Best Melasma Treatment – The Complete Guide To Get Rid Of Melasma

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We all hate hyperpigmentation. In fact it’s our worst nightmare when it comes to skincare, not only will it give the skin an uneven dull look, but also increase self-consciousness and reduce self-confidence. But as for as skincare in concern, we are all prone to hyperpigmentation — that’s the ugly reality. But thank goodness for skin brightening ingredients that helps fights hyperpigmentation, reduce its visible-appearance thereby improving skin luminosity. — We’ve put together a detailed article on hyperpigmentation and how to get rid of it when it occurs.


In this content, we shall be talking about melasma – which has been another menace in skincare (behind acne). Infact, it’s arguably one of the most annoying skincare issues, because it’s a very stubborn discoloration to treat.

So, if you’ve got melasma and have been seeking for a means to get rid of it, – you’ve hit the right page. This article comprises the complete guide on the best melasma treatment. Keep reading to learn more. 

What Is Melasma?

Melasma is a pigmentation that causes discoloration on the affected area of the skin. 

It arises as a result of overproduction of melanin from sun exposure or due to hormonal changes during pregnancy. Women are much more likely to develop melasma than men.

What Causes Melasma?

The two main causes of melasma are sun exposure and change in hormones. 

  • Sun exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun stimulates the melanocytes which tends to darken, or leave patch-like discoloration on the skin. 
  • Change in hormones: Pregnant women often get melasma, no wonder melasma is often called the “mask of pregnancy“. Hormonal changes during pregnancy stimulate a temporary increase in the amount of melanin your body produces.
  • Skin care products: skincare topicals can worsen the looks of melasma, especially if a product irritates your skin, melasma can worsen.

Also, inappropriate use of skincare products suchlike acids like AHAs & BHA can trigger melasma, as this tends to burn the skin and as a result of skin Inflammatory response leads to inflammatory-irritation by leaving dark patches on the skin. 

What Does Melasma Looks Like?

Melasma often appears as a grayish-brown, mask-like patches on the cheeks, bridge of the nose, chin, forehead, and above upper lip. They can appear as flat patches or freckle-like spots

How To Treat Melasma. 

In order to tackle melasma squarely, you need a dedicated skincare routine for it. And that involves the best melasma treatment by incorporating heavy-hitter skin de-pigmenting and cell turnover or regeneration ingredients. But be warned: You don’t want to overdo it since inflammation can trigger melanocytes and end up worsening your melasma. 

You should also keep in mind that while treating melasma, you should keep extreme-religious application of your sunscreen. As sunscreen does the main job by protecting the skin from sun exposure which prevent sun damages that triggers melasma. Daily use of sunscreen during the day also helps prevent future occurrences of sun damages while treating melasma. You wouldn’t want to ruin your skincare-efforts right? 

Melasma Skincare Routine – Night-Time (PM). 

Step 1: Take-Off Your Makeup.

To commence your melasma night-time skincare routine, first thing first, take off your makeup (if you have any on)

You need to take off your makeup using a makeup remover or makeup remover wipes. If you wore a waterproof makeup, then take it off using a waterproof makeup remover. Taking off your makeup relieves your pores of clogs, dirt and oil (attached to the makeup) along side removal of your sunscreen.

Step 2: Double Cleanse

Start-off your melasma night-time routine with double cleansing. As regards to standard skincare routine, double-cleansing is important. It’s a practice of cleansing the skin twice, first with an oil-based cleanser, then secondly with a water-based cleanser. The reason for this is to ensure an adequate cleansing, as the oil-based cleanser helps breaks down make-up, oil, sticky-dirt and sunscreen residue applied during the day, while the water-based cleanser helps rinse them all off, mildly exfoliate the skin, unclog pores and also targets acne. 

For the oil-based cleanser, The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser is recommended, while for Water-based cleanser – Recommended CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

How To Cleanse.

Squeeze out a reasonable amount (careful not to squeeze out too much) a little goes along way.

Gently massage it on your face for 2 minutes, then rinse off. After that, proceed to your water-based cleanser. 

Step 3: Treat.

In this step, you’re going to treat your melasma using two melasma or hyperpigmentation fighting ingredients, alpha arbutin and tranexamic acid

Like I always advice, instead of using one single ingredient to tackle melasma or hyperpigmentation, combine 2-3 hyperpigmentation-targeting ingredients for more effective result. 

Good Molecules Discoloration Correction Serum.

Best spot corrector serum

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Tranexamic acid is a new skin brightening ingredient added to the league of skin brighteners. Traditionally it’s a drug used to treat heavy blood flow during menstruation. But research studies discovered its potentials in suppressing the production of melanin and ever since then, it has been included in so many over-the-counter products for tackling skin discoloration and melasma [1].

Tranexamic acid is synthetically derived from the amino acid lysine. Lysine is an amino acid (a building block of protein).

The Good Molecules Discoloration Correction contains 2% cetyl tranexamate mesylate — a highly advanced derivative form of tranexamic acid. 

Good Molecules stepped-up their game by using this advanced derivative form of tranexamic acid in their formulation, due to the fact that tranexamic acid does not penetrate into deep skin layers. Therefore, cetyl tranexamate mesylate being “lipophilic“, meaning “lipid loving” mixes into the skin lipids, which is the skin barrier, from there it provides a steady release of the active compound and attack discoloration at deeper pathways. Thereby lessening the appearance of hyperpigmentation. 

This formula also contains 4% niacinamide to address dull skin, minimize large pores and regulates excess oil (sebum) production. Read full review here

How To Apply.

After double cleansing, pat (don’t rub) your skin with a clean towel. While your skin is slightly moist, apply 2-3 drops of tranexamic acid serum, while you massage gently till fully absorbed. 

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA.

The ordinary skincare routine

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Alpha arbutin has proven to fade hyperpigmentation, of course it has so many research studies backing it up. 

Alpha arbutin is naturally derived from bearberry plant, it’s also found in cranberries, blueberries, wheat, and pears. Alpha arbutin prevents the formation of melanin, as it functions as a tyrosinase inhibitor to provide skin lightening and brightening effects.

The Ordinary alpha arbutin serum houses 2% alpha arbutin, in combination with hyaluronic acid for skin hydration. Read full review here

How To Apply. 

After tranexamic acid serum had absorbed into the skin, move ahead to layer/apply 2-3 drops of alpha arbutin serum, while you massage till fully absorbed. 

Step 4: Apply Retinol. 

The Ordinary 1% Retinol In Squalane.

The ordinary skincare routine

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Retinol is a vitamin A derivative and an anti-aging molecule that accelerates skin cell-turnover for skin-renewal to take place. This in turn reduces wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots, for firmer, smoother and more evenly-toned skin.

The skin-renewal potentials of retinol helps fade or brightens melasma or hyperpigmentation [2], as retinol is a cell-communicator, it talks to the skin cells by stimulating cell turnover, bringing new skin cells to the surface while eradicating old or dead skin cells, this goes a long way to reduce melasma. 

The Ordinary retinol serum pairs retinol with squalane – for increased hydration, it also contains other skin soothing and hydrating ingredients such as; caprylic/capric triglyceride, solanum lycopersicum (tomato fruit extract) and simmondsia chinensis extract (jojoba seed oil). Read full review here.

How To Apply

After applying alpha arbutin serum, allow your skin to dry before applying retinol as applying retinol onto a damp or moist skin will increase product penetration which may cause Inflammatory-irritation and worsen melasma. 

Apply a 2-3 drops of The Ordinary retinol serum, massage gently till fully absorbed. 

Step 5: Moisturize.

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion.

CeraVe vs Cetaphil Moisturizing lotion

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At this point, you need to apply your moisture-rich moisturizer to seal in all topical in the skin, adequately keep the skin moisturized and also avoid moisture-loss. CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion contains the combination of 3 essential ceramides along side hyaluronic acid to deliver intense moisture and hydration to the skin. Read comparison review between CeraVe & Cetaphil moisturizing lotion.

You can as well try the moisturizer from The Ordinary brand, as it contains humectants emollients and occlusives to help enhance moisture retention in the skin by trapping in moisture which prevents moisture-loss thereby keeping the skin hydrated, plump and supple. 

How To Apply. 

Squeeze out and apply a generous amount, massage till fully absorbed. 

Melasma Skincare Routine – Morning (AM). 

Step 1: Cleanse.

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. 

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Commence your melasma morning skincare routine by cleansing your face to take away oil, and products residue (applied at night), leaving your skin well cleansed and ready for your morning skincare routine. 

How To Apply. 

Squeeze out a reasonable amount (careful not to squeeze out too much) a little goes along way.

Gently massage it on your face for 60 seconds (1 minutes), then rinse-off.

Step 2: Protect & Brighten. 

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum.

Timeless Vs SkinCeuticles Vitamin C Serum

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Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-aging ingredient that protects the skin from environmental aggressors by fending-off free radicals. It also serves anti-aging benefits to the skin by stimulating collagen which reverse the appearance of wrinkles and premature-aging.

It also works as a sun-damage-protectant which helps enhances the efficacy of your sunscreen. Sunscreen can certainly protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays. However, adding vitamin C into your skin care regimen can protect you even further. 

Vitamin C also helps brightens the skin for a luminous-appearance which helps with the treatment of melasma and hyperpigmentation. Although its skin brightening potentials isn’t its primary purpose, it’s just a side benefit. 

Timeless vitamin C serum contains 20% vitamin C, paired with antioxidants like vitamin E and ferulic acid for more efficacy. You can read a comparison review between Timeless and SkinCeuticles vitamin C serum

How To Apply.

Apply 2-3 pumps of the product onto your face, gentle massage till fully absorbed. 

Step 3: Moisturize.

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

CeraVe vs Cetaphil Moisturizing lotion

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Then you seal in with a moisturizer to keep the skin moisturized all day. 

If you find CeraVe daily moisturizing lotion too thick for your skin, you can try out Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser – a lightweight moisture-rich moisturizer with Pro-vitamin B5, vitamin E, glycerin and borage seed oil for optimum skin hydration. 

How To Apply. 

Squeeze out and apply a generous amount, massage till fully absorbed.

Step 4: Protect With Sunscreen. 

Missha All-around Safe Block Aqua Sun Gel SPF50+ PA++++.

Best melasma treatment

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Sunscreen is the first step to treat hyperpigmentation, as it prevents it from occuring in the first place (except yours occured as a result of change in hormones). 

Protecting your skin during the day using a quality sunscreen goes a long way to prevent the formation of sun damage to the skin. Therefore it’s highly advised to prioritize applying your sunscreen everyday before exploring your outdoor activities. 

Missha All-around Safe Block Aqua Sun Gel is an organic chemical 50 SPF which helps reflects UVA and UVB rays of the sun. When applied to the skin, it absorbs quickly leaving zero residue behind. It contains other skin moisturizing, soothing and hydrating ingredients to keep skin moisturized while protecting skin from the sun. Read full review here.

How To Apply

Apply a generous amount of sunscreen on sun exposed area, the amount equivalent to two tablespoons on your face and neck.

Personally i usually use 2-3 fingers worth to cover my face & neck in one layer.

Missha Aqua Sun Gel SPF50

Weekend Skincare Routine.


The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%.

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Exfoliation plays a major role in a skincare routine, similar to retinoids which accelerates cell turnover for newer skin cells, exfoliating your skin helps take away dead skin cells sitting on top of the skin, for a fresher and brighter-looking skin to reveal. And to achieve this, you need an alpha-hydroxy-acid, to get the job done. And the one that has proven to brighten melasma is lactic acid

Lactic acid is an AHA extracted from lactose in milk, as a chemical exfoliant, it’s being used in many over-the-counter products to gently exfoliate the skin and address skin texture irregularities. Lactic acid gently slough-off dead skin cells, fades hyperpigmentation, age spots, and other factors that contributes to a dull and uneven complexion.

The main function of this ingredient is to treat hyperpigmentation or acne spots and address textured-skin, but it has also shown successful results in treating melasma. 

One 2001 research study treated 20 volunteers who had melasma with lactic acid at a concentration of 92%. Only 12 patients finished the study, but all showed significant improvement in their pigmentation without any side effects.

The Ordinary’s formula pairs 10% lactic acid, with hyaluronic acid for added skin surface hydration in combination with tasmanian pepperberry to help reduce irritation associated with acid use by curtailing redness, tightness and stings. Read full review here.

How To Apply.

Apply 3-4 drops of the product on a well cleansed skin, massage till fully absorbed. Then seal in with a moisturizer. 

We advice you should apply lactic acid serum twice weekly, at night-time only, and it should be applied on the days you won’t be applying retinol. 

In Conclusion.

Melasma is very stubborn to treat, therefore you need to apply the best melasma treatment by using multiple and concentrated skin de-pigmenting ingredients to get the job done. 

And also while treating melasma patience is key. 

You won’t see an overnight result, but staying consistent with the treatment will definitely yeild the results you desire. 

Also remember to religiously wear your sunscreen always, as it’s the first approach to tackle hyperpigmentation as it shields the skin from sun exposure which prevents sun damages for occurring. It’s also advised to perform a patch test prior to commencing any product-application, this is to test for allergy. 

Possible Questions & Answers.

Q: Can I use tretinoin in place of retinol at night?

A: If you’re not new to retinoids, yes, you can replace retinol with tretinoin, but have in mind that tretinoin is the most potent of all retinoids therefore it can potentially irritate your skin if you’re not an experienced user. 

Therefore, if your skin is new to retinoids in general, start off with a lower concentration of retinol (0.2%), as your skin builds tolerance, you can gradually increase to higher concentration (0.5%), then to (1%) if need be. 

But if you’re an old retinoid user (like myself) and wish to use tretinoin instead of retinol, I’ll strongly suggest you first discuss this approach with your board-certified dermatologist. And also start from tretinoin’s lower concentration (0.025%), you can gradually work your up to medium concentration (0.05%) and to (0.1%) if need be. 

Q: Instead of using alpha arbutin and tranexamic acid, can I use other melasma-treating ingredients?

A: Yes, you can. Aside alpha arbutin and tranexamic acid (which are known to be hyperpigmentation-hitters) other ingredients like Kojic acid [3], azelaic acid [4, 5, 6], niacinamide [7], and licorice extract [8], has proven to potentially fade hyperpigmentation. Using two of any of these ingredients will fasten the treatment of melasma. Also using a product contained of multiple-combination of any of these ingredients will even do a great job in treating melasma too. 

Q: Can I treat my hyperpigmentation with hydroquinone.

A: When it comes to treating hyperpigmentation, hydroquinone is the gold-standard, as it fades discoloration and dark spots effectively. But for the fact it has an ugly-side (side effects) called ochronosis which errupts due to prolonged use. Ochronosis causes a blue-black pigmentation and caviar-like spots to develop on the skin.

Other side effects of hydroquinone consists, mild burning sensation, hypersensitivity, dryness, dermatitis, redness and Inflammatory-irritation

It’s advised to limit hydroquinone to short-term use (recommended within four months). It shouldn’t be used more than four months. 

Allow the skin to rest and restore itself for two to three months after hydroquinone therapy. While you maintain hydroquinone-results with natural de-pigmenting ingredients suchlike alpha arbutin, kojic acid, tranexamic acid or azelaic acid. You can resume hydroquinone therapy, if needed, only after such a break. 

However, If you wish to treat your hyperpigmentation with hydroquinone, do well to consult your dermatologist for proper guidance. 

You can start with over-the-counter 2% hydroquinone, since FDA has confirmed that hydroquinone can be safely sold over-the-counter (OTC) in 2 percent concentrations. Endeavor to do a patch test before commencing treatment. 

Q: My melasma keeps reoccurring after treatment what should I do?

A: Truth be told melasma tends to reoccur even after treatment, which is why it’s advised to keep up with your melasma skincare routine, even after treatment and also MOST importantly stay diligent with your sunscreen as UV rays exposure can trigger melasma (making it to resurface again) due to infrared radiation to the skin. 

Therefore to keep melasma at bay (after initial treatment) you have to keep using the melasma-hitting ingredients in your skincare routine, always apply sunscreen before exploring your outdoor activities (reapply if engaged in swimming or sweat profusely) and keep-off from irritating or harsh skincare products that can trigger melasma (that includes high concentration of acids). 

UP NEXT: Here’s The Best Hyperpigmentation Skincare Routine Using The Ordinary Products


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