Melasma no more: This SPF hack helps one blogger fight frustrating dark spots from the sun.

Susan Brickell
April 09, 2018
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Protecting your skin from the dangerous UV rays that contribute to sunburn is challenging enough. But for many people, there's another frustrating side effect from sun exposure to contend with: melasma.

"Melasma is a condition in which patients develop dark, blotchy spots around the mouth, cheeks, and temples," Joshua Zeichner, MD, tells Health. It's thought to be a result of hormones, he explains, as the condition often worsens during pregnancy. "Other factors that contribute include heat and UV light exposure."

Sound familiar? The actress Sarah Silverman opened up about her melasma last summer, writing on Instagram that she wears "two hats, zinc, and a bandana" over her face at the beach to prevent the pesky dark spots from developing.

Who’s most likely to fall victim to melasma? Women, raise your hands. Just 10% of people with the condition are men, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. And because they have more active color-producing cells (called melanocytes) in the skin, people with darker complexions are more likely to develop melasma as well. When these melanocytes go into overdrive and produce too much color, the dark spots can occur.

Although it can pop up all around the face, many women find it particularly frustrating when melasma develops on the upper lip, since darkened skin there can resemble facial hair. To protect this area from UV rays, The 12ish Style blogger Katie Sturino applies a few swipes of a neon zinc SPF to her upper lip. Sturino, who first coined the term "zinc mustache" in a 2016 post on her site, has shared numerous snaps on Instagram while rocking this sun-safe look. "I have hyper-pigmentation, so my upper lip gets a dark shadow on it if I only use SPF," she writes.

Ready to rock a zinc mustache like Sturino? We like the Bare Republic Mineral SPF 50 Neon Sunscreen Sticks ($9; amazon.com); they come in a slew of fun colors made from food-grade ingredients and are water resistant up to 80 minutes. We can see it now: 2018’s newest summer accessory for those who want a little color at the beach (forget about lipstick, because it’s totally unrealistic) is to coat your upper lip in neon zinc to match your swimsuit. Count us on board with this trend.

Prefer less colorful coverage? Connecticut-based dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, recommends using a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and iron oxides. She likes the Avene High Protection Tinted Compact SPF 50 ($36; dermstore.com), which is super easy to apply. "Vitamin C and retinols are also good against the melasma fight," she adds.

As for Dr. Zeichner, he's a fan of Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 ($14; amazon.com) for daily SPF protection and PCA SKIN Clearskin Facial Cream ($38; amazon.com) to brighten and moisturize at night. "Look for products that contain soy, licorice root extract, kojic acid, niacinamide, or azelaic acid, as they have brightening effects on the skin," he says. "Make sure to use gentle skin cleansers that hydrate and do not disrupt the skin barrier, as even low-grade inflammation from irritating cleansers can make pigmentation worse."