Melasma is a skin condition characterized by the appearance of brownish or grayish patches of skin. The condition is common among women.
Although melasma generally does not signify any underlying condition nor pose any harm, those who are affected are often bothered by how it appears. Treatment involves use of the best sunscreen for melasma.
The best sunscreen for melasma: Physical vs. chemical sunscreens
Other than preferring a broad spectrum sunscreen – one that blocks both the deep-penetrating UVA and the surface burning UVB radiation – you must also know the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens are sunscreens that have chemical actives such as oxybenzone, octinoxate and homosalate.
These chemicals transform the UV in heat, which is a much less harmful by-product.
Physical sunscreens literally block out UV The most common physical sunscreens are mineral sunscreens made with only Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide or both.
Other botanical active sunscreen ingredients are only just starting to be manufactured and distributed.
Since melasma is also caused by harsh chemicals, physical sunscreens are your top options
This is supported by a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. The researchers were able to establish that physical sunscreens are effective in shielding skin from visible light.
Between physical sun blockers, Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, a study recommends Zinc Oxide is the more effective ingredient. The study also emphasizes that recent use of nano-sized Zinc Oxide provides even better coverage and protection against UV.
My Favorite Sunscreens For Melasma
1. Eltamd UV Clear SPF 46
This product bears an Environmental Working Group (EWG) rating of 3. EWG is a non-government organization that serves as the watchdog of consumer products sold in the market.
It grades products based on safety and toxicity of ingredients.
- A rating of 1 or 2 means a product has low hazard
- 3 to 6 has moderate hazard
- 7 to 9 has high hazard
This product works best for normal to dry skin. Sunscreen’s active ingredients are Zinc Oxide (9.0%) and Octinoxate (7.5%). This product provides Broad spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection.
- Effective sunscreen and moisturizer in one
- Contains niacinamide which aids in proper skin nourishment
- Contains Octinoxate is an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) and bears high risk for irritation. This EDC mimics estrogen which switches on and off several critical body processes. It also bioaccumulates which means that it can be passed on from mother to child and is not degraded into simpler forms. At higher concentration, octinoxate is toxic.
- Contains PEG which can easily be contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals
- Not water-resistant nor sweat resistant
- Leaves a white streak
- Contains very little antioxidants
2. EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41
This product’s 2015 formulation has an EWG Score of 2. It is marketed as suitable for sensitive to hypersensitive skin types. It is recommended for users with normal to dry skin.
Active sunscreen ingredients are Zinc Oxide (9%) and Titanium Dioxide (7%). This product provides Broad spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection.
- Safe for use on the face
- Product is non-greasy and dries down to a matte finish which is ideal for use under makeup
- Product is ideal for use when performing water sports activities, and stays on after sweating profusely
- Reapplication is due every 2 to 3 hours under normal conditions, while every 40 minutes of reapplication is recommended when performing water-based activities and heavy sweating
- Contains Vitamin E which nourishes skin and provides antioxidant protection
- Suitable for all skin types
- The zinc oxide component is not a nano zinc oxide which would have been a more effective sunscreen active, most especially in blocking skin from visible sunlight
- Contains very little antioxidants which would have provided additional protection against UV. Vitamin E, for instance, works best when combined with Vitamin C
- It fails to provide skin benefits other than sun protection
- Product contains PEGs
- Product is formulated with phenoxyethanol, a neurotoxic, as preservative, and therefore may not be ideal for use on very small children
3. Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 30+
This product has been certified by the EWG to have a rating of 1, the lowest grade for hazard potential. Active sunscreen ingredients are Zinc Oxide (10%) and Titanium Dioxide (5%). This product provides Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB protection, SPF 30+.
- Suitable for use on sensitive to hyper sensitive skin types
- Packaged in a smart bottle that turns blue when it detects the presence of UV, and serve as a reminder for consumers to apply or reapply the product for protection. The darker the shade of blue, the higher the amounts of UV present
- Contains Vitamin E and beeswax which moisturize skin
- Includes other antioxidants which protect skin from damaging free radicals
- Water-resistant and sweat-resistant, with reapplication recommended for every 80 minutes of sweating or performing water sports activities
- Product has very low risk for causing irritation
- This product is not exactly rid of chemicals as claimed, nevertheless chemicals included do not pose serious risks
- White streak appears on skin which may affect cosmetic application
Clearly, the best sunscreen for melasma is Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 30+ because the last thing you want to do when you’re dealing with melasma is to irritate your skin even more.
- This is a great product to protect your skin from UV and any further pigmentation without running the risk of irritation, EDC or biomagnification
- The product is made only with physical sunscreen actives but is able to provide a broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection
- In addition, an EWG rating of 1 will give you confidence that this is a clean, non-toxic product
When treating melasma, make sure to follow your skin specialist’s advised down to a tee