Unmasking Melasma: Causes & Treatments

Melasma, often referred to as the "mask of pregnancy," is a common skin condition that can affect many women, often between the ages of 20-40. It will appear as brown or grayish patches on the face, particularly on the cheeks, forehead, and upper lip, and while it poses no health risks, melasma can significantly impact your client's self-esteem and confidence. As estheticians, it's crucial to understand the causes and treatments to effectively address this concern and guide your clients toward achieving brighter, more even-toned skin.


Causes of Melasma

Melasma develops due to a combination of genetics, hormonal changes, and sun exposure. Hormonal fluctuations, such as those occurring during pregnancy, menopause, or while taking birth control, can trigger the overproduction of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation also stimulates melanocytes, which can make the skin condition worse. Other factors like thyroid disorders and certain medications may also contribute to its onset.


Treatments for Melasma

Treating melasma aims to reduce and manage the pigmentation on your client’s skin. This may require a series of treatments ranging from peels to microdermabrasion and even laser therapy to exfoliate, promote cell turnover, and lighten hyperpigmented areas. When it comes to professional treatments, our pros recommend a glycolic treatment for the best results. Also, consider adding products with niacinamide into your treatments, and always finish by applying sunscreen. 

Professional Glycolic Treatment: This treatment is best when performed weekly for six weeks, three times a year. During the refine phase of your facial, break up the process based on where your client is in the series of treatments. We recommend that only experienced estheticians familiar with Tuel products perform this treatment.

  • First and Second Treatments: Use a mask brush to mix 1 teaspoon of Enzyme Peel Exfoliating Mask with 1/3 teaspoon of Glycolic Solution and 2/3 teaspoon water in a bowl. Work quickly to apply to the face, neck, and décolleté, avoiding the eyelids and applying to the cheeks last. Leave on for 2-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the skin. Using steam, keep the skin moist, and then rinse well with warm water.
  • Third and Fourth Treatments: Increase the amount of Glycolic Solution to 2/3 teaspoon and follow the same steps. Remember, the amount of Glycolic solution is increased, not the amount of time the mixture is left on.
  • Fifth and Sixth Treatments: Intensify the mixture by adding 1 teaspoon of Glycolic Acid to 1 teaspoon of Enzyme Peel. Do not add water. Time should only be increased according to your professional judgment and customer’s tolerance.

Because melasma can react negatively if treated with peels too aggressively, we recommend only trying other peel treatments, such as Salicylic or Lactic Peels, if you’ve achieved the desired results from the Glycolic treatment. If you do try additional peel treatments, it’s even more important when treating melasma to adhere to all the warnings—know your clients' skin, their response to treatments, and overall tolerance. 


At-Home Skincare Recommendations

Always follow up any peel treatment by discussing at-home post-treatment care and an overall daily skincare routine that suits their skin type. Encourage clients to use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily, even on cloudy days, to protect their skin from UV damage. Have them incorporate skincare products that contain brightening ingredients like vitamin C and niacinamide to also help fade existing pigmentation and prevent it from returning. Overall, remind your clients that treating Melasma is a journey, and you’ll gradually improve their skin together.