April 22, 2020 How To Choose The Best Sunscreen For Your Melasma & Hyperpigmentation Needs
So you have melasma, and you’ve heard that you need to use sunscreen every day to help prevent this pesky skin condition from getting worse. In this guide, we have consolidated all the questions we frequently get about sunscreen for melasma. If you do not find an answer to your question in this guide, please contact us and we will be happy to help.
What Is Sunscreen, And How Does It Work?
Sunscreen, as the name suggests, screens (or blocks) harmful UV rays from reaching your skin. Put another way, sunscreen acts like a shade you carry with you on your skin.
Since UV rays are a well-known trigger for melasma and can make hyperpigmentation darker, wearing sunscreen can help prevent melasma from flaring up and hyperpigmentation from getting worse.
Chemical Blockers Vs. Physical Blockers: What’s The Difference?
Sunscreens come in two main varieties:
- Physical blockers are sunscreens that physically block the sun’s rays from reaching your skin. If you’ve seen old pictures of people on the beach with a white paint-like substance on their noses, this was a physical blocker at work.
- Chemical blockers, on the other hand, use nanoparticles that absorb harmful UV rays and release the energy as heat.
Which one should you use? Although both are effective at stopping UV rays, physical blockers are recommended for individuals with melasma or hyperpigmentation. This is because physical blockers prevent more UV rays from reaching your skin than chemical blockers.
Is Sunscreen Good For Treating Hyperpigmentation?
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Now to the big question – is sunscreen good for hyperpigmentation? The answer is an emphatic yes! Sunscreen for hyperpigmented skin is essential because it protects your skin from further sun damage. If you have any kind of hyperpigmentation, such as age spots, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or melasma, applying sunscreen will protect your skin when you are out in the sun.
Can sunscreen treat hyperpigmentation on its own? This study found that sunscreen alone can treat hyperpigmentation. However, we’ve found that combining sunscreen with other treatments can help give you faster skin improvements.
Can I Use Sunscreen With Other Treatments?
Yes, you can. However, we like to tell our patients that it depends on your skin type and the ingredients in the other treatments you are using. Mixing medications is not always a good idea because you could have an allergic reaction, and it would be difficult to know what caused it. Here at ClearifiRx, our certified dermatologists formulate customized treatments specific to your skin. We also track your progress to ensure your skin is improving, and that there are no adverse reactions to the treatment.
What Are The Best Sunscreens for Melasma And Hyperpigmentation?
Picking the ‘best’ sunscreen for your melasma or hyperpigmentation is a bit of a tricky question. Everyone’s skin is different, meaning that a sunscreen designed for oily skin won’t necessarily work for someone whose skin is naturally dry. Similarly, people with sensitive skin may not be able to use sunscreen with certain artificial ingredients.
Although we can’t recommend a single ‘best’ sunscreen that will work for everyone, here are three things to keep in mind when choosing sunscreen to help restore your bright and smooth complexion faster.
- Easy to use: Does this sunscreen require multiple applications per day for maximum effect? This is especially important for active individuals who may wind up sweating off sunscreen throughout the day.
- Convenient: Can you grab this brand of sunscreen at your local pharmacy, from an online shop, or do you need to travel to a special store an hour away? The key to effectively treating any kind of hyperpigmentation is consistency, so make sure that whatever brand you choose is easy to obtain.
- Affordable: This factor may not be important for everyone, but it’s still something to consider while shopping. You are going to be using your sunscreen every single day, after all, and skipping an application even for a day or two can make your hyperpigmentation worse. Whatever you wind up choosing, just remember: more expensive is not always better.
Here are some of the top sunscreen brands for melasma we recommend:
- La Roche Posay is one of the best-selling brands in the United States with a wide range of lotions, cleansers, and sunscreens for different skincare needs. Here at ClearifiRx, we’ve identified it as one of the best options for skin protection.
- Neutrogena is a great all-around choice due to its effectiveness, affordability, and regular appearance at most grocery stores and pharmacies. This brand comes in lotions, sprays, and sticks so you can choose the best fit for your lifestyle. Plus, their website includes a handy sunscreen finder so you can easily identify the best sunscreen for your skin.
- Australian Gold Botanicals specializes in all-natural sunscreens for people who want a natural option for their hyperpigmentation. Added Australian botanicals nourish your skin in addition to providing great sun protection. This brand offers both chemical and physical blocker options so you can find the perfect fit for your skin.
- Obagi has 30 years of experience developing high-quality skin care that embraces the diversity of all skin types. Their wide range of sunscreens provide protection from melasma, hyperpigmentation, and the signs of skin aging. Their website includes a personalized skin care product finder so you can find the perfect match for your needs.
- Olay Moisturizer and Sunscreen provides UV protection and acts as your daily moisturizer, saving you time on your daily routine. Since this product is not as effective at protecting against melasma as dedicated sunscreens, we don’t recommend it for people who are traveling to sunny places or who are active. However, this product is a great time saver for busy city-dwellers who aren’t spending a weekend in the sun.
What Is The Best Sunscreen For Different Skin Types?
Skin type influences the effectiveness of sunscreen. For example, if you have oily skin, you should use sunscreen that won’t easily wipe off due to the oil. Treating hyperpigmentation with sunscreen works well when your skin is matched to the right sunscreen. For this, you need first to know your skin type and then know which sunscreen will go with it.
What Are Some Common Ingredients Found In Sunscreen?
Sunscreen has both active and inactive ingredients. The best sunscreen for hyperpigmentation has a combination of active ingredients and inactive ingredients that help reduce dark spots.
- Active ingredients help sunscreen do what it’s supposed to do, which is block UV rays. Active ingredients may be organic, inorganic, or organic particulates. These block the sun’s rays in a variety of ways, including physically blocking the rays, absorbing the rays or reflecting them away.
- Inactive ingredients help promote healthy and moisturized skin but do not block UV rays. These may include botanicals, vitamins, and other ingredients to nourish all-around healthy skin.
If you want a sunscreen that is a physical blocker, check the ingredients label for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are the two most common ingredients in this type of sunscreen.
What Sunscreen Ingredients Should I Avoid When Treating Hyperpigmentation?
Sunscreens come with a myriad of ingredients. Each of these ingredients either improves or does not improve hyperpigmentation. Throw in skin type, and coming up with a definitive list of ingredients to avoid becomes impossible. Therefore, our answer to this question is that it depends on your skin and type/severity of hyperpigmentation.
Can Sunscreen Cause Hyperpigmentation?
This is another big question! First, it is essential to understand what causes hyperpigmentation. Two things cause hyperpigmentation: skin-stressful physical effects and hormonal effects. Sunscreen will cause hyperpigmentation if it has any one of these effects. If the sunscreen you wear stresses your skin (some chemical sunscreens can do this), it may cause skin darkening. Secondly, if you use sunscreen that has hormonally-active ingredients (like oxybenzone), it can cause hormonal skin darkening.
Can I Use Sunscreen During Pregnancy?
If you are pregnant, you may wonder whether you can use sunscreen for melasma and hyperpigmentation. Yes, you can use sunscreen when pregnant – it is highly recommended, particularly to prevent melasma. However, the ingredients in the sunscreen you use matter. As a rule of thumb, doctors recommend using physical blockers over chemical blockers. The simple reason is that physical blockers stay on your skin while chemical ones may get absorbed into your skin. We recommend speaking with your doctor, who can recommend the best pregnancy-safe sunscreen for melasma and hyperpigmentation.
When diligently applied, sunscreen can work wonders for your skin. It will prevent inflammation and post-inflammatory spots; it will help reduce acne scarring; it will even help minimize pregnancy melasma. The biggest challenge with treating hyperpigmentation with sunscreen is finding the right one for your skin and type of condition. Our dermatologists at ClearifiRx help you find the right sunscreen to help reduce hyperpigmentation and give you a brighter, clearer skin tone.
About the author
Neal Kumar, MD, MBA did his undergraduate training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Entrepreneurship, and was also selected as a Carolina Entrepreneurial Fellow.
He received his Doctor of Me...