By Beth Janes
Hormone Havoc: Melasma
This common pigmentation problem shows up as large brown splotches above your lip, on your cheeks, or across your forehead. Anyone can get melasma, but pregnant women and those on the pill are most at risk thanks to their high estrogen levels. But estrogen is only half the problem. While it ramps up the cells' melanin-making ability, sun exposure is what really flips the switch, says New York City cosmetic dermatologist Paul Frank, MD.
Sunscreen: Ultraviolet rays trigger the brown splotches -- even if you're not pregnant or not on the pill -- and darken existing melasma. So use sunblock every day, avoid direct sunlight, and wear a hat. Try Eucerin Everyday Protection Face Lotion SPF 30 ($9.50 at drugstores).
Hydroquinone: As a bleaching agent, hydroquinone halts melasma production in its earliest stages, Dr. Frank says. Look for over-the-counter hydroquinone combined with an exfoliating ingredient to increase penetration and speed up the sloughing of pigmented cells. We like La Roche-Posay Mela-D Skin Lightening Daily Lotion ($52 at skincarelab.com). Or your doctor might prescribe TriLuma, a 4 percent concentration mixed with a retinoid and mild steroid.