Melasma runs in my family and I have had it since being pregnant with my first son. I recently found your wonderful site and that of Dr. Mercola’s that points to thyroid imbalance as the factor of Melasma. I have started to include raw sea vegetables, radishes, and cranberries into my diet. I am planning on getting topical Vitamin A oil to put on my face as per the suggestion on your article, Hormones and the skin part 2. I am considering taking iodine supplements and wondered if it is safe for me to do this without proper testing and visits to the doctor. I must say, I mostly eat organic foods and for most part am healthy. Please advise if eating these organic based iodine rich foods, topical vitamin A oil, and Iodine supplement (SSKI) is OK? Thank you so much for your very knowledgeable site and information so far.
Melasma, or mask of pregnancy, is usually your skin’s response to heightened estrogen and progesterone levels. Many times, this is due to the pregnancy itself, but can also be brought on or worsened by hormonal medications and birth control. Genetics does play a part in whether or not one will be prone to melasma or hyper pigmentation, but there are some things you can do to minimize it (and in some cases, clear it up altogether.)
Thyroid can be a factor – but it is usually not the main cause. I think in your case, it was more estrogen and progesterone. Thyroid could have played a part, as did genetic disposition, but I wouldn’t focus solely on that for treatment. My advice comes from a skin care perspective and is not intended to replace medical advice. Before any internal supplementation or drastic dietary change, you do want to consult with your doctor. My advice for you is to go to a doctor who has both Eastern and Western training.
Here is what I would recommend as far as treatment:
First of all, be sure to eliminate any phyto or xeno estrogens from your diet and lifestyle. The most common xeno estrogens come from medications like birth control and plastics (plastic bags, wrap, containers, drinking bottles, etc.) Try to use glass or metal instead of plastic whenever possible, and do not heat anything in plastic. For more info on plastics, read FDA Changes Their Minda About BPA.
The most common phyto estrogens are soy products: tofu, beggie soy burgers, etc. Unfortunately, soy is also fed to many animals raised for meat – so we get it there. It is also added to many prepared and packaged foods – so read labels to check for “soy” anything and avoid it.
Now that that’s settled, supplementation and topical treatment is also recommended for melasma. MSM (or sulfur) and grape seed extract are the two I would recommend starting with. They are both great supplements to take internally along with your diet rich in natural anti inflammatories and antioxidants (you spoke about your healthy diet – so definitely continue with that!) Talk to your naturopath, acupuncturist or nutritionist to determine the best brands and dosage for these supplements. Topically, retinoids are helpful. The key is to find them in a potent yet natural form. Because Vitamin A is fat soluble, it is best to find it in a topical cream or lotion instead of an oil – it will be more potent that way. Read my post on Retinoids: Take Your Skin to The Gym.
Other topical ingredients that are helpful are AHAs, like glycolic or lactic acid. These will aid in skin exfoliation and help to naturally brighten and hydrate your skin. You can use skin lighteners like hydroquinone, but only in moderation and for temporary use. Hydroquinone will prevent your skin from producing melanin temporarily, but will also make your skin more vulnerable in the sun. Natural skin lightening ingredients like bilberry, beta glucan and licorice will also aid in melasma without the side effects. Getting professional peels, LED or stem cell treatments, and lightening facials will all benefit you as well. Just be sure to go to an experienced esthetician who knows the importance of moderation!
Sun protection is extremely important as both heat and UV rays can promote pigmentation. Be sure to get a sun BLOCK with Zinc and / or Titanium Dioxide as the only active ingredients. Stay away from synthetic sunscreens as they will still bring too much heat into your skin and can be toxic. Because skin pigments when it is stressed, this also needs to be minimized. Try to lower your stress level, avoid overheating, and cut down on chemicals like preservatives, additives, and pesticides in food (if you haven’t already done so.)
I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions and good luck to you!