Melasma and nutrition, what do we know about it?
I’ve encountered some interesting things about melasma. A stubborn and unpleasant skin condition, perhaps better known as pregnancy mask. I was wondering to what extent food may play a part in this pigment disorder as well. I will say though, ‘unfortunately there is still a lot that we don’t know’.
What we do now know is that a combination of various factors play a role in the cause of melasma. To begin with, there is a certain predisposition. And alongside this, exposure to sunlight (UV rays) plays an important role. Additionally, hormonal changes which occur during pregnancy, with medication or use of the contraceptive pill contribute to the presence and/or worsening of the condition.
But how does food affect it?
Iron and vitamin D
Not too much is known yet about the role nutrition plays in the cause of melasma. I have seen a couple of studies about this. Blood from people with, and without, melasma has been tested for a possible variation in micro nutrients. There are indications that people with melasma have less iron and ferritin (protein which binds to iron) in their blood. Also noted in this group is a more frequent occurrence of vitamin D deficiency.
Then you can ask yourself which is the chicken and which is the egg here. People with melasma may simply spend less time in the sun, in turn causing a vitamin D deficiency. But then the “key question” is whether taking extra iron and / or vitamin D can actually help to reduce the skin condition. Unfortunately, based on research findings, I still can’t comment. Nevertheless, I thought it was worth telling you about. I also think it wouldn’t hurt to go and get yourself checked by your GP to see if you have any deficiencies and if so are then able to make this up with food or supplements.
Antihistamine and tranexamic acid
I’m afraid melasma remains difficult to treat. Until now, most treatments have focused on bleaching the spots. And that sometimes works but only partially. Laser therapies aren’t always successful either.
Besides this, other solutions are being looked into on many different fronts. An example of this is research into whether an antihistamine can slow down the forming of pigmentation. A very interesting story which you can read more about in the blog Update melasma, what new treatments are available? In the same blog you can also read some more about the use of tranexamic acid (this is a medicine that promotes blood clotting).
My top tip for melasma
I will keep you up to date on new studies or treatments. In the meantime these are my top tips for preventing or reducing melasma:
- Protect your skin against the sun!! And yes, two exclamation marks.
- You could opt for skincare with ingredients that lighten such as vitamin C, glycolic acid, vitamin A and niacinamide.
(Dr. Jetske Ultee- Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)