxidation.” If we can stop this process from happening, could we possibly prevent acne from spinning out of control? Based on this exciting new knowledge, I recommend my acne-prone patients in particular make sure they are getting plenty of antioxidants.

And last but not least, numerous studies have demonstrated that antioxidants can slow down or even reverse signs of aging including fine lines, wrinkles, and brown spots. They do so primarily by protecting the skin from the ravages of sunburn, inflammation, and DNA damage.

So, it’s clear that antioxidants are important for your skin’s health. But, the question I get all the time in my office is – what’s the best way to get them? Should you use antioxidants topically through skincare products or orally through what you eat?

The answer is: BOTH.

Antioxidants are unstable, and they get used up very quickly, especially if you produce or are exposed to lots of free radicals. So it’s critical to replenish your antioxidant stores both internally and externally morning and night, and even more frequently if you engage in intense exercise, live in an urban center with lots of pollution in the air, or expose your skin to the sun.

For specific product recommendations, keep your eye on my Dr. Whitney’s Picks page and sign up for my VIP newsletter because I will be sharing much more on this topic with my VIPs!

The New Year is the perfect time to try new things! One of my favorite, power-packed antioxidant masks is so simple and easy to make, but will leave your skin feeling refreshed, radiant and renewed! Here’s what you need:

CRANBERRY-APPLE ANTIOXIDANT POWER MASK

Three Simple Ingredients:

1 grated apple

½ cup fresh or frozen (defrosted) cranberries)

1 tbsp. almond oil

To Make:

Blend all ingredients in a blender until you have a paste consistency- should be a bit thick.

Spread on clean skin, leave on for three to five minutes, then rinse off with warm water.

Key Ingredients to Nourish your Skin:

Cranberries and apples are rich in wrinkle fighting antioxidants, including Vitamin C which helps collagen production and strengthens your hair and nails.

Almond Oil is packed with Vitamin E and softens and smooths the skin, improves tone and complexion and has been shown to slow down the visible signs of aging.

@DrWhitneyBowe

Instagram

Sign up to get FREE ACCESS to my TWO EXCLUSIVE eBOOKS: (1) My Top Sunscreen Picks for 2020 and (2) My Signature BOWE GLOW BOOTCAMP to jump start your healthy glow today!

This site offers health, wellness, fitness and nutritional information for educational purposes only. The information on this website is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

© 2019 - Dr. Whitney Bowe

Terms of Use

Join my email community

Become a Bowe Glow Insider! Sign up to have access to exclusive news, VIP product giveaways and events, and early access to glowing skin tips and videos!

Sign up to get FREE ACCESS to my exclusive BOWE GLOW BOOTCAMP e-book to JUMP START YOUR HEALTHY GLOW TODAY!