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Melasma is a condition where the skin develops dark patches on the cheeks, nose, forehead, and other parts of the body. Pregnant women and women taking contraceptives may suffer from it. It can also be a result of hormonal changes in the body, or as a reaction due to sun exposure. Melasma is graded by how far it has penetrated into the skin: in the first stage, only the epidermis is affected. In the next stage, it proceeds down to the dermis and will be harder to treat. So success depends on how early you start treatment.

There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter treatments that have been developed, which have various levels of success in making the skin tone more even. Cosmeticians and dermatologists say that a person should try several such products, and then decide by trial-and-error which one is the most effective on their skin. These whitening compounds can also be effective in people suffering from hyperpigmentation, acne, freckles, and other skin discoloration.   

We’ve composed this buyer’s guide to help you make the right decision when selecting a melasma cream. It’ll help you:

  • Choose the right type of melasma cream,

  • See useful tips about that particular type of melasma cream,

  • Read reviews of different melasma creams, and what customers are saying,

  • Select the right brand of melasma cream, and

  • Compare prices and find the best deals.

Types of
Melasma Creams

Topical treatments for melasma will usually contain one of the following active ingredients:

  • Hydroquinone (abbreviated HQ): This is a compound that can be applied in the form of a cream, or taken orally. It inhibits the body’s production of melanin pigment–thus whitening the skin. Whitening creams will have a very low percentage of HQ (between 0.1- 6 %) because it can cause the skin to be sensitive to sun exposure. Extended use has even been linked to cancer, so that would require a doctor’s prescription.

  • AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid): These are a family of compounds that are used in chemical peels, as well as in products that reduce wrinkles and lines. One example of an AHA is Glycolic Acid, which is usually derived from sugar cane. Other AHAs include lactic acid (derived from milk), citric acid (derived from citrus fruits), and malic acid (from apples). Depending on the concentration, AHA will exfoliate the skin, but it can also make the skin softer and smoother, and make age spots fade. These compounds can cause sensitivity of the skin to sunlight–so you have to include a sunscreen to prevent damage from sun exposure.

  • Antioxidants: There are products, such as the Canae Dark Spot Corrector which employs Vitamin C, which is known for its antioxidant properties. It protects the skin from ultraviolet light and reverses skin damage due to sun exposure. Products with such antioxidants in concentrations of 8% or more will thus help reduce melasma, dark spots, and freckles. Another brand, Health Priority Natural Products, uses the antioxidant Vitamin E in their Melasma Exfoliating Toner for treating discolored skin.

What reviewers say

  • Expect some peeling at first: A woman who suffered from severe melasma said that the Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum with Hydroquinone worked wonders on her skin, where all else had failed–even laser treatment would only make the condition worse. The hydroquinone caused the discolored skin to peel, revealing more evenly colored skin underneath.

  • Apply the treatment nightly: It is recommended to apply a melasma cream nightly, before going to bed, for a few days. Another suggestion is to apply a moisturizer with the melasma treatment at night, and a sunscreen or sunblock during the day.


Important Features

  • Natural ingredients: You’d be surprised how many treatments for melasma are from purely natural sources. One primary ingredient is bearberry extract. The fruit and leaves of the Bearberry plant have been used as a diuretic and to treat urinary tract infections. But the leaves are a source of hydroquinone and have been used as an antibacterial compound. So, it’s not uncommon to see it as a source of the active ingredient in a cream for melasma. Also, the bearberry plant produces the chemical arbutin, which also has a skin lightening effect. That’s the active ingredient in Variety Etc.’s Melasma Brightening Cream.

  • How fast to see results: The makers of Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum say that their product will produce more even-colored skin within 6 weeks of use. Others, such as Variety Etc. Melasma Brightening Cream, say that their product will give results in 11 days!

  • Protect skin from UV exposure: Since sun exposure, and ultraviolet rays particularly, make melasma worse, you have to protect your skin from sun exposure. It’s recommended to use sunscreen if you suffer from melasma, and especially if the treatment you choose uses AHAs, which increase sun sensitivity.

Top-Rated Brands

  • ISME is a Thai cosmetic company, established in 1990 in Bangkok, Thailand. They produce a wide range of herbal cosmetics and spa products. They make creams for oral health, facial and hair care, body care, oils, and balms. They make creams that whiten and cleanse the skin.

  • Porcelain Skin is a brand of skin whitening serum, chemical peels, post-peel neutralizer, anti-aging serum, and more. They are produced by the company Naked Face.

  • Health Priority Natural Products are located in San Diego, California. They make a series of products that are Vitamin E-based, utilizing its antioxidant properties to fight the effects of aging, dark spots, sun damage, stretch marks, acne, and more.

  • Admire My Skin was founded by Amy and Craig Romero of Palm Beach, Florida. They are nature enthusiasts, who developed products to reduce skin aging, skin damage, acne, and melasma.

  • Emma Cardinelli is a manufacturer of skin lightening treatments. Their treatment removes dark spots and brown skin discolorations by means of hydroquinone and Glycolic Acid. They also make anti-aging products and compounds that make wrinkles less pronounced.

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