April 30, 2020 What Essential Oils Work Best for Treating Melasma?
For those with skin conditions like melasma, a chronic skin pigmentation disorder that causes dark patches on the neck, shoulders, and face, there are several options for treatment. Essential oils have been touted as the solution to anything from skin concerns to indigestion, and in the case of melasma, it’s no different. Here’s what you need to know about essential oils for melasma.
Can Essential Oils Treat Melasma?
Essential oils are oils that are derived from various plants and seeds. Essential oils are sold almost everywhere and are very convenient for all users.
Some studies have demonstrated that certain essential oils have dermatologic applications, including the treatment of melasma. However, there’s still a lot that is unknown about essential oils for melasma despite these initial studies showing promising results. Much of the ‘evidence’ you see for these treatments working remains anecdotal.
Additionally, while essential oils may provide an all-natural and affordable treatment for melasma, this doesn’t mean that your treatment will consist entirely of essential oils. UV protective measures such as daily broad-spectrum sunscreen use, avoiding the sun during peak hours (10 am – 2 pm ), and wearing UV protective clothing are all necessary to prevent your melasma from getting worse.
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What Are The Best Essential Oils For Melasma Treatment?
Argan oil for melasma is one way that is said to treat melasma. The dark spots that occur with melasma result from the skin producing more melanin than normal. Argan oil affects this process by inhibiting melanin synthesis. Essentially, it prevents the conversion of enzymes that are called dopachrome tautomerase and tyrosinase, both of which make melanin (Villareal).
Bio oil is another potential treatment for melasma. It’s a blend of several ingredients that can benefit the skin, namely rosemary, chamomile, calendula, and vitamins.
This product is often used for smoothing fine lines or wrinkles because of the high level of vitamin A present. The idea behind this oil for melasma specifically is that all of the included vitamins and botanical extracts work to replenish skin that has been damaged by UV rays, which is one common cause of melasma. There haven’t been any formal studies on bio oil for melasma, but one study found that this oil may have dermatological benefits for scar tissue (Bielfeldt).
Black seed oil
The concept of black seed oil is much like bio oil in that the combination of ingredients (fatty acids, amino acids, and vitamin A) work together to fade skin discoloration. Because of this, black seed oil for melasma treatment has grown more and more popular.
There haven’t been any formal studies of the effectiveness of this oil on melasma. However, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects have been studied in various dermatologic applications with promising results (Aljabre).
There aren’t any studies yet that demonstrate whether castor oil is effective for melasma. Castor oil is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which is said to penetrate scar tissue and heal it, eliminating scar tissue that might contribute to dark pigmentation and stimulating healthy tissue growth.
Coconut oil contains ingredients like lauric acid and other vitamins which are said to be very beneficial to the skin. When applied directly to the specific areas affected by melasma, the idea is that these minerals can help lighten skin pigmentation.
There isn’t any evidence yet that coconut oil can definitively help treat melasma. However, one study found that coconut oil may have anti-inflammatory and skin-protective benefits, both of which can help improve hyperpigmentation (Varma).
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is another common ingredient in many skincare treatments, including melasma. There haven’t been any formal studies on tea tree oil for melasma, but it does have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in other dermatologic applications that might be beneficial for treating dark spots on the face (Pazyar).
How Can You Effectively Treat Melasma?
The most effective way to eliminate melasma is with professional treatment. Seek a board certified dermatologist to get treatment if you have tried over the counter options. Ongoing follow-ups are recommended to make sure treatments adapt to ensure optimal long-term results.
- Aljabre S. H., Alakloby O. M., Randhawa M. A. Dermatological effects of Nigella sativa. Journal of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery. 2015;19(2):92–96. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352241015000286
- Bielfeldt, S., Blaak, J., Staib, P., Simon, I., Wohlfart, R., Manger, C. and Wilhelm, K.P. (2018), Observer‐blind randomized controlled study of a cosmetic blend of safflower, olive and other plant oils in the improvement of scar and striae appearance. Int J Cosmet Sci, 40: 81-86. doi:10.1111/ics.12438 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ics.12438
- Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Bagherani N, Kazerouni A. A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology. International journal of dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22998411. Published July 2013. Accessed April 30, 2020.
- Varma SR, Sivaprakasam TO, Arumugam I, et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018;9(1):5‐14. Published 2018 Jan 17. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2017.06.012 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6335493/
- Villareal MO, Kume S, Bourhim T, et al. Activation of MITF by Argan Oil Leads to the Inhibition of the Tyrosinase and Dopachrome Tautomerase Expressions in B16 Murine Melanoma Cells. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:340107. doi:10.1155/2013/340107 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3723062/
About the author
Brandon Kirsch, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in clinical drug development and medical innovation. He is the founder of Kirsch Dermatology in Naples, Florida and is also the Chief of Dermatology at the ...