Melasma is a very common skin condition that affects millions of women around the world. Melasma doesn’t only affect women but it’s estimated only 10% of men will experience this hyperpigmentation condition.
Melasma usually forms on the facial area and is brought on by the overproduction of melanin in your skin. One of the most common facial areas where melasma will show up is the upper lip.
I myself know how terrible it is to have melasma on the upper lip because it’s almost impossible to cover up with make up or a concealer.
The worst part of having upper lip melasma is the mustache appearance it forms on your face. This “sunstache” makes it look like you have facial hair which (if you’re a female) can make you feel insecure and embarrassed.
Cause of Upper Lip Melasma
If you have melasma on your upper lip you’re most likely trying to figure out what causes it. You may have noticed that when you go outside to enjoy the sun your “stache” shows up.
This is because melasma forms when your skin is exposed to the rays of the sun. Other factors besides excessive sun exposure that can cause your sunshine mustache include:
- Birth control pills
- Medications that put your hormones out of balance (hormonal fluctuation).
- Health conditions such as hypothyroidism.
- If you are someone who easily tans or has skin that’s naturally dark then you are more likely to experience dark spots on upper lip.
Melasma Upper Lip Treatment
If you’re struggling to find an effective melasma upper lip treatment to get rid of that shadowy-mustache appearance then check out the following suggestions:
There is no way to avoid the sun so using a good sunscreen is mandatory. The best sunscreens for melasma will have at least SPF 30 and protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.
Always apply the sunscreen when you plan on going outside whether the sun is out or not. Even during the winter months when the sun doesn’t shine very often UV rays can still penetrate your skin and cause additional melasma or worsen existing upper lip melasma.
Sunscreens with chemical blockers are okay to start out with and if they work for you then continue using it. Just make sure you keep reapplying it because it will wear off every few hours.
However, from my experience and many others with melasma will agree that sunscreens with physical blockers work the best. Physical blockers such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide work very effectively protecting the skin from the sun because they block the UVA and UVB rays instead of absorbing them like chemical blockers do.
Some of our top picks for sunscreens for melasma include:
- The Fallene Total Block UVA/UVB Complete Full Spectrum Sun Protection
- LA Roche Posay Anthelios 60
- Avene SPF 50
- Burt’s Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen – Titanium dioxide 8.58%
- Badger Sunscreen – Zinc Oxide 20.5%
- Shiseido’s Ultimate Sun Protection WetForce – SPF 50
Now that you’re protecting your skin from sun exposure it’s time to focus on using a good skin lightening cream to help get rid of melasma on your upper lip.
The main purpose of skin lightening products (fading creams, bleaching creams, whiteners, or skin brighteners) is to reduce the production of melanin in the area of the skin where it’s applied.
These skin lightening products will contain either natural or synthetic ingredients that help reduce excessive melanin production in the skin, which will lead to lightening your dark upper lip.
The commonly used synthetic ingredient in skin whitening products is hydroquinone, which comes in various strengths ranging from 2% to 6% concentration. Any skin lightening product containing more than 4% of hydroquinone will require a doctor’s prescription.
Dermatologists usually prescribe 4% hydroquinone creams for melasma treatment for short term use because of the associated risks of hydroquinone. Extended use of hydroquinone can cause serious side effects, which is why it’s regulated by the FDA and is banned in some countries.
Some of the associated risks of long term use of hydroquinone include:
- Aging of your skin prematurely
- Increase your risk of skin cancer
- Infection of the skin
- Allergic reaction
Other synthetic ingredients commonly used in skin lightening products for treating melasma include:
- Steriods – Corticosteroids is the most commonly used steroids in lightening products. It helps lighten melasma on upper lip by reducing the production of the melanocytes cells that produces melanin in the skin. However, the side effects of steroid based skin brightening creams are what makes them scary. Side effects associated with steroid based creams include: stretch marks, folliculitis (fungal infection), skin thinning, and steroid rosacea. If a dermatologist does prescribe a steriod lightening cream for your melasma upper lip it will only be for a short period.
- Botanicals – derived from various plants that stop melanin production by inhibiting tyrosinase (the enzyme responsible for melanin production).
- Retinoic acid – derived from vitamin A.
Natural Skin Lightening Creams
We always recommend skin lightening creams that contain natural ingredients to our readers.
Synthetic ingredients found in most skin whitening products such as hydroquinone, steroids, and mercury come with a lot of risks and can be toxic.
Some of the best natural ingredients to look for in skin bleaching creams to use as a melasma upper lip treatment include:
This is probably the most popularly used alternative to hydroquinone, because of how well it works. A number of tests have been done to prove how effective kojac acid is at improving hyperpigmentation such as melasma.
It works by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase, which is the enzyme that actually produces melanin in the skin. Kojic acid is also great at protecting your skin from sun exposure and repairing sun damaged skin.
You should definitely look for bearberry extract as an active ingredient in any skin lightening cream you choose to use. The main compound in bearberry extract known to help lighten dark upper lips and other dark spots on the face is Alpha arbutin. Just 1% of arbutin concentration can help lighten dark spots just as good, and in some cases even better than risky synthetic ingredients like hydroquinone.
Another natural ingredient you should look for in skin whitening creams for melasma uppe lip is gigawhite. This skin brightener ingredient helps stop melanin production by reducing tyrosinase activity. Several of the best known plants around the world known for their skin lightening abilities were used to create Gigawhite.
Also referred to as niacinamide sometimes, vitamin B3 helps get rid of melasma spots on the face while helping your skin stay moisturized and feel softer. Just like its synthetic counterparts this natural ingredient lightens dark spots by reducing melanin production.
One of the most important steps to your upper lip melasma treatment is to exfoliate the affected areas consistently. When you exfoliate it helps with your melasma treatment by getting rid of old skin and bringing in new skin.
Once your face is replenished with brand new skin it will help speed up the clearing of dark spots or hyperpigmentation. Exfoliating consistently will also help the bleaching agents in the creams we mentioned above penetrate the skin and work more effectively.
Exfoliation will either be chemical (use of peels) or mechanical (microdermabrasion).
Chemical Peels – Chemical peels help remove dark spots due to melasma by superficially injuring the skin surface. This helps reduce the appearance of dark spots by breaking up the pigmentation. And once the wound created by the chemical peel exfoliation heals the dark pigmentation on the skin will fade away.
Chemical peels will contain a certain type of acid with glycolic acid being the most common one used. Other acids often seen in chemical peels include: lactic acid, salicylic acid, and pyruvic acid.
Due to its acidic content chemical peels shouldn’t be used everyday due to the irritation it can cause which can lead to the worsening of the melasma on your upper lip. If you have sensitive skin you can try using natural facial scrubs to help exfoliate your upper lip and other areas on your face affected by melasma.
One of our readers had great results with treating her upper lip melasma using 30% tca peel. She used the chemical peel and it didn’t begin to peel until day 3, and by day 7 her skin fully healed.
Keep in mind when you first do a chemical peel it will look as if your skin has gotten even darker than before, but then your skin will begin to peel and your new skin will start to come in. Make sure you don’t try to pull or peel it off yourself and let it come off without your help.
Microdermabrasion – With microdermabrasion it doesn’t penetrate as deep as chemical peels. In fact, this exfoliating method only resurfaces the top layers of your skin. So if you have upper lip melasma that’s located in the epidermis (top layer of the skin) then this form of exfoliation should help.
However, if you have dermal melasma (hyperpigmentation located deeper inside the skin) then microdermabrasion won’t do you much good. Using a chemical peel that contain exfoliating agents like azelaic, lactic, or glyolic acids will be much more effective for dermal melasma.
This form of exfoliating involves a machine applying abrasive crystals directly to the affected areas on your skin to get rid of dead skin and dirt on the top layer. Sometimes both microdermabrasion and a chemical peel are used to help lighten melasma.
Whichever method of exfoliation you decide to use make sure you’re gentle so that you don’t irritate your skin and worsen your melasma.
If you have upper lip melasma these are the 3 things you can do to help it fade away and prevent it from returning. The most important step when it comes to upper lip melasma treatment is to avoid sun exposure by protecting yourself with a good broad spectrum sunscreen.
Unfortunately there’s no quick fix for your “sun’stache”, as it can take weeks or in some cases months to achieve the full benefits of the 3 part regimen of applying sunscreen daily, applying a good skin lightening cream consistently, and proper exfoliation. However, if you stay committed with this dark upper lip treatment you’ll definitely see the results you’re looking for.