5 Things I Did To Heal Melasma Naturally
After spending my 20’s neglecting my body with too much drinking, eating processed food, and going on little to no sleep, I started to pay for it. At age 30, I was suddenly dealing with several issues like migraines, anxiety, and then melasma. You can read all about my journey with melasma here.
If you have melasma, you’ve probably spent countless hours googling for ways to make these dark patches go away and you’ve probably tried every so-called “remedy” out there, from lemon juice to hydrogen peroxide to apple cider vinegar to creams. I tried it all but nothing ever made the slightest difference in the appearance of my skin. In fact some of the harsher treatments like peels, actually seemed to make it worse.
Endless internet searches eventually taught me that this wasn’t an external problem. No amount of trying to scrub the spots off was going to help. This was an internal issue. Something in my body was out of balance. So I dove head first into the world of nutrition and holistic living for answers.
I started to incorporate the things I learned and eventually started to see results. But rather than my skin clearing up, I started to actually FEEL better first. My headaches were less frequent, anxiety less severe, and after years of having menstrual cramps that were so bad I’d have to miss school or work, my cramps became basically non-existent. Finally, I started to notice that my skin seemed to be looking better too. It was a gradual change but I was at least starting to feel some hope.
Looking back on that time in my life, I can now see that I was under a ton of stress caused by my lifestyle and a few bigger things that were out of my control. I believe melasma is caused by hormones that are out of balance, especially the adrenal (stress) hormones. For me it was all about stress that resulted in an unhealthy gut and a hormone imbalance.
This is a journey that I’m still on but over the years I made changes to my diet and lifestyle and eventually I started to feel better.
I know how hopeless it can feel to deal with any chronic skin issue, but you are not alone! These days I often get asked what I did to help my skin clear up. While I wish I could say there was a magic cream or quick rememdy that made the difference, the truth is, it was many small changes that added up to a more balanced body.
Here are the 5 biggest things I did, and still do, that I believe have helped fade melasma
- Stress Less – I know, that’s easier said than done, but reducing stress can have a major impact on the health of your hormones and having healthy hormones is essential to having healthy skin. Hormones respond to any type of stress by secreting cortisol, which is a good thing when emergencies only happen once in a while. High cortisol is what gives you a burst of energy to escape a stressful situation, like running from a tiger in the wild. Ideally that stress only happens once in a while, but we live in a chaotic world where stress is often constant. When you’re under continual stress, cortisol can stay too high for too long. Eventually that can lead to other hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, getting out of balance. If progesterone is too low, you can end up in ‘estrogen dominance’ which will increase the release of melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) which increases melanin. Melanin is what gives your skin pigment, and too much melanin can result in darker skin. So for some people, stress can lead to melasma.
It’s impossible to control all the stress in your life but there are ways to make sure you deal with that stress in a healthy way. One of the best ways to reduce stress is with simple meditation, even 5-10 minutes a day is really helpful. Deep breathing is also great for reducing stress and lowering anxiety. My favorite deep breathing exercise is called diaphragmatic breathing but just use whatever works best for you! Practice slowing down. We live in a world where busyness is glorified, but many of us would benefit from slowing down a bit. Maybe that means not meeting up with your friends for drinks that week. Maybe you would benefit from yoga or walking instead of running or 2-hour cardio workouts. Or maybe you can work out 3 days a week instead of 5 days a week. It’s ok to say no and give your body what it needs!
- Get Plenty of Sleep – everyone is different but on average most people should aim for around 8 hours of sleep each night. A lack of sleep is another big stressor which is why nights I don’t sleep well, the next day my skin looks darker. Have trouble sleeping? Two things that I’ve found to be really helpful are 1) turn off all electronics (yep, that goes for your phone too!) at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. The bluelight in electronic screens is very stimulating and can mess up your sleep/wake cycle and 2) in the evenings, use only lamps or overhead lights with a dimmer switch. Again, light is stimulating so less light will help your body to start preparing for rest.
- Nourish Your Liver – your liver is one of the hardest working organs in your body, playing a huge a role in blood sugar control, digestion, making healthy hormones, and of course detoxification. Despite the popularity of those trendy 7-day detoxes, you often don’t need a special cleanse or juice detox to keep your liver healthy. Simple things like warm lemon water in the morning, reducing sugar in your diet, eating plenty of leafy greens especially dandelion greens, and limiting alcohol are all really simply ways to keep your liver healthy and happy.
- Eat A Well-balanced Diet – I didn’t change my diet all at once, but over time I started to avoid processed foods as much as possible and replaced those packaged foods with whole foods. Yes, that meant I had to learn how to cook but I keep my meals really simple. I do a big meal prep on Sundays so I have food for the week which makes weekdays much easier! I also started eating plenty of healthy fats because good fats like coconut oil, butter/ghee, or avocado are essential for making healthy hormones. As mentioned above, I eat plenty of leafy greens, limit alcohol, and keep sugar low.
- Keep Your Gut Healthy – It might seem like you’re hearing a lot lately about the importance of having a healthy gut. Well, its very true! There’s a reason that Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said that “All disease begins in the gut.”. We’re just now starting to realize how true this is! Gut health can be really complicated, but for me, my main issue is leaky gut. Leaky gut syndrome can be caused by a number of things like certain medications, eating foods you’re sensitive to, or chronic stress. Leaky gut is very common these days and can go undetected for a long time because it doesn’t always show up as what we normally think of as digestive symptoms. Instead, it can show up as a variety of issues like arthritis, autoimmune disease, anxiety, headaches, or chronic skin conditions, just to name a few. This is likely why when I changed my diet and lifestyle and healed my gut, in the hopes of healing my skin, my headaches and cramps also diminished.
I worked closely with a naturopathic doctor to come up with a protocol that was right for me, which includes bone broth, and natural supplements like l-glutamine and slippery elm. If you think you might have gut issues, it’s important to work with a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner to get tested and they can put you on a protocol that’s right for your body. Healing gut issues takes time and patience but it’s all worth it in the end. You might even up healing more than just your skin!
Skin issues won’t disappear overnight but I believe that if you focus on healing from the inside out, overtime your body and mind can get back into balance. Some days this stuff will seem really hard and you might even feel like giving up, but you don’t have to do everything perfectly. Just do the best you can and take each day as it comes.
Here’s another link to the post all about my journey with melasma.
If you want more details about how to nourish to your liver, gut health, or anything I wrote about above, comment below to let me know which ones and I’ll work on a blogpost for each!
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