I suffer from melasma and was told by a dermatologist to avoid using self tanner on the areas where I have melasma patches because it would cause those areas to darken, working against my efforts to lighten them. I know there are several types of self tanner, but I didn’t think any of them actually worked by altering melanin, so I don’t see how using them would worsen my melasma- but I’m too scared to try in case it does! My hope was that a bit of self tanner would help disguise the difference between the spots and the rest of my face, similar to what happens when I apply foundation and a bit of bronzer… Thanks for any input! -A
Officially, there is no link between melasma and self-tanner in any medical or scientific literature.
Unofficially, your dermatologist is onto something. Melasma, a common skin problem that causes brown to gray-brown patches most commonly on the face, forearms, and neck, is often exacerbated with UV exposure. And self-tanners contain DHA, which may increase the amount of free radicals released after UV exposure.
Most self-tanners work by using dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the main ingredient. Unfortunately, according to a 2007 study published in Germany, DHA causes the skin to release 180% more free radicals once being exposed to the sun – resulting in damage down the line.
This means, if melasma is caused or exacerbated by free radical release following UV exposure, self-tanner could potentially cause or exacerbate the condition. Has this been proven? No. But I suspect your dermatologist has seen (and heard) enough cases to make this correlation.
I personally avoid self-tanners with DHA at all costs. Instead, I think about using bronzer, or applying your self-tanner solely at night, and being religious about using sunscreen the next day.
Hope this helps!
All the best,