Experiencing a melasma moustache? How to treat upper lip discolouration

While melasma pigmentation is physically harmless, emotionally, it can really take a toll.

Written by
Sophie Overett
Medically reviewed by
min read
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If you’ve ever had a flare-up, you probably know the look of your melasma by heart.

Maybe it appears as a swell of skin discolouration on your forehead, or in small, brown patches at your cheeks, or maybe it envelopes your entire upper lip, taking on a moustache-like appearance and making your friends and family double take.

While melasma pigmentation is physically harmless, emotionally, it can really take a toll. That discolouration can make you feel self-conscious, particularly across the summer months when it’s more likely to flare up, and navigating that when you’re trying to enjoy the season can cause a strain on your relationship with yourself and with others.

So how do you prevent these episodes of hyperpigmentation from happening? And how do you treat them when they do happen? We’ll look at all of that, but first, let’s dive into what melasma actually is.

What is melasma?

One of the most common hyperpigmentation disorders, melasma is a condition where patches of brown pigmentation and discolouration appear on the facial skin [1].

While it can sometimes look painful, it never is, and shouldn't be confused with skin cancer.

This condition predominantly affects women of colour, particularly darker-skinned women of Latin American, South-East Asian and South Asian ethnicity [1], and due to it being usually found on the face, it can have a huge impact on a woman’s self-esteem and quality of life [2].  

What is a melasma moustache?

A melasma moustache occurs when the pigmentation is localised to your upper lip, creating the effect of looking like, well, a moustache.

Melasma itself is really common, but generally, it’s more likely to appear on your cheeks and forehead, so discolouration between your nose and mouth can come as a surprise to some [3].

What causes a melasma moustache to appear?

The causes of a melasma moustache are ultimately the same as the causes of any other melasma patches.

Namely, it occurs when your pigment-producing cells become hyperactive and produce too much pigment in certain areas of the skin [5], and it’s generally triggered by sun exposure or hormonal changes, particularly during pregnancy or changes to birth control [3].

What factors increase your odds of upper lip melasma?

Like any other skin condition, many underlying factors come into play with melasma.

While sun exposure and hormonal changes are generally the triggers, it's important to remember that they’re interacting with your specific body’s makeup.

Genetics, for example, is a factor when it comes to this condition, with some studies reporting that approximately 60% of people with melasma have a positive family history of it [1].

We also know that ethnicity is a factor [1].

While more research needs to be conducted as to why, some studies have suggested that it’s because darker-skinned women naturally produce more melanin, so when extensive sun exposure triggers the melasma flare-ups, there’s more melanin in the skin to be affected [5].

Melasma has also been linked to other hormonal conditions such as thyroid problems, which is one of the reasons it's so important to take skincare seriously and seek medical advice if you find yourself experiencing hyperpigmentation [1].

Will a melasma moustache go away by itself?

Unfortunately, melasma is an incurable skin disorder, and not only will it not go away on its own, but left untreated and without maintenance, it’ll likely get worse [3].

As a result, working with a medical professional such as a doctor or dermatologist to develop a treatment plan gives you the best chance of getting your melasma moustache under control.

Software's pigmentation treatment is designed by health practitioners to deliver the best possible results for your specific skin type and concerns.

Developed with a personalised formula and medical-grade ingredients that you can't get off the shelf, it is able to lighten dark spots and make your skin glow again.

Is upper lip melasma prevention possible?

While melasma can’t be fully prevented due to genetic and hormonal factors, there’s still a lot you can do to limit flare-ups and reduce the risk of recurrence [4].

The number one of these preventative techniques is sun protection and wearing sunscreen every single day. UV exposure and sun damage are huge factors when it comes to melasma, so avoiding the sun is crucial to keeping those stubborn dark spots at bay.

Of course, keeping out of the sun isn’t always possible, especially if you work outdoors or are planning a day at the beach.

In these cases, using a strong sunscreen that contains a sunblock like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or Ethylhexyl Triazone, can help filter that light exposure and keep your skin tone even [3].

Software’s Daily Sun Defence SPF50+ is a great option, as it blocks UV light and reduces the risk of sun spots. Other sun protection support can be found in sun-protective hats, umbrellas and finding that slice of shade where you can.

As hormonal changes can cause melasma almost as much as sun exposure, taking a look at your birth control pills or any other hormone medications you might be on can also be a way to prevent flare-ups of melasma moustaches.

Unfortunately, for pregnant women, melasma can be harder to prevent. In fact, it's so common that many doctors even refer to melasma itself as a pregnancy mask. That said, there are still plenty of ways that you can treat this skin condition in a way that helps you feel good.

How to treat upper lip melasma

While there’s no cure for melasma, there is a range of treatments that target pigmentation and melanin production in skin cells and can help to keep it under control.

Since it’s likely to recur too, maintenance treatments are generally recommended, with a particular emphasis on light protection to prevent relapses [1].

Some treatment options include:

  • Over-the-counter topical treatments that are rich in vitamin C, retinol or azelaic acid such as Software’s Vitamin C + Ferulic Serum.
  • Medical treatments such as Software's personalised pigmentation treatment.
  • Topical creams that include active ingredients like kojic acid and retinoids can decrease melanin production in the skin.
  • Cosmetic treatments such as chemical peels or laser treatment. Both of these procedures should only be done with a board-certified dermatologist who can understand your skin condition and customise the treatments if you have sensitive skin [3].

Melasma moustaches can easily recur and take time to treat. Understanding that your melasma is incurable and that increased pigmentation can occur with changes to oral contraceptives, pregnancy, sun exposure and more, is important.

In other words, prevention, treatment and maintenance will be a lifelong journey, but it's one that Software can help you navigate.

Image credit: Getty Images

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