I hadn't heard the word 'melasma' until I went for a facial one day and they talked about it as if I knew I had it. I didn’t. In fact, I had no idea. It was the early stages of the condition and not that noticeable to me who, then aged 32, was more concerned about wrinkles and the odd spot than other skin woes.
However, once I knew about it, it was all I saw. Normally a bit of a sun lover (I did say 32 and wrinkles!), now I had no choice but to be sensible. If I sat in the sun without a hat and SPF50, my melasma would come out to play with a vengeance. It weighed on my mind and made me self-conscious – I felt like I constantly had to think about where I was going, what I was doing and whether there would be sun. Ultimately, I realised, it had affected my confidence.
If you're sitting there in blissful ignorance (just as I was), melasma is a hyper-pigmentation skin condition that takes the form of patches generally found on the face, which create an uneven skin tone. The cause is different for everyone – it can range from sun damage to hormones – but for me, it was stress. At the time I was going through a monumental break-up with my partner of nine years. We had moved abroad together, started a business together and bought a flat together. As you can imagine, it wasn't pretty.
Travelling to lands far and wide and basking in the sun was what got me up in the morning and through my daily London commute. Travelling was my thing. It was what I did. But once I'd been diagnosed, the thought of going on holiday and being bare-faced on the beach filled me with dread. We’ve all been there – anything that appears on your face, from acne to scarring to rosacea and even the odd spot, can impact how you feel. You wake up, you see it. At bedtime, you see it. In photos, you see it. It's all you see. Aren’t we all just so talented at concentrating on the worst in ourselves? And I was doing just that – seeking out my imperfections to the extent that my confidence was taking a hit.
It took some time but eventually I came to this conclusion: Screw that. The beauty of being human and the beauty of beauty is that we all have imperfections. We should treasure them. Who wants a world of lookalike perfection? Whether it's a gap in your teeth, bushy brows or acne scars, let's celebrate beauty in all shapes and forms. I know, I know – we’ve heard it all before – but how about we all agree to start actually living it?
After four years, I have. I’ve finally come to terms with my melasma. My days as a sun-worshipper are gone, SPF50 is part of my routine and I don a hat on holiday (a great look, I would recommend). Not only that but, actually, something positive has come from it: I've really started to think about my skincare routine.
Previously, the word 'loyalty' had not entered my beauty vocabulary. Working in an industry where I constantly tested new products for reviews and features meant I relished trying the new 'hot' product. Sure, my bathroom shelf was spilling over and my friends loved all the freebies, but my skin didn’t have a clue what was going on. Now, though, I'm meticulous about what I use and how I use it.
I cleanse (double cleanse at night, always), use my favourite toner to manage the occasional breakout, always apply serum to help my melasma and, last but by no means least, use Clinique's Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-replenishing Hydrator to ensure my skin is always hydrated – key to helping keep my skin looking full (and minimising those fine lines) and getting rid of flakiness. It's a product I'll never be without because it leaves my skin fresh, plump and healthy – the holy trinity of skin goals. The hydration it gives is super long-lasting (72 hours, in fact) as it basically activates your own internal water source to rise to the surface, bringing natural hydration with it through active ingredients like activated aloe water and caffeine. I know, I’m baffled at how clever it is too. Add in the super ingredient that no skincare obsessive would be without – hyaluronic acid – to really lock in moisture, and you're on to a winner.
This routine has given me the control, confidence and knowledge that I'm doing everything I can to make my skin the best it can be, and with that comes the knowledge that I will always feel my best and put my best face forward – melasma or not. And, if you’re asking, my words of wisdom: don't cheat on your regime. After all, you’ll be wearing your skin every day, for the rest of your life.