A brief search on the internet will bring up dozens of home remedies for melasma pigmentation. Which ones work? Which ones don’t? The answer is not as straightforward as it might seem.
If a treatment hasn’t been studied in a clinical trial, then it has not been scientifically proven to be effective. That doesn’t mean that unstudied treatments do not work, the treatment just may not have been studied well yet. You may find that one of these anecdotal treatments works for you.
Now, let’s talk about some of these popular home remedies for melasma.
It seems like turmeric can be found in everything from tea to facial scrubs these days – and not without reason. In fact, curcumin (one of the primary chemicals in turmeric) has some scientific backing as to its effectiveness for skin care.
Curcumin has UV protective qualities, is an antioxidant and antimutagen, and has anti-inflammatory properties (Binic). One study found that curcumin inhibited tyrosinase and melanin production, both of which contribute to melasma (Lee). Another study found that curcumin had the potential to reduce hyperpigmentation as well as antioxidant properties (Sugiharto). Despite these initial studies, more research is needed to determine dosage, application type, and side effects.
Aloe vera gel isn’t just for sunburns – it may help treat your melasma too. Early clinical trials have demonstrated that aloe vera has many healing properties, although these haven’t been fully studied yet (Surjushe). One study found that topical administration of liposome-encapsulated aloe vera improved melasma in pregnant women with mild side effects (Ghafarzadeh).
With natural anti-inflammatory and UV-protective qualities, aloe vera may be useful as an adjunct therapy to standard treatments. Plus, aloe vera is naturally moisturizing. Since some types of melasma treatments dry out your skin, aloe vera can help rehydrate your skin.
Polypodium leucotomos may sound like a strange science fiction creature, but it’s actually a tropical fern that is another promising alternative treatment for melasma. The extract that comes from P. leucotomos has antioxidant and photoprotective qualities, both of which are important for helping fade dark patches of skin.
One study found that patients treated with oral P. leucotomos for 12 weeks reported improvements in both MASI (Melasma Area and Severity Index) score and appearance of melasma (Nestor). P. leucotomos was also found to be a beneficial adjunct therapy alongside sunscreen and a topical hydroquinone treatment (Chee-Leok). Patients from both studies reported few adverse effects, making this potential treatment safe and effective.
Apple cider is sometimes looked at as a cure-all, with many people swearing by the results of daily use for digestive health, immune health, and a myriad of other health benefits. Apple cider vinegar is also considered by some to be a treatment for melasma. The idea behind apple cider vinegar for dark patches on the skin is to use it as a bleaching agent.
Most sites recommend diluting apple cider vinegar with water in a 1:1 ratio and applying it to the hyperpigmented areas on your skin. The duration ranges from ‘until the cider vinegar is dry’ to 20+ minutes, after which the cider vinegar is washed off. This treatment is to be repeated once daily until you achieve the desired results.
Does apple cider vinegar actually treat melasma?
It isn’t clear, since this holistic treatment hasn’t been studied as of yet. With the lack of scientific studies, any evidence you see of this treatment working is anecdotal.
In separate studies of apple cider vinegar as a treatment for dermatitis and mole removal, the results found that many patients reported skin irritation, burns, and skin damage (Luu, Feldstein). Since skin irritation can make melasma worse, it may be best to skip this treatment.
The idea behind lemon juice to treat melasma is similar to that of apple cider vinegar. Many sites recommend rubbing the dark patches of skin with lemon juice and leaving it to dry before rinsing with water.
Lemon juice is thought to lighten the skin because it is a bleaching agent. Lemon juice is a popular DIY trick for brightening your laundry, but your skin is not your favorite shirt! Just like apple cider vinegar, the acidity from lemons can be harsh on the skin and cause irritation that may worsen your melasma.
It isn’t clear whether lemon juice helps or harms your journey to a clear complexion since there haven’t been any studies about the effectiveness of this type of treatment. However, this treatment may be harsh on your skin and cause more harm than good.
To be able to answer this question, we first have to consider what ‘natural’ means when it comes to skin treatments. Because this is a pretty vague term, a lot of companies and products present prescription medications as being ‘unnatural’ while touting their own untested and unregulated treatments as ‘natural’ alternatives.
If by describing something as ‘natural’ we mean that it comes from something in nature, then many of the most common medications used in the world of skincare are actually natural. At Kirsch Dermatology, we believe in harnessing these naturally-occurring ingredients for their well-studied therapeutic effects. Additional ingredients are used to keep the natural components in your medication stable and safe for your use.
Hydroquinone and azelaic acid, which are common skin fading ingredients, are derived from wax produced by bees and by certain yeast species respectively.
Adapalene, a biologically active form of vitamin A, is another ingredient in our custom preparations. This ingredient works by preventing the transfer of pigment between skin cells and promotes skin exfoliation. With these two actions, it speeds up the resolution of dark patches in the skin.
Ascorbic acid, another of the Kirsch Dermatology active ingredients, is a naturally occurring water-soluble vitamin (Vitamin C). It plays a key role in disrupting the production of more pigment in the skin and is another key part of our nature-fuelled prescription melasma cream.
Regardless of what type of melasma treatment you choose, minimizing your exposure to the sun is by far the best strategy to avoid the onset or worsening of skin pigmentation. We recommend staying indoors or covered during the hours of peak UV exposure (11am – 2pm), using physical barriers to avoid sun exposure such as protective clothing and sun umbrellas, and wearing a physical sunscreen containing zinc or titanium.
A prescription-strength melasma cream is another great way to help you restore your radiant complexion. A group of new companies or a board certified dermatologist can help with personalized formulations delivered directly to your door or to a nearby pharmacy.