Melasma – a routine for every budget


Melasma consists of the appearance of brown pigment spots on the skin. The areas where melasma most frequently occurs are cheekbones, upper lip, forehead, chin, but it can also appear on the neck, arms, and chest.

Melasma is one of the most common dermatological conditions in people between the ages of 20 and 50.

The causes of melasma are unprotected exposure to the sun, contraceptives and hormonal imbalances during pregnancy.

If you have melasma and have decided to “attack” it, then the routine examples below may be helpful. I recommend three types of daily skincare routine with products that fight melasma, products chosen according to each budget:

I. Melasma routine with The Ordinary products, the cheapest range from Deciem, perfect for lower budgets;

II. Average price routine for melasma with Hylamide products, the mid-range from Deciem;

III. Premium melasma routine with NIOD products, the luxury range from Deciem.

Any routine, no matter what problem you want to solve, must contain the essential steps below:

  1. Cleansing / wash
  2. Problem-specific products (active substances, acids)
    • exfoliating
    • active substances
    • moisturizing aqueous serums
    • antioxidants / vitamin C
    • hydration
    • sun protection (SPF)

The active substances (products to be introduced one at a time every three weeks) from the routines below are:

  • alpha arbutin
  • niacinamide
  • MAP (or any other form of vitamin C)
  • acids: azelaic, lactic, mandelic, glycolic toner, AHA / BHA mask
  • retinol.


  • Don’t apply exfoliants in the morning skincare routine (AM).
  • Any new product should be introduced gradually, within 2-3 weeks, to allow the skin to get used to it, as well as to be able to remove it from the routine if your skin doesn’t tolerate it.
  • In the morning, apply SPF in a generous layer as a last step in the routine, before makeup. An amount of 1.25 ml of SPF is required for the face only. Reapply SPF during the day, regardless of the season.
  • You should not use peptides with low pH products, such as AHA, BHA, or ascorbic acid.
  • Use AHA and BHA acids in the evening.
  • Alternate the evenings when you use acids with the evenings when you use peptide products or retinol products.

Before I start detailing each routine, I would like to mention once again that sunscreen is a MUST every day, regardless of the season. That’s if you want your efforts against the melasma to work.

Hyperpigmented spots are caused and worsened by unprotected sun exposure. In summer, you need 50+ SPF; in winter, you can also use 30+ SPF, applied in the appropriate amounts (1.25 ml only on the face, another 1.25 on your neck), reapplied if you stay outside for more than two hours.

I. The Ordinary Melasma Routine for lower budgets

Because the prices of The Ordinary products are a bargain, I recommend two types of cost-effective routine, depending on the complexity:

  • the first one is simple, uncomplicated, but pay attention to the introduction of actives and the repeated, regular and correct use of SPF;
  • the second routine is one of medium complexity, which, in my case, had excellent results.

Simple routine against melasma using The Ordinary skincare

Morning skincare routine (AM)

  1. CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
  2. Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
  3. Niacinamide (3 – 4 times/week)
  4. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% (MAP) (alternate days, one yes, one no)
  5. Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF) Moisturizer
  6. Sun protection (SPF)

Evening skincare routine (PM)

  1. Cleansing with The Ordinary conditioner based on squalane, then with CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
  2. Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
  3. Azelaic acid
  4. Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF).

I recommend you buy the products from the official Deciem store.

You can also buy The Ordinary products from Beautybay, Ulta, and Asos.

Once you get used to the simple routine, you can move on to one of medium complexity, which includes retinol and an AHA acid, a routine you can achieve after a few months of using The Ordinary products.

Medium complexity routine (with retinol and AHA acid)

Morning skincare routine (AM)

  1. Cleansing with CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
  2. Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% (a variant of vitamin C, which also has Alpha Arbutin in its composition)
  3. Azelaic acid (you move it in the morning because you have retinol or AHA acid in the evening)
  4. Moisturizing cream NMF
  5. SPF necessarily

Evening skincare routine (PM)

  1. Cleansing with The Ordinary conditioner based on squalane, then with CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
  2. Glycolic acid 7% PM1 (or mandelic, or lactic)
  3. Niacinamide 10%
  4. Retinol with squalane 0.2% / 0.5% PM2 (alternate with evenings when applying glycolic acid). If you have not used retinol before, I recommend that you start with the lowest concentration.
  5. Moisturizing cream NMF.

Only after a few good months, even a year, you can pass to an even more elaborate routine. Of course, it is conditioned by the time you have, both in the morning and in the evening, it depends on your budget, mood, etc. It is not easy to sit in the evening and apply 5 – 6 layers on the face.

My husband, for example, has an effortless routine, just cleansing and moisturizing, and he’s happy with it.

After a year of using The Ordinary products, I am applying the medium complexity routine. I use mandelic acid instead of glycolic acid.

Here are some other The Ordinary products that can help you in the fight against melasma and pigment spots, depending on the step at which they can be introduced.

Additional The Ordinary products for the “Cleansing/wash” step

The Ordinary product, which is now also available in large format, is the Squalane Cleanser.

It is applied to dry skin by massage. Rinse with water. Depending on how much makeup and SPF you have put on, I recommend you follow with a gentle cleansing product such as CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, LRP Toleriane Sensitive Cleanser.

Additional The Ordinary products for the “Exfoliation” step

If you are new to exfoliating acids, I recommend that you start lightly with just one of the following:

AHA acid should be applied on clean, dry skin in small amounts (2 – 3 drops). At first, once a week, then you can gradually increase to 2 – 3 applications per week.

Conflicts with other products The Ordinary

Products with low pHs, such as the AHA acids mentioned above, are NOT applied in the same routine as products containing peptides, for example, Buffet, Matrixyl.

My recommendation is that in the evenings with exfoliation, the routine should be as simple as possible, based on hydration. You don’t have to do the exfoliation step every night; it is enough 2 – 3 times/week, starting gradually from 1 – 2 times/week until your skin begins to tolerate the acid.

In the case of The Ordinary AHA / BHA mask, for the beginning, it is enough to apply it every ten days, even two weeks, starting with 2 – 3 minutes and increasing the time up to 10 minutes, progressively, over several months.

The Ordinary products for the step “Moisturizing aqueous serums.”

Choose one:

The Ordinary Products for the “Antioxidants / Vitamin C” step

Choose one of The Ordinary products below:

If you are already using another Vitamin C product in your routine, for example, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10 % (MAP) and you are happy with the results, then do not change it. Especially since the MAP has no conflicts with the other products The Ordinary.

These were the basic skincare routines that will help you defeat melasma, chosen to fit a low budget.

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Featured image: thebrightside