What is melasma and what does it look like?
Melasma is a pigmentary skin condition that appears as freckle-like spots or patches of discoloration on the skin. These patches typically show up as brown or grey in color on the face but could also show up on the arms, neck, or shoulders.
This condition typically affects darker skin tones more than lighter skin tones as well as those who are highly exposed to the sun. Light exposure, hormonal changes, and family history may all play a role in this skin condition (1).
Sun exposure and ultraviolet radiation are the most common reasons for melasma development however genetics, oral contraceptives, pregnancy, stress, skincare products, thyroid disease, and hormone therapy may also increase the risk of melasma (2). It is often referred to as the "mask of pregnancy" because it is a symptom that can occur for women during their pregnancy due to significant female hormone changes.
The pathogenesis of melasma can be diagnosed by a dermatologist by skin examination or by performing a biopsy for further laboratory examination.
What happens in the skin?
Ultraviolet rays from the sun, as well as light emitted from light bulbs, can stimulate melanocytes (our color-making cells) to overproduce pigment creating these dark patches of skin in patients with melasma.
Melasma should not cause any other symptoms than discoloration of the skin however many people find these dark patches bothersome and are deeply affected by the condition as it can bring along with it significant psychological stress.
How Do Vitamins work For Skin health?
As the largest organ of the body, our skin also relies on optimal nutrition to look, feel, and function at its best. It is impacted not only externally but also internally, from the food, drinks, and supplements we consume. The most ideal way to obtain plenty of skin nutrition is through your diet however supplements are sometimes necessary in order to boost nutrient status and correct deficiencies.
Which Vitamins Are Best For Skin Pigmentation?
There is now research that suggests that not only many topical treatments but also dietary supplements may be effective treatments exerting various positive results in the treatment of melasma.
Antioxidants and vitamins have been shown to have promising effects in treating hyperpigmentation including glutathione, vitamin C and vitamin E. Let's explore them below!
Get extra C
Vitamin C has been shown to be an effective treatment modality for melasma by reducing melanin in the skin and has a low risk of side effects (4).
Vitamin C is known to convert deep, oxidized pigments to light, to prevent the oxidation of melanin catabolism, and to inhibit the formation of melanin (Pharmacology and therapeutics)
As a water-soluble vitamin that is easily lost through the urine, it is easily replenished through foods rich in vitamin C or from dietary supplementation.
Supplement with vitamin E
Vitamin E is another antioxidant vitamin well known for its skin healing and anti-aging properties. It's not new to the skincare scene as it has been used for at least 50 years in dermatology.
A clinical study showed that a combination of both vitamin C and vitamin E resulted in better clinical improvements and therapeutic effects than just vitamin C by itself (8).
Known as the master antioxidant in the body, it may come as no surprise that glutathione is included here.
Glutathione can provide benefits to the skin and for patients with melasma by reducing inflammation and improving skin properties and anti-aging of the skin (9).
It may also have anti-melanogenic effects due to its ability to lighten the skin (10).
A small case-control study showed that those taking naturally occurring glutathione experienced a decrease in melanin compared to those taking a placebo (11).
Glutathione has some promising new research backing it as another natural treatment for melasma and the occurrence of brown patches as well as optimizing skin health in general. As a dietary supplement and a natural compound, glutathione supplementation is generally recognized as safe.
Vitamin B12 for Melasma
This vitamin is most well known for its important role within the hematological and nervous systems but it is also vital for healthy skin. Many conditions are associated with too much or too little vitamin B12 (14).
Vitamin B12 may help to regulate the skin's pigment production and help to reduce brown spots through dietary consumption or supplementation. Before going to a supplement right away it's a good idea to test your vitamin B12 blood levels to assess whether supplementation is necessary or not and to avoid potential toxicity.
Vitamin B5 for Melasma
Antioxidants For Melasma
Oxidative stress and inflammation have been associated with the pathogenesis of melasma (19). As we know that antioxidants help to protect the skin against oxidative damage and combat oxidative stress they present as a natural therapeutic treatment for hyperpigmentation disorders.
These powerful plant compounds may also provide protection to human skin against UVA, UVB, and even visible light (20).
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