Lots of women have melasma. It feels like it just appears out of nowhere and is very hard to get rid of.
Up to 33% of people will have melasma sometime, especially women in their reproductive years. Besides using sunscreen at all times and reducing the sun and blue light exposure, the cosmetic market and technology are working on solutions that are becoming more sophisticated and efficient for any skin type. (Thank you cosmetic market and technology!)
In this blog post, I’m going to share the best foundations for melasma and share my favorite treatments, sunscreens, and primers too! Some of these linked are affiliate links.
What is melasma?
Melasma is a common skin problem that causes dark, discolored patches on your skin. It’s also called the “pregnancy mask,” when it occurs in pregnant women. It’s most commonly on the face, but it can also be seen on the arms, neck, and cleavage.
This skin condition can sometimes be referred to as hyperpigmentation. But don’t worry, those dark patches and age spots can be covered with the perfect shade of a great concealer and setting powder. (I’m getting there.)
What causes melasma?
Like most things in skincare, the sun is the major factor, but birth control and pregnancy also can also contribute to melasma. The biggest triggering factor is exposure to ultraviolet light and visible light. In addition to hormonal factors and exposure to sunlight, genetic predisposition also influences the appearance of melasma.
While both melasma and hyperpigmentation are darker patches of skin, melasma is differentiated from other forms of hyperpigmentation mainly by its cause. Rather than just being sun-related, melasma can be caused by hormonal changes within the body.
How do you get rid of melasma?
Oh, that’s the tricky part. Because it takes years to develop, getting rid of it isn’t easy. In my experience, prescription skincare helps, but if you’re not maintaining that skincare routine with sunscreen, then you’re not going to get too far.
There are tons of treatments, so before I get into the best makeup and foundation for melasma, let’s start with ways to treat melasma because it’s important to be treating it underneath your makeup.
How do you treat melasma?
Visiting a dermatologist is the best way to diagnose and treat melasma or hyperpigmentation. Regardless of the treatment, you must always protect your skin against ultraviolet rays and visible light.
Some available therapies use topical medications and procedures for lightening dark spots. Peelings and light and laser treatments are very popular. Here are some more details.
Best Melasma Treatments
This is a key starting point for the treatment to take effect. It’s simple – protection against the sun’s rays. People affected by melasma should apply a powerful, physical, and chemical sunscreen, with a high SPF in the affected regions.
In particular, look for filters that have protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The filters help to stabilize the benefits obtained with the set of measures described here.
Below, we will get into the best sunscreens for melasma, but for now, let’s get into more specifics on how to treat the discoloration.
To help remove dark spots, the most popular used creams have a base with hydroquinone, glycolic acid, retinoic acid, and azelaic acid. Other active ingredients widely used for the treatment of melasma are arbutin, kojic acid, phytic acid, tranexamic acid, and dioic acid.
The results take about two months to start appearing. (Yes, this is a long-term game.) Unfortunately, topical creams don’t work with all patients. Even with quick results, the time needed to stabilize the condition and prevent minimal exposure that can make the hyperpigmentation return can be many months… or even years.
The main concept is that patients with melasma or hyperpigmentation need constant treatment and photoprotection.
Skin peels can lighten the skin gradually, but even faster than creams. There are several types of peels, some are more superficial while others can reach deeper layers of the skin. Your dermatologist can help in choosing the most appropriate method for each case.
I just started getting a chemical peel every other month to treat my melasma. In between those chemical peels, I get a microdermabrasion facial. And of course, I’m loading up on sunscreen every morning.
Laser and Light Therapy
Some forms of light energy can help clear the melasma, but it must be done by a professional. If not, it could have the reverse effect and generate more pigmentation.
During laser therapy or light therapy, different wavelengths and outputs of low-level light or lasers are applied directly to a targeted area. When the body tissue then absorbs the light, the red and near-infrared light causes a reaction. The damaged cells respond by promoting regeneration.
Best Foundation for Melasma
Before I get to the best foundations for melasma, I have to talk about sun protection. I know, I keep telling you because it’s that important! Trust me – this is where the best results from treatment start.
Protective measures should be taken daily, even if it is not sunny outside or you don’t even go outside. (This is something I got wrong for years.)
As melasma pigments also with visible light, common sunscreens do not fully protect people with melasma. That’s why physical filters must be associated with photoprotection, which protects from visible light.
12 of the Best Sunscreens for Melasma
Another important thing to do is reapply sunscreen to maintain adequate protection throughout the day. People with melasma should also wear hats, sunglasses, and use umbrellas. Any measure that avoids sun exposure in the affected region should be encouraged. Got it?!
1. Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Face Shield SPF 50
Powered by EnviroScreen® Technology, this hydrating, antioxidant-rich mineral formula provides complete protection from environmental aggressors in a weightless texture that blends invisibly into all skin.
2. CōTZ Flawless Complexion SPF 50
CōTZ® Flawless Complexion SPF 50 provides mineral sun protection in a sheer, lightweight tinted cream that virtually vanishes on most skin tones. It moisturizes to leave a soft, even finish. 20% Zinc Oxide is ideal for all skin types, even sensitive, rosacea-prone, or breakout-prone skin.
3. EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 Sunscreen
For oil-free sun protection with just a touch of color, this lightly tinted UV Physical is a healthy choice. The chemical-free mineral sunscreen has antioxidants to neutralize free radicals. Water-resistant UV Physical withstands water, humidity, and perspiration.
4. MDSolar Sciences Mineral Cream SPF 50
This lightweight and silky-smooth crème blends seamlessly to help blur fine lines and wrinkles, making it a must-have for any daily beauty or grooming routine. Its exclusive “barely there” formula leaves a matte finish that is perfect to wear both under and over makeup. Naturally derived and safer Eco-cert zinc oxide helps reduce the risk of photoaging and skin cancer. Non-irritating and oil-free, this water-resistant sunscreen won’t clog pores, is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin types, and suitable for kids six months and older.
5. Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50
A tinted sunscreen fluid with 100% mineral filters provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection while promoting natural radiance and a more even skin tone.
6. Replenix UltiMATTE Perfection SPF 50+
Replenix UltiMATTE Perfection SPF 50+ masks imperfections while shielding your complexion from burning UVB and aging UVA rays. Reap the rewards of all-day oil control when you use this 3-in-1 primer, sunscreen, and BB cream.
7. PCA Skin Sheer Tint Broad Spectrum SPF 45
This universally tinted, water-resistant sunscreen provides sheer protection with an antioxidant boost.
8. Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50
UV light isn’t the only light that causes skin damage and visible signs of aging. Blue light from excessive screen time can also take its toll. That’s why Murad developed an ultra-light, 100% mineral sunscreen that shields your skin against multiple types of light damage—whether indoor blue light from screens or outdoor UVA and UVB. The formula absorbs quickly with no ashy residue and leaves a luminous, pearlized finish on the skin. It’s safe for sensitive skin, fragrance-free, and delivers 100% mineral protection—no chemical sunscreens.
9. Avène High Protection Tinted Compact SPF 50
The Avène high protection tinted compact with SPF 50 is compact makeup that simultaneously provides light coverage and non-irritating UVA/UVB protection. It is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes. Patented Pre-Tocopheryl, a photostable form of Vitamin E, provides powerful antioxidant protection against free radicals. The skin indications are for Hypersensitive and allergenic skin. It is even safe for the marine ecosystem and coral reefs.
10. Heliocare 360 Mineral Tolerance Fluid SPF 50+
This is a light, breathable fluid with mineral-only filters that absorbs quickly into the skin with a silky finish. The Mineral Tolerance Fluid is fragrance-free and has been tested on the most sensitive skin. It dries completely clear and so it is the perfect choice for any skin tone.
11. NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50
This mattifying fluid sunscreen combines potent antioxidants with a Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) complex to protect and strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier against environmental aggressors. It if formulated exclusively with mineral sunscreens Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.
12. Supergoop! Zincscreen 100% Mineral Lotion SPF 40
This is a non-nano 100% mineral daily face lotion that’s lightweight and blendable. It’s perfect for sensitive, oily, and acne-prone skin.
Okay, now that we know how to protect our skin so the treatments actually work, let’s get to the main point of this blog post – the best makeup for hiding hyperpigmentation or melasma. Consider this your ultimate skincare guide on covering up melasma because below I’m sharing my favorite:
- Color correctors
- BB cream
- CC cream
Covering these dark spots doesn’t mean caking your face with foundation and concealer in order to hide them. The idea is to treat the spot with care by canceling its color with make-up. Melasma spots require color correction first to cancel the brown undertone, then applying makeup traditionally, just as you would do the same with sunspots. So, let’s start there.
5 of the Best Primers and Color Correctors for Melasma
It’s a good idea to start with a primer. Peach, apricot, and even green shades are great for softening hyperpigmentation or melasma dark spots. To further improve the correction, you can overlap different pigments, like using a lilac primer on the entire face, for example.
Before I get to my favorite primers and color correctors on hand, know that this step comes after you apply your sunscreen. Applying the primer or color corrector all over your face will improve the overall appearance and give it a natural look. Bonus: Depending on the primer, it may even make your makeup last longer.
1. E.L.F. Tone Adjusting Face Primer
This is neutralizing face primer with a sheer green tint, designed to minimize redness and even out skin tone.
2. BECCA COSMETICS First Light Priming Filter Face Primer
This is an instantly brightening makeup primer that refreshes the dull complexion using Cool Light Technology.
3. SMASHBOX Photo Finish Even Skintone Peach Primer
This is a peach-toned color-corrector makeup primer infused with a cocktail of vitamins A and E. It evens skin tone and blurs dark spots with a lightweight velvety texture to help makeup look better.
4. Clinique Superprimer Universal Face Primer
This lightweight, oil-free primer creates an ideal makeup canvas. It color corrects a range of concerns and preps for makeup application and wear. The color glides on evenly.
5. MAKE UP FOR EVER Step 1 Primer Color Corrector
The color correcting Step 1 Primers are a radiant base. They instantly neutralize and even out the skin tone for 24hr luminous and flawless skin.
12 of the Best Foundation for Melasma
Next, apply the best foundation you can find to layer to even out the tone on your whole face. Don’t overdo it: Remember, the correction is done with layers.
The foundation can be medium to full coverage, depending on the degree of your hyperpigmentation or melasma. If the base has high coverage, I recommend diluting it with thermal water using a very fluffy brush.
If you have dry skin, remember to moisturize before applying the foundation. (Vitamin C is great too!) If you’re like me, someone with very oily skin, then make sure to use an oil-free moisturizer.
1. Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation
Double Wear is a matte foundation that looks fresh, flawless, and natural. It’s a popular liquid foundation that feels lightweight and so comfortable, you won’t believe it’s super long-wear. No touch-ups needed!
2. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare
This is a lightweight, buildable, hydrating foundation with a naturally radiant finish that works to give you better-looking skin instantly and over time. It has a natural finish. Fun fact: The creator of this line is a former TV anchor who created it to hide her rosacea.
3. Kat V Don Lock-It Tattoo Foundation
Experience the one and only vegan, full-coverage liquid foundation that delivers extreme perfection with just a droplet.
4. Makeup Forever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation
This iconic foundation provides undetectable medium coverage and a blurred, skin-like finish for up to 24 hours.
5. Shiseido Skin Radiant Lifting Foundation
This lightweight, hydrating, liquid foundation with medium-to-full coverage uses light-adjusting technology to visibly lift, refine, and smooth skin.
6. BareMinerals BAREPRO® Performance Wear Liquid Foundation
This is a good-for-skin, 24-hour, lightweight, full-coverage liquid foundation with a natural matte finish.
7. L’Oréal Infallible Fresh Wear 24hr Foundation
This long-wear foundation has breathable skin technology. It provides medium-to-full buildable coverage that lasts all day and allows the skin to breathe. The formula’s three oil absorbers resist sweat, water, and transfer. The ultra-thin liquid goes on smoothly to give a fresh, healthy-looking complexion that lasts. Color stays true and blends in evenly, so your makeup looks fresh all day. It comes in 30 shades.
8. Clinique Even Better Makeup Foundation
This foundation helps create a brighter skin tone. After 12 weeks of daily wear, dark spots from acne, age, and sun damage are reduced. The creamy formula hydrates and smooths. Broad-spectrum SPF 15 protects against future discoloration. Stay-true pigments won’t change color on your skin. It’s sweat and humidity-resistant. (This is the one I use most!)
9. Dermablend Blurring Mousse Camo Oil-Free Foundation
This breakthrough oil-free foundation is formulated with innovative resurfacing technology to address uneven skin texture by leveling blemishes and bumps, smoothing acne scars, and blurring pores for a uniform, even surface. It’s an ideal foundation for acne-prone skin.
It contains high-performance pigments in an ultra-blendable, breathable mousse foundation that is never cakey or masky. This fresh mousse texture provides 18-hours of color wear and protects with broad-spectrum SPF 25. It’s best for oily, combination, and acne-prone skin for a natural, matte finish.
10. Smashbox Studio Skin 24-Hour Oil-Free Hydra Foundation
This is a long-wearing, oil-free liquid foundation that won‘t settle into pores and fine lines or oxidize.
11. NARS Soft Matte Complete Foundation
This helps prevent color shifting and helps protect skin from pollution and blue-light damage. It’s a new take on matte and is available in 34 shades for all skin tones.
12. Dior Airflash Spray Foundation
This fluid spray foundation guarantees a perfect, flawless complexion every use.
Believe it or not, I have a lot more recommendations for the best makeup for melasma. I haven’t even touched on BB creams, CC creams, concealers, and powders. When it comes to finding the best concealer, remember they’re not just for dark circles under the eyes. They work great on the upper lip too!
Which makeup products are your favorites? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram at @ChristinaAllDay.