July 12, 2021
how I reversed my melasma

I say this title lightly because I definitely do still have some small, fading areas of melasma on my skin, but nothing at all like I used to. I can’t even tell you how many

I say this title lightly because I definitely do still have some small, fading areas of melasma on my skin, but nothing at all like I used to. I can’t even tell you how many “how to heal melasma” articles I’ve read in hopes of finding a solution to the dark patches I’ve had on my face for years now. It popped up when I was about 25, just before I got pregnant with Watson, and I have tried just about everything since then to correct it. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Visits to functional medicine doctors, blood panel testing in an attempt to find a hormonal or nutritional imbalance, experimenting with more supplements than I can even remember at this point, peels and lasers, skincare galore, and easily over a hundred hours of googling other remedies. As I would read article after article in search of the magic solution, I would dream of one day being in the position to be able to write my own tips on how I healed my own melasma. For someone who hasn’t ever had this skincare condition, that probably sounds silly, but if you’ve experienced it longterm like I have, I feel sure you can relate.

So here’s the thing about melasma—and I say this as someone who clearly doesn’t have any sort of medical training, but just someone who has experienced it firsthand for many years. Melasma is hormonal, so sometimes it can fade on its own if the hormonal issue is corrected, like quitting the use of birth control pills, having a baby, etc. On the other hand, sometimes melasma can last years or even a lifetime. In that case, it can fade with proper treatment, but the moment you stop those corrective measures, it will likely pop right back up. Or so my previous dermatologist told me once, which was super discouraging.

But the issue for me was, I wasn’t ever able to get my melasma to even begin to fade! Even a prescription cream with hydroquininone and tretinoin compounded together didn’t do the trick. And oh, maybe I should tell you about the time I put foot fungus cream on my face after reading on a forum that it would help. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

The good news here is that over the last year and a half, I finally have reversed my melasma considerably and I’m excited to share exactly how I did it, although I’m certain this is a very individualized issue to treat. While these tips aren’t cheap, quick fixes, this is the first time I’ve seen results before… and feeling good in my skin is worth the investment and time.



SPF always. It has been hard for me to find a daily SPF that I look forward to using. I used the Elta MD UV Clear Tinted for years, but the zinc % isn’t quite high enough for what I need. (Zinc is truly the superhero in preventing dark spots and my derm recommended at least 12% at a minimum.) But zinc is usually so thick and white, so I would dread using it on my face daily. That is, until I started using the Beautycounter Countersun Daily Sheer Defense for Face and it was basically as if the heavens had opened up to bestow the world’s most amazing face sunscreen upon me. It has almost 15% zinc oxide, yet it feels so light and is perfectly sheer! It also has Vitamin E and other good-for-your-skin ingredients in it to provide ultimate hydration and skin barrier protection. I also carry around the Soleil Tourjours Facial Mist SPF in my bag and regularly spray it on my face while I’m out. And when we are out on the boat or at the beach, I always keep a powder sunscreen on hand. It’s the absolute best thing for reapplication while out in the sun because you don’t have to worry about lathering another liquid all over your already hot face! It also is packed with Zinc and is totally translucent. These three sunscreens are my holy grail: the beautycounter one daily as my base, then the facial mist as a touch up while out and about and/or the powder sunscreen depending on where I am! 

Regular facials at Ella Ora. These are the facials I often mention are like magic to me. I see Kristin, who has not only made my skin glow, but has taught me a ton about caring for the skin properly. The main focus at Ella Ora is reducing inflammation in the skin, which is the key to healthy skin. I mention Ella Ora a lot in this article because I’ve learned a lot about my skin through going there for facials. These facials are an investment in self care, but if you’re ever in Charleston and able to get in, they are an absolute treat you won’t regret!

LED light therapy. This is something I do at home using an LED face mask a few times per week. LED light therapy is basically an anti-aging powerhouse. It helps to repair tissue in the skin, fade hyperpigmentation and brighten the skin, boost collagen, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, promote circulation, kill acne causing bacteria, reduce redness and inflammation, and so forth. I have this one by Peppy and also just recently splurged on this Light Salon one to see what all the fuss is about. To me, they are both the same!

Adding collagen to my diet. Last November, I started taking liquid collagen daily after learning that as we age, our bodies start to break down existing collagen. Why is this bad? Because collagen is responsible for elasticity of the skin and making it look plump and hydrated, healthy joints, preventing bone loss, boosting muscle mass, heart health, promoting hair and nail health, gut health, brain health, and even weight loss! So basically… collagen is something we do NOT want to lose! I’ve learned that liquid is the most beneficial form of collagen because our bodies ingest it most effectively, so I started taking Modere Liquid Biocell Life—two tablespoons daily as directed.  It tastes like a fruit smoothie! (You will need two bottles to last a full month but if you use code 7768881, you can take $10 off your order!)

Only washing my face with cold water. This is another tip I learned from Ella Ora. Hot water contributes to inflammation in the skin, which is a big no no. Kristin at Ella Ora says there is a common misconception that you need warm water to open the pores of the skin, but really, if you are using high quality skincare products, the warm water isn’t necessary for the skincare products to do the work. Cold water is so much better for your skin! Also, melasma LOVES heat, so best to avoid it whenever possible.

Hydration. Drinking tons of water is key. I notice that when I’m dehydrated, my melasma looks a little darker. I’m bad at drinking enough water, so I love to mix up my water intake by using Liquid IVs to increase hydration and when not that, Waterdrop tabs to flavor my water. Love is my favorite flavor and code STOKES15 will get you 15% off!

A skincare routine that works. I really think a skincare routine is something you should have a professional, who has evaluated your skin closely, advise. Prior to landing on a routine that made a difference, I was trying a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and I think all of the products were working against one another and just inflaming my skin, making my melasma even worse.

I have been using products by MBR, which I get directly from Ella Ora. They are very expensive, but wow—I haven’t ever used products that pack a punch the way these do. I think about all of they money and time I’ve spent over the years trying various failed products and treatments and it really puts the investment in products that work into perspective. Makes the investment in this skincare not seem so extreme, in other words.

A big part of treating melasma is correcting the moisture barrier on the skin—and these products have successfully done that for me. If skin is too oily, too dry, too inflamed, or whatever way it is off balance, then the skin is not going to be able to have a proper barrier to protect it from aggressors. Somehow these products are so gentle and just make my skin feel so happy, clear, bright, and balanced. My moisture barrier is so much better, which is a huge part of my melasma being reversed.

Here’s exactly what I use from MBR. This makes up my morning routine!

MBR Enzyme Cleansing Booster: I don’t know what kind of voodoo magic is in this, but it’s probably the #1 product I’ve ever used on my skin. It polishes my skin and cleanses my pores while making it glow, but not because there is a glowy residue left on my skin. It just cleanses that well and truly polishes the skin, but keeps it feeling nourished. Before you glance at the price and totally write it off, know that one bottle lasts me just over an entire year—and that’s using it AM and PM! It’s incredibly gentle, as it comes out as a fine powder that you mix with a few drops of water. I would hate to ever go without this, as I’ve never used a product that even compares. (Dr. Sturm has a similar product, but it is so rough and doesn’t give my skin the same final result immediately after using.)

MBR 3-in-1 Cleanser: This milky cleanser not only hydrates the skin and reduces inflammation in it, but it also activates the regeneration process and helps to exfoliate dead skin cells. I use this cleanser to start out my day every morning and only in the morning. As soon as I wake up, I splash my skin with water and pat it partially dry. Then I put this cleanser all over my skin and it instantly looks and feels incredible. I leave this on while I have my coffee, get the kids ready for the day, and anything else I am doing until I get ready myself. It really makes a difference in prepping my skin for the day. (Then I rinse it off and cleanse with the Enzyme Cleanser!)

MBR Skin Lightening Serum: A melasma-fighting must!!This one has made a big difference in my skin—and I know because I started using all of these products one by one, so I could really see the changes as I implemented each one. Not only does this serum prevent dark spots from forming, but it also lightens existing ones. Honestly, this is so true. It does all of that and more! It also hydrates the skin and tightens it. My skin looks a lot more refined and firm after using this.

MBR Continueline Protection Shield Rich: This is the perfect example of why you should have a professional help create your skincare routine for you, because I wouldn’t have ever chosen this daily moisturizer on my own. It’s a “rich” cream and I have an oily t-zone, so I would have thought this would make it all so much worse. I’ve always gone for lighter face lotions. But instead, this one balances my skin and makes it feel normal—not oily and not dry.

There are three other products that have helped my skin tremendously when it comes to fighting discoloration. All three of these below make up my nighttime routine, while the ones above make up my morning routine (+ SPF at the end). The only crossover is the MBR Enzyme Cleansing Booster, which I use morning and night.

In December 2020, I started using SkinBetterScience Intensive AlphaRet Overnight Cream, which I pick up from Plastic Surgery of the Carolinas in Mount Pleasant (You can call them and order it, too!). Cameron Moskos, who is a wizard when it comes to skincare and injectables as you can see on her IG here, recommended it to me and woah, has it been incredible! It’s a retinol mixed with glycolic acid, so it really packs a punch at resurfacing the skin. It is so gentle though!! I’ve never been able to tolerate a retinoid, but this one is so incredible. I had no adjustment period to it at all, but instead just started noticing awesome results in a very short period of time.

The SkinBetterScience Alto Defense Serum is also pretty game changing for me. I implemented this into my routine about two months ago by using it at night only just before the AlphaRet I mentioned above. It is packed with vitamin C and E, plus 17 other antioxidants! If I’m using my LED mask, I like to put this serum on my skin after cleansing and then use the light. Afterwards, I apply my retinoid.

I am also using the SkinBetterScience AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads at the recommendation of Cameron. I use them two times per week tops, so one box of them will last me about 15 weeks or so. They have a high concentration of glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and lactic acid in them, so not only do they exfoliate, but they also make the skin look so clear, smooth, plump, glowy, and have a reduction in the appearance of fine lines.

Again, I hate that all of these products are expensive, but I have tested more products than I’d ever like to admit over the years and these are the only ones that have made a noticeable difference in my skin.

Taking a multi-vitamin daily. I’ve read that melasma can be caused due to a B12 deficiency—and I actually was a little low in that when I had blood panels done. While I’m not confident this has anything to do with my melasma fading, I can say that I started taking a multi-vitamin consistently at the same time I started these other skincare practices. I take Ritual vitamins and honestly think they are the best vitamins I’ve ever taken. (They are a partner of mine, yet not for this post for the record – no one is!) My code with Ritual is valid all year long, it’s CITYCHIC for 10% off your first 3 months.

Cooling facial mists. It’s hot here. Even in the winter, my face can get hot with artificial heaters in the car and in our home. Want to know one thing melasma absolutely loves? Heat! So I try to keep my face as cool as possible. (This is another reason why washing with cold water is great for the skin!) I carry around one of these Mario Badescu facial sprays with me—in my makeup bag, in my purse, next to my skincare. They are cooling and so refreshing. I use them before, during, and after my makeup routine. They are just incredible and you can’t beat the price. Highly recommend!!

I think that about does it—and although this might seem like a lot, please know these are changes I’ve brought into my life not all at once but within the last year and a half. I think the most important thing I mentioned was the skincare routine + spf, but all of it has made a huge difference and I am really just so thankful to be able to say that. Hoping it helps any of you in a similar journey! If you have questions, definitely reach out in today’s IG post comments or shoot me an email at megan@meganstokes.com. Happy to help if I can!