Getting Rid of Melasma

Melasma - Brown Spots - Before Treatment

I’ve had freckles for as long as I can remember, but at some point the cute little spots grew, clumped together, and turned into big brown spots also known of as Melasma. Over the years I kept skin condition at bay with various over-the-counter potions, one of which I write about in the post A Skin Care Odyssey, but then I got lazy, and the spots grew and grew and got really bad.  They got so bad my father was worried, so I decided to see a dermatologist to make sure that the problem was only cosmetic, and to see if there was a prescription-grade formula that would tame the spots into submission. It turns out there’s a lot you can do to treat Melasma, but although I wanted to write about it I simply don’t feel that I am enough of an expert on the subject, so I will turn it over to dermatologist Doctor Lisa Rhodes, who was kind enough to submit this guest post on how to effectively treat Melasma.

Treating Melasma

After developing several brown spots on her face Heather decided to see a dermatologist for treatment. The diagnosis: Melasma, a common condition that results in irregular hyperpigmentation (tan or dark discoloration) usually in the facial region. You can learn more about Melsama here.

Probably one of the best options for treating Melsama is the simple use of Hydroquinone, a skin lightening cream, for about two and a half months. Hydroquinone is a cream with skin bleaching or lightening properties. Basically hydroquinone helps with various hyperpigmentation conditions (melasma, “sun spots”, “age spots” and freckles) by blocking the process in the skin that leads to discoloration.  Some hydroquinone cream also contains sunscreens (SPF) to prevent the reappearance of spots from UV ray exposure.

The cream is applied twice a day during the weekdays (Heather got to take a break on the weekends). She’s been using the cream for several weeks and thus far it’s worked really well:

Melasma: Before and After Melasma: Before and After

Adding Retinol to this treatment mix could make the hydroquinone treatment more effective. Retinol promotes the absorption of the hydroquinone into the skin, boosting the results of the treatment. Retinol also helps with cell turnover (when older cells are eliminated and replaced with newly generated cells) to help the skin renew. Depending on how her skin reacts to the hydroquinone Retinol may or may not be added to the mix.

Do you have any pigmentation related spots that you want removed? I would encourage any readers with similar issues to consult a certified dermatologist. Today’s treatments for many of these issues are incredibly easy and effective.

About The Author

Dr. Lisa Rhodes is Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology and practices medical dermatology at Westlake Dermatology.


Getting rid of Melasma

After three months of using a topical Hydroquinone cream I went back to see my dermatologist and she was very happy with the results. To continue eliminating my faded, but still visible, brown spots I will be mixing the same cream I used before with a Retinol cream about every other night for another three months. I doubt I’ll every be completely brown spot free, after all I am freckly by nature, but I now can cover up the brown spots pretty easily with makeup. So you know these photos were all taken without a drop of cosmetic enhancement! That’s the real me. No foundation, good lighting, or fancy Instagram filters.

Do you have brown spots? Have you ever had them treated by a dermatologist?

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25 Responses to Getting Rid of Melasma

  1. Bella Q, The Citizen Rosebud
    November 22, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    SOLD. I do have worsening age spots and have tried various methods, but no real permanent success. I love how even your complexion is and yet still has the charming freckles. I’m in. Will research more. Thanks for sharing.
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    • Heather Fonseca November 28, 2013 at 10:41 am #

      Hi Bella! Let me know if you try it out and if it works for you. My dermatologist did tell me that there is no permanent cure to melasma. They come back if they’re not treated constantly, but I hope to be able to switch to a lighter, over the counter, product once the spots are light enough. Also, the cream I’m using comes in a small tube, but I’ve been using it almost every night for three months and there’s still plenty left. I only say that because although my insurance covered the tube and it only cost $30 for me, my Mother-in-law’s insurance didn’t cover it and it cost her $90. So it can be kind of expensive.

  2. Greetje Kamminga November 22, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    Ohhwww.. I just saw the doctor to check whether I did not have any dangerous spots on my body. Luckily I did not. But I do have large, really large age spots on face and legs. It would be breat to get rid of them . I will ask her for a note to see a dermatologist. To speak with Bella: SOLD.
    Your spots really are almost gone!
    I did have some of those spider vains removed from my legs. They injected the vains with some stuff that makes the vains shrink. In and out the door in fifteen minutes. I should have taken before pictures. Stupid of me. Would have made a nice post.

    • Heather Fonseca November 28, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      I’ve had my spider veins injected too, but it was many years ago. I suppose I should have it done again. Maybe one day. I guess I’m just not that worried about the look of my legs, especially since I don’t wear short skirts as much as I once did. But you should try the cream if you can get it in the EU. I’d love to hear if it works for you.

      • Greetje Kamminga November 29, 2013 at 12:52 am #

        I am goiing to a dermatologist and ask. And my spider vains were at my ankle. My husband was asking me how I missed that spot while shaving…..!! That got me in the action mode.

        • Heather Fonseca November 29, 2013 at 9:30 am #

          Oh, I see why you got those spider veins removed! Mine are all up on my thigh – much easier to hide!

  3. une femme d'un certain âge November 22, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Your skin looks great! I have a hormonal melasma on one cheek which hasn’t responded to anything topical. 🙁 IPL laser treatment did lighten it somewhat.
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    • Heather Fonseca November 28, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      A lot of women have written in to tell me that hydroquinone didn’t work for them, and my dermatologist did tell me that for some women the melasma is too deep, and it doesn’t respond to the topical treatment. I’m afraid you’re probably stuck with the laser treatment, but gosh it’s painful! I’m glad I didn’t have to go through it to remove the spots.

  4. MARLA ROBINSON November 22, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    You look beautiful. Wonderful results.

  5. Katie November 23, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Very timely post for me, have just been investigating what to do about my dark spots. But hydraquinone is not without controversy – it would be great if your dermatologist could do a follow up post regarding safety concerns as the results are fantastic and just what I am after but I am not sure I would want to take the risk! Thank you 🙂

    • Heather Fonseca November 28, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      Hi Katie, I didn’t have any problems myself with the hydraquinone nor do I know anyone who has had problems with it, however I know there are always side effects to medicine. I will ask my dermatologist about it. Thanks!

  6. popcosmo November 25, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    First of all, your skin is amazing!! Gorgeous – and no need for makeup at all!!!
    Ditto all the above, but I also think mine are hormonal because they are not responding to hydroquinone and came after children. But I haven’t combined it with retinol, and perhaps, occasionally, I skip it. Just maybe. I might give it another go for 3 months (I guess that’s the magic number?) and see what happens, thanks for the inspiration! If mine could look like yours, I’d be thrilled!!!
    xo ~kim (and chloe)

    • Heather Fonseca November 28, 2013 at 10:31 am #

      Thank you Kim! My dermatologist told me that the topical hydroquinone doesn’t work if the melasma is too deep in the epidermis. In those cases all that works is laser treatment, and laser treatment HURTS. (I know. Tried it on some scars. It’s panful.) I guess my melasma was right on the surface because the cream worked really well. However I was very diligent in applying the cream every weeknight for the whole three months. I’m now using Retin-A as well. So far so good.

  7. Stacey - Total City Girl
    December 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    Glad the treatment is working for you!
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    • Heather Fonseca December 7, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      Thanks Stacey. I’ve started with the Retin-A but I haven’t been as religious about applying it. Sigh. My skin does look better, so much so that I’m not as motivated to apply every night.

  8. Melasma Treatment December 13, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    Snaps are clearly showing the effects of melasma treatment. Such a effective medical technology invented. Melasma is common skin problem effected by sun rays, unbalanced hormones or using bad skin products. It is also refer as “pregnancy mask”.

  9. Nicole February 21, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your story. Many women suffer from melanoma, and some are unfortunately ashamed of this very common skin condition. Good thing you got your under control and found a remedy that worked.

    • Heather Fonseca February 25, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

      Hi Nicole, yeah, I was horrified when the brown spots first appeared. It’s scary, but that’s one of the reasons I decided to post my story. Melasma isn’t life-threatening, and it’s treatable.

  10. indy22 February 24, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    I spent thousands on laser treatments for melasma (dark spots on skin due to sun and hormones). The laser helped but the Made from Earth Skin Correcting Mist eliminates. I use it twice a day – morning and night.

    I also used to use Retin A, but again the Made from Earth Correcting Mist worked so much better. Dark spots gone in 2-3 weeks.

    • Heather Fonseca February 25, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

      Hi Indy22. Thanks for the suggestions.

  11. Barbs June 10, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

    Hi Heather,
    I have Melasma on both cheeks and have tried different skin care to get rid of my Melasma. Right now, I’m using a night dream with retinol by
    Mary Kay for 2 weeks now. You’ve been mentioning about hydraquinone, will that be available over the counter? Any particular brand name that you could recommend to me?


  12. ema August 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Being someone who has been to the dermatologist to battle my melasma and dark spots, I have to recommend to you the Lady Soma Renewal Serum (w/ hyaluronic acid). Its the only over the counter product that has actually worked! The spots are not gone but significantly faded to where you do not notice them after putting on my makeup. I tried Nerium for a month and it did nothing!! Nothing completely disappears without major dermatological help but the Lady Soma Serum has done exactly what I wanted it to do.

    It took about 3 weeks to see results so hang in there and stay out of the sun.

  13. john ridgway March 31, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    Deal with same issue using hydroquinone now going to use retinol also your skin looks great. My hope is decent results didn’t want the risk of IPL. I also love my white goatee and didn’t want hair loss. I also want to add your green eyes are drop dead gorgeous lol just had to tell you