How To Treat Melasma From The Inside

Foods, vitamins and supplements showing how to treat melasma from the inside

Melasma is a skin condition that causes hyperpigmentation of the skin on the face. Living with melasma can be stressful.  Luckily there are many treatments for melasma, some of which treat from the inside with diet, supplements and vitamins.

Here we will explain how to treat melasma from the inside naturally using vitamins, supplements, pills and melasma treatments.  The most effective way to treat melasma naturally is to limit sun, heat and light exposure.  We recommend sun avoidance and wearing a sunscreen everyday!

Melasma is difficult to treat and any steps you take to cure melasma from the inside should help. Stress levels raise cortisol levels which affects your hormones and can worse melasma. We recommend that you reduce stress, sleep at least 7 hours and eat lots of fruits and vegetables because they have antioxidants.  Adding salmon and flax seeds in the diet can help reduce inflammation which is known to cause melasma.

You will get the fastest and best results if use a skincare routine for melasma in addition to any oral supplements, vitamins or oral medications you choose to use as melasma treatments. Your skin care routine works from the outside while supplements and vitamins and diet work from the inside. Targeting melasma from the outside and the inside and adjusting lifestyle habits helps you get rid of melasma faster.

Before buying anything- make sure you are choosing the best melasma treatments for your Baumann Skin Type (there are 16 skin types!)

Vitamin Deficiencies and Melasma

As a dermatologist, I am often asked if Zinc deficiency or Vitamin D deficiency play a role in developing melasma. While vitamin deficiencies do cause skin problems, there are no known vitamin deficiencies that cause melasma.  There are no cases of Vitamin disorders or deficiencies associated with melasma.

Some small studies have reported lower zinc, iron or Vitamin B12 levels in people with melasma but these were too small to be meaningful.  Remember- just because someone has low B12 levels and melasma does not mean the Vitamin B 12 deficiency has anything to do with the melasma.  

However- we do know that hormones play a very significant role in causing melasma. Estrogen is a major cause of melasma.

So if there are no vitamin deficiencies that cause melasma- why are we suggesting vitamins to treat melasma?  Vitamins and supplements that have antioxidant or anti-inflammatory activity can help melasma.  It is well known that inflammation causes skin pigmentation. This is why you need to know if you have sensitive skin. Sensitive skin is more likely to get irritated and inflamed which is a cause of the dark spots on the face seen with melasma. 

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Melatonin for Melasma

While melatonin has been touted as a natural melasma treatment for a number of years, there is conflicting evidence as to its efficacy to cure melasma. 

Melatonin is an antioxidant and can protect the skin from sun exposure. It is a natural hormone produced by the body, usually to help regulate sleep. But as an oral supplement for melasma, it protects the skin against the free radical damage caused by sun exposure, by slowing down and even reversing the dark spots on the skin that UV damage can cause.1 2

It is possible that melatonin can make melasma worse by stimulating melanocyte-stimulating hormone which increases the production of melanin. Melanocytes are cells in the skin that produce pigmentation, thus counteracting your efforts to even out your skin tone. At this point, we really do not know if melatonin improves or worsens melasma. We recommend sticking to a personalized skincare routine without a melatonin supplement to get the best benefit for your skin until more is known about the effects of melatonin on melasma.  We often discuss this on our social media @SkinTypeSolutions if you have experience with melatonin for melasma that you would like to share with our team of dermatologists.

Vitamins For Melasma Treatment

There are plenty of vitamins for melasma treatment available that will bolster your melasma skincare routine and help to even out your skin tone. Here we look at Vitamin A, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C,  and Vitamin E.

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Vitamin A for Melasma

Vitamin A is an important vitamin for your skin. However, Vitamin A supplements are not used to treat melasma.  Instead we use topical Vitamin A known as retinoids to treat melasma. Retinoids help melasma by increasing exfoliation and blocking melanin production.

Vitamin B5 for Melasma

Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, is an essential nutrient that helps your body turn food into energy, as well as being necessary for the formation of red blood cells.

While there are no studies that review the use of vitamin B5 as a melasma treatment, it is an anti-inflammatory vitamin. 

The topical form of vitamin B5 is known as dexpanthenol or panthenol is used as an anti-inflammatory ingredient in skincare products.   Panthenol also softens and moisturizes the skin.  

The anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin B5 might help to improve melasma, because we know that inflammation is one of the causes of skin pigmentation.

Vitamin B12 for Melasma 

Vitamin B12 helps to keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy, which in turn helps to prevent anemia. A severe deficiency of vitamin B12 is called pernicious anemia, a condition associated with hyperpigmentation of the skin - especially in patients with darker skin tones. For this reason, some people believe that a deficiency of vitamin B12 might cause melasma. 

There are a number of studies available that show that people with melasma are more likely to have a vitamin B12 deficiency. However, there are no scientific studies that show that vitamin B12 is effective as a treatment for melasma, and is usually only recommended to combat the fatigue that patients with anemia so often experience. 

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) for Melasma

Vitamin C is an effective natural melasma treatment as it is a tyrosinase inhibitor  and an antioxidant- the most common skincare ingredients to treat pigmentation.

Tyrosinase is the enzyme the body needs to make melanin pigment, so when you inhibit tyrosinase, you can lighten the skin. 

Oral vitamin C supplements may help melasma by protecting the skin from the sun, neutralizing free radicals that cause skin inflammation and blocking the production of melanin pigment. I recommend taking 500mg of Ascorbic acid two times a day. 

Boost your skin's Vitamin C by also using a topical vitamin C serum for the best results to treat melasma.  Although oral Vitamin C has many benefits, taking it orally does not increase Vitamin C levels in the skin very much.  It is best to target the skin with ascorbic acid from both the inside and outside.  We like to prescribe Vitamin C topically as part of a Melasma Maintenance Routine to prevent melasma from coming back.

Here are some of our favorite topical Vitamin C serums:

Vitamin E for Melasma

Vitamin E is a wonderful antioxidant.  It is found in foods, supplements and in topical skincare products. It may help reduce inflammation which is one of the causes of melasma.  However, multiple studies have shown that it is better to get Vitamin E in your diet than in capsules or pills. Foods high in Vitamin E include Sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, spinach, collard greens, pumpkin and red bell pepper.

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Antioxidants For Melasma

Antioxidants can help melasma by decreasing inflammation and damage caused by the sun.  Of course, there is no better treatment for melasma than SPF! 

If you know you will get sun exposure and have melasma, you need to do everything you can to protect your skin from inflammation caused by the sun. These antioxidants used orally or topically (Or ever better - both!) can help protect you from the sun and prevent melasma:

This supplement has polypodium leucotomas (fern extract) which has been used to treat melasma

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Heliocare 60 Ct Capsules

$36.00

Is There a Melasma Pill To Cure Melasma From the Inside?

Tranexamic acid is a prescription medication that has gained popularity in the last few years as a melasma treatment and is even found in some topical serums for melasma. It is much more effective orally than topically.

Taken by mouth as a prescription medication, tranexamic acid is a pill that is not FDA-approved for melasma, but has been shown to significantly improve melasma in just a few weeks. It is usually used for a few months as part of a Melasma Treatment Skincare Routine. It is usually stopped during the Melasma Maintenance Skincare Routine that you switch to when your dark spots clear.

It is not yet understood how tranexamic acid works to treat melasma, but many convincing studies have shown it works.  Some of our dermatologists prescribe it often and have been impressed with the results.  In some dermatology practices, tranexamic acid is injected into the dark patches of skin and has been shown to lighten the skin.  

If your melasma is stubborn and not responding to a melasma skincare routine, discuss the melasma pill with your dermatologist physician - click here to find a medical provider in your area.

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Summary

If you are looking to cure melasma from the inside, you should also limit exposure to sun, light and heat, reduce stress, evaluate your hormone status, and use a customized skincare routine for melasma that addresses any underlying inflammation, dehydration or other skin problems that may be causing melasma. You need to hit this frustratingly difficult skin condition from every angle all at once.

Take the Skin Type Quiz to find out if dehydration or inflammation are contributing to causing your melasma. 

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Our favorite skin lightening products for dry skin are:

Our favorite skin lightening products for oily skin are:

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1Sarkar, R., Devadasan, S., Choubey, V., & Goswami, B. (2020). Melatonin and oxidative stress in melasma‒an unexplored territory; a prospective study. International journal of dermatology59(5), 572-575.

2Zhou, L. L., & Baibergenova, A. (2017). Melasma: systematic review of the systemic treatments. International journal of dermatology56(9), 902-908.

Muller, I., & Rees, D. A. (2014). Melasma and endocrine disorders. Pigmentary Disorders S1, 2376-0427.

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