One of the most common complaints of young women is skin darkening above the upper lip, the "mustache" area. The correct name for the darker skin in this area is chloasma or melasma.
Hyperpigmentation of the upper lip can be caused by a combination of familiar genetic tendency, hormonal fluctuations, sun exposure, and heat. Using wax or depilating creams in the "mustache" area is also a common cause for skin darkening in this area.
Can hormones cause skin darkening?
Melasma is common in pregnancy and when taking birth control pills due to higher estrogen levels. Higher levels of estrogen can stimulate your skin's melanocytes to produce more melanin. The excess of melanin causes skin darkening (hyperpigmentation), around the mouth (chloasma) or on the cheeks and forehead (melasma).
What is the best way to prevent a "sun mustache"?
The first step in the prevention of hyperpigmentation over the upper lip is to reduce skin irritation. Women that struggle with skin darkening above the upper lip would need to avoid using lasers, wax, or depilating creams on the area.
The second step would be using abroad-spectrum, UVA/UVB sunscreen. Some sunscreens will also contain ingredients that can help fade hyperpigmentation. An excellent example of such sunscreen is the MDacne Oil-Free Sunscreen that is boosted with vitamin C, licorice and green tea extracts, and potent antioxidants that can prevent and help fade brown spots.
"Sun mustaches" are common because sunscreen can be easily wiped off of the upper lip. Rubbing the nose, drinking, eating, and sweating will also remove sunscreen from this area. Thus, applying sunscreen once a day is not enough. To protect the upper lip and prevent a "sun mustache", it is recommended to use a water-resistant sunscreen and reapply it every 2-3 hours.
How to fade dark skin areas above the upper lip?
The best way to fade dark spots above the upper lip is to combine the preventive measures above with a very mild medicated cleanser with BHA (salicylic acid) and an effective dark spot remover.
Arbutin is the best-studied, natural, over the counter ingredient to brighten the skin. The MDacne Advanced Dark Spot Remover includes arbutin, retinol, and Alpha and Beta hydroxy acids, providing a safe and effective dark spot treatment for all skin types and colors.
More severe cases can benefit from the more potent hydroquinone-based MDacne Medicated Dark Spot Remover, available over the counter in the USA, and by prescription outside of the USA.
Does the COVID face mask effect "sun mustaches"?
Using COVID face masks outdoors can theoretically reduce sun exposure to the upper lip area and help with "sun mustache". That said, the single-use masks which are made of plastic, increase heat, and humidity under the mask, cause more acne and hyperpigmentation. One solution to this concern can be using soft cotton masks infused with silver and copper ions instead. By reducing friction on the skin, absorbing sweat, and reducing the bacterial and fungal load on the skin, these masks may also help prevent skin darkening over the upper lip.
How long does melasma last?
The reaction of "sun mustache" to treatment is hard to predict. For some, it can fade away in 3-6 months and for others, it may take longer to see significant results. If skin darkening persists for more than six months, you may want to advise your local physician to rule out any underlying conditions, like a hormonal imbalance.