Whether you were sunbathing on your NYC rooftop “six feet” from your next-door neighbors—as if that were truly possible—or scaling the mountains during your nature getaways, or laid out on a pool chair at that checkered-floored pool in Tulum it seems everyone was hitting this summer, you probably got some color. You likely strolled back to your room to check on your new tan lines only to find that wasn’t the only part of your body that had gained some extra color. You’ve now removed the tinted sunglasses to get a better look at your new—
“WAIT, WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE I HAVE A MUSTACHE???”
So, are you experiencing dark brown spots above your upper lip? Why does this sound like an infomercial about a product that might help you, THOUGH side-effects may, unfortunately, induce a swift death? Herein, I will answer this question that many of you may have, but perhaps never knew how to ask. Turns out a lot more goes into this “mustache” and here’s what we know...
What is Melasma?
Melasma refers to brown spots that appear on the face in clusters. It can show up often on the cheeks, nose, forehead, and above one's upper lip. Hence the mustache look, we are currently worried about. Melasma is most commonly found in women—though men can experience it too—but ALAS here is something else women have to take on. It’s okay we can handle it. *wipes single tear*. It’s typically caused by either sun damage and/or hormonal changes commonly seen in women during their pregnancy or on birth control which leads to discoloration in the skin. It’s not that simple— so let’s go deeper! See, what ends up happening is UV exposure can directly affect the cells that create melanin—the thing that gives your skin pigment—and as the saying goes, too much of something can never be good. (Unless we are talking about pasta; then I beg to differ.) Anywho, when melanin clusters in one spot it leads to discoloration in the skin and may result in brown spots. This can also be caused by the hormonal changes in your body causing your body to again produce excess melanin. In this case directly above your lip. But why there; why does it have to be there?
Why the Upper Lip? Why the mustache?
“I use sunscreen daily so why would I get it?” Well, let me ask you this, while you were tanning poolside, or hanging out on the rooftop, did you reach for a cold refreshing drink that left a little liquid residue for you to either swiftly wipe off or lick away when no one is looking? Or have you aggressively wiped your upper lip, because, as if normal sweating during hiking wasn’t bad enough, now you have excess sweat that makes wearing a face mask unbearable? If you have done any of these things you have already cleared off whatever—if any—SPF coverage you put on before venturing outside. Leaving your poor upper lip area vulnerable and quite frankly sad because of this new sun damage.
So, what to do now?
By now, hopefully, you are kind of relieved to know you aren’t the only one. Nevertheless, you aren’t any more accepting of these newfound friends, and you want them gone. Either that, or you’ve never experienced melasma and have scared you into never forgetting to use sunscreen throughout the day. It is not too late to protect your skin. Consider this a “know before you go”. When they tell you how important SPF is, trust them. Again, we’re talking a SPF each morning (under your makeup, or instead of it) and reapplications every few hours, especially if you add sweating or swimming into the mix. And in the case of hormonal changes that affect melasma, SPF is absolutely still needed— Vitamin D is one helluva drug, but the sun’s (literally) dark underbelly is its ability to trigger melasma and other forms of hyperpigmentation.
I’ve done some learning, too. Rest assured you’ll never again catch me not doubling up on SPF every time I’m window-side, trying to snag the best light for my golden hour selfies, that end up in 100 takes for that one good shot.
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