Treating melasma naturally: 1 step at a time

The concept of beauty

We were on set for a music video shoot, when my then make-up artist, Lia asked,

“What’s this?”

I looked in the mirror. She was pointing to a round, lime-sized patch of darkened skin in the middle of my forehead. I had noticed and dismissed it some time before; simply too busy to pause for a necessary cause and deal with my skin. “Oh this? I’m not sure.”

Lia – gem that she is, advised me to go to a dermatologist and have it checked out, which I did – months later. By that time, the darkened areas on my face were patchy. The small circle that had started on my forehead had widened drastically, and there were dark areas on both of my cheeks, above my mouth, on my nose, and some sprinkled on my chin. The urgency in Lia’s words rang in my head, and the care in her voice is something I’ll remember with gratitude and relief.

The dermatologist took one look at my face (this was years ago), and said it was something called “melasma‘; hyper-pigmentation of the skin. She asked about sun exposure and genetic predispositions. In an instant, the years of hours upon hours spent swimming, tanning, and playing paddle-ball under the baking Caribbean sun (mostly without sunscreen) flashed into my head. Ahhh…so this was why sunscreen was important. Vitiligo also runs in the family, so I really could have been more responsible with my skin.

I was finding out the hard way, and my skin had suffered in the process. The dermatologist prescribed some medication that took two weeks to reach the island, and advised me to stay out of the sun, and wear a 60 SPF sunscreen when outdoors. Incidentally, the medication didn’t show any results, other than the hefty bill it came with.

Note to the lovely sisters reading this post:

Melasma affects millions of women world-wide, and yes – we looooove the sun. Let’s also love our skin too.

When I got home that day, the realization that something I loved so much was no something to avoid, hit me like a brick…and I cried. “Stay out of the sun?” I live in Barbados – where the slogan is “Barbados…island in the sun.” How was this gonna work out? I had no clue, so I prayed about it.

I went from being someone who never wore a drop of make-up unless it was for a filmed interview or video, to someone who wouldn’t leave home without it on. It might come in handy to know that my make-up skills are a work in progress, to say the least. Taking a picture became one big production, and actually induced the nerves. It was such an issue that the one pic sans make-up that was taken, was also deleted, so unfortunately there’s none to show you just how intense the hyper-pigmentation was. Only a few close friends knew and saw what was taking place under that foundation and powder.  At one point, I decided to embrace and accept it and almost came to enjoy it. Melasma seemed to test the concept of vanity, and a big part of that journey was humbling and compelled me to define ‘beauty’ as something other than visual.

Beauty became – an essence…an inside job

Melasma highlighted how important physical beauty is to us women, as a defining factor to our well-being and joy. This challenged and intrigued me. Then one day, the revelation came to me that I could continue to live like this…but didn’t have to. Was I choosing melasma, but doing nothing about it?

As a teen, I worked on acne in the seasons it showed up, and that was taken care of. No need to stop there. This was another reminder of the importance of consistent skincare. God loves us no matter what we look like, but was this challenge prolonged because I had accepted it? I woke up, and decided to care – not for vanity’s sake (how boring), but because resources and education are there to be found, applied, and shared.

After doing loads of online research, and reading about a million techniques (from laser treatment to costly creams), I decided to try a few home remedies and some intuitive ones as well.

For anyone reading this who may be struggling with melasma, or know someone who’d like to treat it, you’ll want to read the points coming up. Here’s what worked for me on the road to treating and overcoming melasma:

  1. after using lime or lemon in the kitchen, dab the dark patches with the left-over fruit. Use a Q-tip soaked in the fresh lime/lemon juice to target smaller spots.
  2. increase water intake, and limit stress
  3. scrub your face (and body) with fine-grain sea sand at the beach, at least once a week. Have a sea bath while you’re at it. That helps the mind and body in general. Let the saltwater rest on your face for as long as you can handle before washing off. Note: I started using sand after about 3 months of micro-dermabrasion treatments. 
  4. after washing your face, scrunch your fingers together and gently but firmly massage your entire face, then focus in on those areas that need evening out.
  5. rub a little mixture of curry or turmeric and olive oil on those patchy areas. Leave on for 5 minutes, wash off, and dab-dry your face.
  6. look at yourself in the mirror, and smile…no matter what. 
  7. pray about it. Thank God for life, for the opportunity to pay attention to your skin through this challenge, and ask Him to reveal how He intended you to be.
  8. be patient. It may be challenging, but don’t study your face too much. Relax, and go about your day as calmly as possible. Stress sucks; it also wreaks havoc on the skin.
  9. when the melasma starts to fade, and your skin tone is evening out, revitalize your skin by wiping your face with the inside of a lime/lemon. I use whatever’s left when making a vinaigrette, pickled dish, or glass of lemonade. Let the fruit’s natural oil give your face a little tingle, zing, and natural boost. Wash with tap water after 5-10 minutes. (Not for one with sensitive skin.)
  10. each time you make a salad, keep the two edges of the cucumber, set in the fridge (not necessary, but refreshing), and swipe over your face…under the eyes, on your cheeks, temple chin, forehead. Leave on for as long as you like.
  11. whenever you eat fruit (like mango, melon, cantaloupe, banana, plantain, avocado…) wipe the inside of the peel onto your face
  12. start celebrating the healing that’s already taking place.

I hope this helps you or someone you know on the road to overcoming this skin disorder that affects so many women worldwide. You can overcome this, sis!

Now, I barely ever wear make-up (very light from time to time) and taking a pic is no longer intimidating. It’s just 1 – 2 – and 3! The lessons learned through the firsthand encounter with melasma remain, and I’m grateful to be able to define beauty in a way that has nothing to do with the face…but rather, the heart.

Thanks for reading, sweet friend!

Stay safe and hydrated in that hot sun, and if you see me out somewhere, feel free to remind me too. We’re here to encourage and uplift each other along the way.

Ciao for now, beautiful!

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace or serve as medical advice. Please consult your certified dermatologist before using these techniques. It is purely based on firsthand experience with successfully treating melasma, incorporating intuitive and online research methods, and tuning into the benefits of the sea and sand.

By the way, Lia Gajadhar is an excellent make-up artist (mostly based in Barbados) who clearly cares about her clients’ health and skin beyond their cosmetic experience.

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