When a celebrity like Jenna Dewan Tatum gets real about her skin, we take note. Especially when it’s a lesser-known skin condition, like melasma, that should rightfully have as much airtime as acne or rosacea, given that so many women suffer from it.
In an Instagram post where she posed makeup-free, Jenna revealed that after laser treatment, her skin had never looked better since suffering from melasma. We here at Byrdie HQ couldn’t agree more, as her skin looks absolutely flawless, but in case any of you are suffering from, or have suffered from melasma in the past, we decided to do a bit of research and ask an expert to weigh in.
What Exactly Is Melasma?
According to Stefanie Williams, MD, a dermatologist and author of Look Great, Not Done! ($11), melasma (also called chloasma) is harmless brown or grey patches or pigmentation that form on the skin, usually on the face. Most people get it on their cheeks, the bridge of their nose or on their chin, and it can affect anyone.
What Causes Melasma?
Williams told us that melasma can be caused by a variety of causes, including genetic predisposition, contraceptive pill, and pregnancy. Jenna struggled with the condition during and after her pregnancy, like many women. Certain skincare ingredients, such as essential oils, in combination with sun exposure, may potentially worsen melasma. However, the main causes are hormones, sun, and genetics.
How Can You Cure Melasma?
There are lots of ways to treat melasma. Jenna went down the Coolaser route, which requires the surfaces of the skin to be cooled and then a series of light pulses are flashed onto the skin’s surface. This attacks the first layer of skin cells, and stimulates the production of new collagen, leaving you with new, younger-looking skin. A moisturizing cream is then applied right after to help eliminate dryness. The benefits of the Coolaser method are that there’s little recovery time and there’s no scarring—so you can leave your treatment within 15 to 20 minutes. It is advised that you stay out of the sun, however, and a laser treatment isn’t recommended for darker or olive skin, as it can lighten your natural coloring.
How often you have the treatment is dependent on your skin’s condition, but it can be used to treat anything from crow’s feet, wrinkles or even mole removals. This treatment is currently not available in the UK, but there are other options. Microdermabrasion can help you achieve a smooth, glowing complexion, or Williams recommends trying MelaOut treatment.
The MelaOut peel, devised by Williams at the Eudelo salon, helps to neutralize the skin pigment and eradicate uneven pigmentation caused by melasma. It’s a three-step process including a Visia facial scan (so you can track the improvement), a one-hour peel and a hydrating facial. The strength of the peel is dependent on an individual’s pigmentation. If you have a dark skin tone, this is the treatment for you—as the peel, unlike laser treatment, is suitable for darker skin tones. Over the space of a one-month course, and four weeks of at-home care where you’re required to apply ingredients such as vitamin A, salicylic acid and niacinamide, alongside others, your skin can see anything from 50% to 80% improvement.
This treatment can be quite expensive (it costs around $1900), but don’t panic, as there are ways to treat melasma at home, too.
Given that certain skincare ingredients in combination with sun exposure can also contribute to dark patches, it’s important to factor SPF into your daily skincare routine. We like Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Sun Defense ($33). You can also use the right skincare ingredients to help decrease the discoloration. Vitamin C is a great place to start with pigmentation, as it helps to break down current spots and prevents new ones from forming. We love The Ordinary’s Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% ($6) for tackling an uneven skin tone.