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What is Melasma?
Melasma is a common skin condition that is characterized by the appearance of dark, irregular patches of skin on the face and/or body. This condition is not painful and presents no other symptoms. Although the exact cause of melasma is relatively unknown, it is the result of an increase in the production of cells that release the pigment melanin. Melasma is hereditary and people with light brown or olive complexions that live in areas with intense sun exposure seem to develop melasma most often. People that have thyroid disease, Addison's disease, use birth control pills, take medications such as tetracycline and anti-malarial drugs, take oral or patch contraceptives, or hormone replacement therapy are also susceptible to developing melasma. Pregnancy is another common cause of melasma. Pregnant women may develop linea nigra which is a dark line down the middle of the abdomen, or a mask of pregnancy, which is a dark patch across the face.
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Natural Treatment for Melasma
Although there are many creams and products that promise to lighten the dark skin discoloration from melasma, the side effects make a natural treatment a better choice for many people, especially pregnant women. It may be better to try one of the following treatments which are easily available. As natural remedies often produce different results for different people, it is important to continue to try each treatment until one proves to be the most effective. Keep in mind that when using these treatments, the results may be gradual. It is also important to avoid sunlight as much as possible. UV-A, UV-B and visible lights all stimulate excess pigment production. It is also important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with physical blockers, such as titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide.
- Aloe Vera – Use 100% pure aloe vera gel or cut the leaves off of the plant and squeeze the clear, liquid sap out. Smooth it on the dark areas of your skin, and then massage your skin using a circular motion until the aloe vera is completely absorbed. You can also drink aloe vera juice as another treatment option.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract – Grapefruit seed extract is generally found in the form of liquid, pills or capsules. Some types of melasma can be fungus related and the anti-fungal properties in this extract can treat that symptom. This supplement is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
- Horseradish - Spread a small amount of pure horseradish on the dark areas no more than once a day. Leave it on until it dries, about 20 minutes. It may cause a slight burning, skin peeling effect. As the dark areas begin to peel off, the new skin will be lighter and smoother. Do not keep using horseradish if this treatment is painful or makes your skin darker.
- Lemon Juice - The ascorbic acid in lemon juice has antioxidant properties which help prevent the absorption of ultraviolet rays. You can use lemon juice daily as a natural astringent. Slice a lemon and apply the fresh juice directly to the dark areas with a cotton pad at night. Wash it off completely in the morning.
- Licorice extract – Licorice extract is a natural supplement that has the natural skin lightening agents liquiritin and glabridin. Glabridin is oil-soluble and can be applied topically to help reduce discoloration.
- Onion Juice - You can easily make onion juice in an electric juicer or blender. Squeeze the juice through a cheesecloth and then mix with equal parts of vinegar. Apply the onion juice to dark areas twice a day with a cotton pad. Another option is to simply slice an onion, dip the slices in vinegar and apply it directly to those areas.
- Papaya – Papaya contains the enzyme papain which can help increase exfoliation of your skin. Puree the papaya and apply as a mask on your face. Wash off after 15 to 20 minutes. As it exfoliates the outer layers of your skin, your complexion will begin to even out.
- Turmeric Paste - The antioxidant curcumin in turmeric helps repair the oxidative damage on your skin and lighten it. Make a thick paste by mixing 5 tbs. turmeric powder, 10 tbs. milk, and 1 tbs. gram flour. Apply to the dark areas, leave it on for 30 minutes and rinse off.
- Vinegar - Vinegar has a high level of acetic acid which helps cleanse your skin and seal in moisture. Equal parts of vinegar and water can be used up to twice daily as an astringent or toner. Apple cider or white vinegar are both effective.
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How to Prevent Melasma
After following a natural treatment for melasma and obtaining acceptable results, there are many simple ways to prevent it from coming back. Avoiding sunlight is essential in the prevention of melasma. Always keep all areas of exposed skin protected with sunscreen. When cleansing your skin use mild soap. Increase your intake of folic acid by eating more dark green leafy vegetables, nutritional yeast, and herbs like dandelion, parsley or watercress. Reduce the stress in your life and drink plenty of water to help keep your skin clear, smooth and healthy.
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Mayo Clinic: Treatment Options Are Available to Reduce Appearance of Melasma - http://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-edge-newspaper-2009/nov-27a.html
Melasma: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000836.htm
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Flickr.com – Melasma pictures – skinfitness - http://www.flickr.com/photos/25121262@N04/3028165651/