As you may know, melasma is a skin condition that’s caused by increased melanin production which results in dark patches on the surface of the skin. These patches may develop on the forehead, the cheeks, or the nose, but can also appear on the neck and the forearms. Melasma creams aim to lighten the skin in a variety of ways, such as reducing melanin production, blocking pigment formation, encouraging cell turnover, or physically removing the dark patches.

Topical treatments are many dermatologists’ first choice for treating melasma because of the minimal side effects and well-documented track records of the ingredients in these formulations. Melasma creams are most effective in the epidermal type of melasma, the type that affects the top layer of the skin. These products can be used on their own or in combination with others, depending on skin sensitivity, skin type, and the type of melasma (Bandyopadhyay). Learn more: What kind of melasma cream should I use?

Treat your melasma… with acid? Some of the most common topical ingredients in skin lightening creams for melasma include: Hydroquinone, the first-line treatment for melasma. It works by preventing the production of tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in melanin production. By doing this, hydroquinone prevents the production of melanin and evens out the skin tone, making it a highly effective skin lightening treatment for melasma. Retinoids, compounds derived from vitamin A which are an effective solution for treating acne.

However, because of their fast cell-turnover rate, they are effective at lightening melasma, especially when combined with hydroquinone. Kojic acid is a product derived from fungi that is used in a concentration of 1% to 4%. Similar to hydroquinone, it works as a tyrosinase inhibitor. It prevents the production of melanin which results in improved complexion and even skin tone. Salicylic acid is a BHA acid mostly used in acne treatment as a peeling agent.

But its formula is quite effective for treating melasma too. It has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and can be helpful in treating melasma alongside other ingredients.

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