Okay, so this post is going to be a LONG one so just get ready! ☺️ And unfortunately this post will be full of answers many of you won’t want to hear! Ah!
This topic popped up on Friday evening when I posted an Insta-Story [@emilyanngemma] throwback video from a few days before I had Luke Bear – where I didn’t have much make-up on and my ‘melasma-stache’ was STRONG. ? So many people started writing me asking if I had gotten rid of it / was it related to pregnancy / etc. Seriously I had a sudden influx of questions come in all at once. This tends to happen any time I mention skincare or how bad my skin used to be. That being said, I wanted to use this blog post to answer the question ‘How Did I Get Rid of Melasma?” + a few questions I have been getting frequently lately!
First of all, melasma can be anywhere – not just on your upper lip, but also on your cheeks or forehead, etc. Also, it is not always pregnancy related. If you are not familiar it is basically a discoloration in your skin where there is excess melanin production – aka DARK SPOTS. I personally think it is worse on your upper lip because it can be a bit harder to hide – you will see why shortly. Really quickly, women tend to see it most commonly during the last trimester of pregnancy. One of my girlfriends texted me to today actually saying that just this morning [she is 31w] her husband made a comment about it! Due to hormones and other science-y stuff that I don’t understand – your body can just suddenly product excess melanin and pregnant women refer it to the the ‘mask of pregnancy’. Keep in mind, I am NOT a doctor – and John is NOT a dermatologist! Most everything I know comes from being friends w/derms + a decade of trial and error of trying products because I have never had ‘good skin’. [I give the disclaimer because you should read up on this type of stuff or see your doctor – this is just my story and my experience.] Anyway, for me, I had melasma years before being pregnant with Luke and let me just tell you – it can drive a girl bonkers & really take a toll on your confidence to be frank. I believe mine got the worst while on Accutane [more on that topic at the end of this post]. So I did Accutane back in 2015/6ish?! & it truly changed my life. Accutane is a very dangerous, serious drug and you have to take extra good care of yourself while you are on it. It makes your more sensitive to sunlight so you have to be ALL about that SPF life! But try as hard as you can, SPF can be a challenge because in the summer you sweat on your upper lip and wipe off your SPF w/o even thinking about it… or you eat and wipe your mouth and there goes your SPF coverage on your upper lip. So that is what makes the upper lip a common place to see melasma.
After Accutane, I was determined to get rid of my acne scarring, hyper pigmentation, & texture so I was trying EVERYTHING. I am not joking – everything! I finally had smoother skin w/not huge cysts or blemishes so my goal was to get rid of the scars/dark colors. I tried products from Sephora/Ulta/MLMs/treatments/etc. and really didn’t see a *huge* changes. By that I mean, I may have seen some improvement but nothing to write home about, ya know!? I highly recommend being super cautious if you are in this spot because people will convince you of things & you can spend a lot of money and see minimal or even no results. ? The one thing I would recommend is seeing a dermatologist- these people are experts & they know the science behind skin & how to treat things. And often, you spend less money buying medical grade products and see actual changes. Medical grade products are held to an entirely different standard than products you see in department stores and they usually have more research/testing AND better/stronger dosages. A lot of the products you see in department stores will just be applied to skin and never actually sink in & ‘get to work’ if you will. 🙂 Anyway, I will say that I do think there are products at department stores that are amazing & work – and I have a lot that I really love – but the ones that are made for melasma & big issues often won’t have as great of an impact.
Okay, so now that I’ve explained some backstory on how I got melasma I will answer the question “did it go away?” and the answer is basically, “yes”. What is wild is that when I posted that throwback video to almost 2 years ago, I personally was in shock that my melasma was so dark and I quickly looked at my upper lip to see if it was still ‘that bad’ & it totally is not. Now, I am sure it will come back as I near the end of pregnancy & I can’t use the powerful products while pregnant but I was just excited to see what a huge difference. Last spring/summer I got on a huge skincare kick – which is nothing new for me. I’ve always been a product junkie and try products ALL of the time! But, I was determined to get rid of the fine lines, dark spots, texture, etc. I changed everything from what I ate, to limiting my Diet Coke and drinking a TON of water, to also getting PRP facials & using medical grade skincare. The first thing I am going to say regarding melasma & good skin care is that there’s no ‘quick fix’ or ‘overnight miracle’ – it is like weight loss – you gotta put in the time and work to see results. When I got on this ‘kick’, I knew I needed to stick to it DAILY and be consistent for 4 weeks before I expected to see the slightest change. This is something our society does not like– it seems like everyone wants a quick fix or instant gratification. This is an entirely different topic but something our preacher said a few months ago constantly stays in the back of my head “Successful people do consistently what normal people do occasionally“. The reason this comes to mind with skincare [so random!??♀️] is because I know people who will try a new routine for say- 5 nights but get ‘too busy’ to do it on the weekend and then expect to see results. When I first got started on this skincare ‘kick’ that I am referring to, I was on week 3 and I was in Arkansas staying with my sister & visiting a girlfriend. My sister never had bad skin or acne so she never really washed her face like I do – I’m a crazy person who cleanses 2x at night and she’s the type who may fall asleep w/o washing because she’s never experienced acne. For me, washing my face is a priority at night time – after I get Luke to bed, clean the house, & catch up on e-mails – I always wash my face. Anyway, this weekend that we were in Arkansas I had gone with my friends from undergrad to dinner and to see their new house about an hour away. I didn’t get back to my sisters until 2am because we stayed up late chatting and lost track of time. When I came in at 2am – so tired and knowing Luke would be up at 7am I made it a point to use all of the products because I didn’t want to ‘break my streak’. HA! Anyway, my sister came into her bathroom and was like “Emily, did you really stay up until 2am and use all of these products around my sink?!” and I was like “oh ya” and she was like “wow, I would not have done that!”. It made us laugh because that is just all part of the skincare struggle, ya know!? I use this story mainly as an example to show that consistency truly is key in this – not just products but drinking water and watching what you eat.
Okay, so first of all, I amped up my water intake. I never believe that would help – I always thought that was a silly myth that super healthy people said…? but no… water makes your skin so much more plump and hydrated! I literally consider it a part of skincare. I started using THIS CUP / THIS STRAW and still use it because I find I think a ton more water when I constantly see it sitting around the house. I am a coffee & Diet Coke lover and used to choose those options over water any day [embarassing] but I broke that habit finally. Also, I started taking Hyaluronic Acid supplements [please read THIS POST for info on why/what I use now]. I’m also not a healthy eater – I loathe veggies! But I made it a point to eat more veggies- what you eat definitely changes your skin. My skin definitely took a hit as soon as I get pregnant with baby #2 because the first 22w I could not even look at veggies w/o getting sick to my stomach – and additionally a lot of medical grade products are not safe while pregnant. Speaking of, I started using medical grade ‘strong’ products [this post goes in depth on what I was using!] As far as targeting melasma specifically goes, the products that worked the best were retinol, Vitamin C, & hydroquinone. The retinol I used is HERE & I tried another med grade brand and it did not work as well! The Vitamin C product that I swear by for brightening your skin and fading dark marks is HERE. Honestly, THIS SITE in general carries a variety of the good med grade products that will change your skin. You can even browse their tabs and select what type of products you are looking for — I always go to ‘large pores’??? bc that is still a struggle. And finally I used hydroquinone which is insanely powerful and I would consult a physician before using one. I used one from Obagi’s Dr. ZO line – which can only be purchased from a doctor’s office. [PS. PLEASE do not buy this type of stuff on Amazon- so many of those are fakes!] If you are scared to use a high strength hydroquinone check some of THESE out – they are made up of lighter dosages but may still be effective. As far as PRP facials go, I am not 100% sold on them… I have read reviews and research that say they are not all they are cracked up to be but I was trying to get one every quarter or so if my schedule allowed. I do think that helped break up some acne scars/pits.
Okay, this is an overload of info but I made sure to link blog posts where I explained why I use certain things so make sure you check those out.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Have I gotten Botox? / Botox while pregnant? I have gotten Botox before – I talked about that briefly in my Microblading Experience post. I actually like Botox for preventative reasons BUT I [personally] do not think it is safe to do while trying to get pregnant, OR while pregnant OR while nursing [aka basically me for the past 3 years haha!]. This is a personal thing – this is just me – to each their own though! I honestly have been shocked at the number of emails/messages I get from girls asking if I am getting Botox while pregnant! I told a few of our physician/nurse friends and they have all said that they didn’t realize a doctor would take on that type of liability – but who knows?! Again, I am not a doctor and I am terrible at science, LOL but from what I understand you really should be cautious about what you do while pregnant/nursing. Botox is a toxin and I am one who would rather avoid any type of risk, ya know. Again, this is just my experience and my personal opinion – I would 100% ask your OBGYN.
Why did I do Accutane? I did Accutane several years ago and I have written MANY posts about it here on my blog if you want to use the search tool to browse through those. Basically, at around 17? I got acne – normal teenage acne but it only got worse over time. In college it turned into cystic acne & I would get 1-2 cysts on my cheeks near my mouth at a time. And I picked!!!! I should be ashamed to admit to but please do not pick at cysts!!! I am proof of the damage they can do – I had and still have small scars / craters from this! My scars have faded so much over the past few years but its been a lot of work to fade them / make them less noticeable. So not only did I have acne + cysts, I eventually got hormonal acne. under my jaw!!! So basically I had it all. I saw derms after derm and nothing really helped make any improvement. This is where my love for makeup set in – I was determined to cover it all! I literally worked a second job in grad school so that I could have extra cash to buy a new foundation or Clarisonic or whatever hot product was out. I do not feel the need to wear make up like I used to but truth be told, I love makeup- it is a hobby to me! John watches sports/ESPN and I watch a YouTube makeup tutorial. There is no shame in loving makeup! 😉 Anyway, my parents would not let me do Accutane.. if you google it you mainly find the negative stories and its easy to fall prey to the Internet and the negative stuff. I remember when I shared that I was starting Accutane on my blog – the feedback was 90% “wow it changed my skin” and then 10% “horror stories”. By this point though, John had watched me battle acne for so long and he studied it and researched it [not just Google btw!!] and he was like “okay, I think you should do it.” It was a true game changer for me but it took a decade of horrific issues to resort to it. I wish I had done it in college prior to my cystic acne though because that is damage that is harder to reverse.
Skincare while pregnant? If you do not frequent my blog, you may not know that I do at least one beauty post per week and file it under the BEAUTY tab on my Menu. I blog 5x a weekly usually, and I always do at least one beauty topic – so I constantly update my blog with my skincare, makeup, and even hair care! I literally have 2 beauty posts coming up this week so please check back and you can browse through my last few months skincare & makeup posts by clicking BEAUTY. For the most part, I use 2 cleansers – always gentle/hydrating and I also use an HA + a moisturizer + an oil + eye cream. My skin is never at its best while pregnant but I will say I have been proactive about it this pregnancy so it is not as dry or parched as it was while pregnant with Luke!
MISC QUESTIONS REGARDING BEAUTY + PREGNANCY | So I get asked about if I use self tanner, if I get my nails done, if I color my hair, etc. when I am pregnant and my answer is always to ask your doctor! All pregnancies are different and all women are different and your doctor knows your situation best. So you may have something your doctor is concerned about that I don’t have, ya know?! But yes, I do get my hair done – I get balayage so that is just on the ends and we cover grays. I will have to have it done a total of 2-3x while pregnant. I also do still use self tanner and I also still get my nails done. I see my doctor each month and we do ultrasounds at every appt and he has approved of everything I do. Honestly, if your melasma gets bad or your have certain issues you can always tell your OBGYN and they can research to see if there is anything specific you can do. I personally wear full coverage makeup so I don’t mind covering my melasma up if it gets bad!