How Hormones Stained My Skin

There are days I like the skin I’m in, but when it comes to my face, I can count them with one hand. For the longest time, I have struggled with imperfections. While didn’t suffer from teenage acne, as an adult, my face breaks out quite regularly. It is something that happens so frequently, I have learned to manage, and after years of trying different things, I have found a skin regime that keeps most spots at bay.

Yet, as I was starting to believe I had gotten over my skin issues, I discovered some large brown patches on my upper lip, and across my forehead. These stains are called hyperpigmentation. In my case, it’s melasma. Also known as chloasma, melasma are  stains that appear mainly on someone’s face.

What causes hyperpigmentation?

Fluctuations in hormonal levels are generally to blame for the appearance of melasma1, which is why it commonly occurs during pregnancy. Yet because hormones rarely sit still, there are many other situations that will trigger melasma. Going on birth control, coming off it, or an imbalance in estrogen and progesterone can cause hyperpigmentation.

I’ve been suffering from melasma for a couple of years now. It worsens in the summer, as the sun plays an important role in triggering it. Because heat exacerbates it, it becomes very visible during the warmer months, even when wearing the strongest SPF protection.

How can you treat hyperpigmentation?

The first thing is to determine what is causing the melasma or hyperpigmentation we’re suffering. If it’s due to an underlying condition that is re-occurring, as in the case of hormonal fluctuations, treating it once probably won't be enough.

IPL therapy

IPL Intense Pulsed Light Treatment IPL2 works in a similar way to laser therapy. The main difference is that while laser therapy delivers one single wavelength of light energy, IPL delivers several. A medical professional will use a handheld device to apply the IPL treatment, heating cells in the skin, and breaking them down. The rest of the work is done by the body itself, naturally shedding the damaged tissue.

Topical treatments

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant3, protecting the skin from oxidative stress, which is responsible for the breakdown of collagen and the appearance of stains. Vitamin C also inhibits the enzyme responsible for melanin production, tyrosinase. Used daily as a serum, Vitamin C can help fade the appearance of melasma.

In my case, tretinoin or retinoic acid has been a game-changer. Applied to the skin, tretinoin can help speed our body's natural cell turnover process. This may help dark patches clear more quickly than they would on their own. Since tretinoin can be quite severe on more sensitive skin, it is always best to talk to a dermatologist, before engaging in its use.

Yet, hyperpigmentation may not go away completely

The tricky side to melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation is that the treatments mentioned above will only fix the issue temporarily. There are no miracle vanishing creams and definitively no quick fixes.

I am well aware that in my case, melasma is here to stay. I will probably never have perfect, porcelain skin and that's OK. Just like my hormonal acne, this is another issue I have to manage long-term. Knowing I can hinder its presence, is fine. Most of the time I can hide it quite well with make-up and easily forget it's there. In fact most of the time, the only person noticing my melasma is me... which is why magnifying mirrors are banned in my household.

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