Melasma is the dark skin coloration that appears on the sun-exposed areas of the face. It is usually associated with pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone therapy and excessive sun exposure. Melasma does not cause any other symptoms apart from uneven browning of the skin and is only of cosmetic importance. Avoiding the sun and using sunscreens is the key to prevent melasma. Creams containing tretinoin, kojic acid and azelaic acid may help improve the signs of melasma. Some vitamins and natural supplements may also help treat and prevent melasma.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin essential for growth, development, repair and maintenance of different body tissues. A study published in the August 2004 edition of the "International Journal of Dermatology" states that the use of 5 percent ascorbic acid cream for 16 weeks may help improve melasma without any side effects. Vitamin C rich creams can be used alone or in combination with hydroquinone creams.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with the ability to neutralize free radicals formed as a result of various metabolic processes in the body. Vitamin E also plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin. Several studies, such as the one published in the August 2009 edition of the "International Journal of Dermatology," have found that vitamins E, C and A supplements, along with flavonoid drugs such as procyanidin for eight weeks can be safe and effective to treat epidermal melasma. However, it is important to follow dosage instructions carefully, as chronic overuse of vitamin E may increase the risk of death.
Vitamin A is another fat-soluble vitamin that helps form and maintain healthy skin. Derivatives of vitamin A known as retinoid acid can be effective in treating melasma after 24 weeks. Vitamin A derivatives are important components of many prescription medications used to treat melasma. Retinol can also be obtained from foods rich in whole milk, fortified foods and animal liver.
Pycnogenol is an extract of the bark of the French maritime pine, or Pinus pinaster. Pycnogenol is a potent antioxidant that is more powerful than vitamin E and vitamin C and can protect the skin against the effect of ultraviolet radiation that can lead to melasma. Pycnogenol is safe to use and no known side effects have been reported.