Adrenal Fatigue: How I Reversed Melasma

Adrenal Fatigue Melasma Before and After

Did you know that melasma and adrenal fatigue are related? And that both can be reversed? It’s true! If you are suffering from either or both of these conditions, I want you to know, there is hope!

Before & After

The picture on the left was taken late spring time, 2008. We were sitting outside at the ball field watching my youngest son play baseball. My husband snapped the picture with his cell phone. That was me, trying to be cute. When I saw the picture, I was in tears and wanted him to delete it. I knew I had “some” hyperpigmentation of the skin on my face, but this picture was the first time I realized how bad it had gotten. I had dark patches on my forehead and on my cheeks. I was mortified. A short time after this picture was taken, I recall my sister making a comment about my skin, not in a bad way, but just in a “she noticed it”, kind of way. A few more comments from innocent friends about the dirt on my skin was enough to make me want to go into hiding until I could resolve it. At this point in time, I had yet to be diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue or even knew what Melasma was.

Fast forward to the after picture. It was the summer of 2012. We had just returned from a cruise and I was sporting a pretty nice tan. I am half Mexican, so it doesn’t take much for me to turn brown. I snapped this picture myself, using the auto-timer on my camera and a tripod. To be perfectly honest, even sometimes I can’t believe the difference, to the point I get emotional and teary-eyed. I promise you, there was no special lighting, photoshopping or professional make-up in the after photo. I had on a bronzing powder and blush, no foundation or concealer and of course, eye make-up. I love my eye make-up!

How I Reversed Melasma

What is Melasma

Melasma is hyperpigmentation of the skin. It causes brown “dirty” looking patches on the forehead, cheeks and upper lip. The patches develop slowly over time and is thought to be worsened by sun exposure.

Who Gets Melasma

Melasma is particularly common in women due to the underlying cause being the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Pregnancy, birth control and hormone replacement therapy usage contributes to the occurrence of melasma in women. According to the American Academy of Dermatology only 10% of people with melasma are men.

Causes of Melasma

While conventional thought is melasma is caused by the sun, it is not the root cause.  The sun may worsen melasma, but it does not cause it. Melanocyte-stimulating hormones (MSH) are responsible for melasma. These hormones stimulate the production of melanin. In both humans and animals an increase in MSH causes an increase in skin darkening.

How Adrenal Fatigue and Melasma is Related

Stress of any kind causes an adaptive response from the body. The stress response begins in the brain in the hypothalmus. The hypothalmus sends a signal to the pituitary gland to secrete adreno-corticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol. The adrenals convert cholesterol into pregnenolone which is the building block for both sex hormones and cortisol. When the body is under chronic stress, such as during adrenal fatigue, the body uses pregnenolone to produce more cortisol, limiting what’s available for producing sex hormones. In a female, the result can be low testosterone (reduction in sex drive) and low progesterone which throws off the balance of estrogen. And, here is the connection to melasma; elevated estrogen (or estrogen not balanced by progesterone) increases MSH and as we learned above, this causes an increase in skin darkening or melasma.

How I Reversed Melasma

Before being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, I went to an esthetician for a consultation on the melasma. She offered up several very expensive sessions which involved chemical lightening and instructed me to wear a high-SPF sunscreen on my face, along with a wide-brimmed hat. As much as I did not like the melasma, deep down I knew this wasn’t the answer. It wasn’t long there after I learned of adrenal fatigue and made the connection to how it was affecting my skin. Believe me, I wish I could tell you it was a magic cream or a super special soap but it wasn’t. In fact, my skin care routine is the same today as it was back then, a basic soap and water to wash my face and a touch of moisturizer. It took time for the melasma to fade and eventually disappear for good. As I illustrated above, the melasma I experienced was directly related to adrenal dysfunction and out of balance sex hormones.

I attribute the reversal of the melasma to the balancing of my hormones. In addition to normalizing my cortisol pattern, I had to reverse low progesterone and bring it back into balance with my estrogen levels.

My healing journey was a 4-year process that involved blood work, symptom checks, natural supplements and dietary changes. Tests were performed every 6-9 months and were used, along with an assessment of my symptoms, to determine progress and well as to make changes to my supplement protocol.

Learn More About Adrenal Fatigue & Hormone Balancing

I cannot stress enough, if you suspect you are having issues with adrenal fatigue or have melasma, find a holistic-minded expert you can trust who will get to the root cause. The cure is not found in treating the symptom with bleaching creams or lightening treatments. To learn more about how important hormone balance is, I recommend reading the book, The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried. It will change your life!


Before & After – Adrenal Fatigue & Melasma

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  1. Glenda Rojas Gamonet says

    Hola Vanessa, te escribo desde Peru, he leido que eres mitad mexicana, espero puedas responderme en español., es una esperanza haberte encontrado, tengo un melasma severo mis manchas con este verano, se han convertido en color cafe y la verdad me siento fatal. Hoy sola en casa me puse a buscar todo producto para el melasma encontre hasta unas pastillas llamadas PYNOCARE de origen australino dicen….. pero circula por Thailandia e India…. la verdad no me da confiabilidad.
    Crees tu que seria recomendable ir a un Ginecologo especialista en hormonas ó a un Endocrinólogo

      • Glenda Rojas Gamonet says

        I wrote from Peru, i have a several melasma on my cheeks, seached about melasma in web, i found a pill from India origin Australian explained……..” PYNOCARE”…. really, i am very, very near to buy blindly….. What do think about this? Also, i want to know your advice is better for me go to Endrocrinologist or better ginecologist specialist in hormone??? Sorry, As Celia Cruz said “my english is not very good looking …” Kisses.

  2. Molly says

    Hi Vanessa.
    Did you eat any nuts (brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts) and different types of beans during your Melasma recovery? I am not sure if I should take them out of my diet as they contain a lot of copper and high copper levels might be also linked to melasma..

  3. Nadine Smart says

    Hi Vanessa, I’m encouraged by your determination and success to get healthy. I recently had gone to my Dr. for severe pain in my adrenal gland area but did NOT want to self diagnose anything. As I read more about adrenal fatigue I couldn’t help but speculate that is what I had/have. After going to my primary Dr. and having blood work, ct scan, breath test, urine test, and another test that checked for bacteria growth, they still don’t know what it is/was causing the pain. It’s been a month now since my visit to the Dr. and still no answers, but after reading your articles about this disorder I started on my own quest for relief and cure. I’m happy to say that with eliminating sugary foods, and wheat products, and taking in more vegetables, and whole grains, my body has either healed itself or is still in the progress of healing due to the fact the pain is almost undetectable, only with fresh juiced fruits do I feel pain in that area anymore. Thank you, thank you, thank you, you’ve been a blessing.


  4. Kim says

    I have melasma and recently discovered yellow laser treatments supposedly completely takes care of the discoloration but is only available @ 4 locations in US. Has anyone heard of this??


  5. Leila says

    Hi Vanessa,

    Thank you for sharing your story! You are truly an inspiration. I have been suffering from melasma for almost 7 years now. Within the last 2-3 years I discovered that I had a very large thyroid cyst (benign fortunately) which I had removed along with one of my thyroid glands. Shortly thereafter, I had a baby… Needless to say, I’m pretty sure that my hormones are out of whack. I’ve been to a couple doctors that have said my thyroid levels are fine (aka nothing to worry about)….but I know there is something awry. I never thought to get tested for adrenal fatigue (although, i did mention adrenal ‘failure’ to my last dr. to which he scoffed at). So I have an appointment scheduled next week with a Naturopathic Dr. (and I started reading your book recommendation by SG this weekend). Anyways, my question is, when you had melasma – did you also happen to have hypo pigmented (white) spots in between? Within the past few months I started to get small white spots that are spreading across my forehead in between my melasma. The dermatologists that I’ve seen are pretty stumped by this and they’ve only been able to perscribe things like retin A, salicylic acid pads, kojic acid compounds (and previously i was trying hydroquinone) that all seem to be making the issue worse! Well, just thought I would ask…Fingers crossed that I can have a similar success story to yours and finally start to reverse my melasma/balance my hormones (and my life:-)!

    • Katherine says

      Leila- I have have small white spots within my melisma as well. Unfortunately I have no idea why either. However, I recently had my blood tested for all of my hormone levels and then some, and none of my levels are askew. The only thing that was off was my vit. D levels. Makes sense b/c I live in Germany, and try to stay out of the sun when we have some. Please post again if you find any explanation for the spots. BTW you should try to steer clear of hydroquinone anyway. It is banned all over Europe b/c it causes cancer.

      • Leila says

        Hi Katherine,

        I have also had a vitamin D deficiency in the recent past, which I’ve read could cause white spots. My vit. D levels are normal now that I take a supplement, but the spots still persist. They seemed to appear when I stopped nursing about 6 months ago…and (yes) I stopped using hydroquinone when I started noticing more white spots. I really wish that I had never used HQ at all b/c I’m afraid it may have made my issue worse:(

        Hi Vanessa,

        I just received my hormone level test results back and my progesterone is low. I know you’ve mentioned that your regimen included progesterone cream – did that help with your treatment? My naturopathic dr. thought this could be an option, but she wanted to research more before prescribing.

        Thank you,

    • says

      I did not take hydrocortisone. I worked with a naturopath on a supplement and healing protocol. Did consistent blood testing along the way. And adjusted as necessary. Also made some dietary and lifestyle changes.

  6. Max says

    It would be helpful if your article above said the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Im a man with melasma so can’t use makeup to coverup…Never was in the sun a lot and obviously not pregnant; its been a nightmare and I’ve had the same photo experience…everyone tells me its nothing and i see photos and feel like I look like my forehead belongs on Gorbachev

  7. ruta says

    Hi Vanessa, I’m suffering from melasma as well. I have tried everything…laser, peels, bleaching. Nothing worked! When I looked at your photo, I got some hope…. Please tell me more information how to fight it!
    Thank you

  8. Ash says

    What supplements(vitamins/minerals) did you focus on mainly to get your hormones back in shape? Also, roughly what was the daily dosage?

    Thank you! Your help is much appreciated.

  9. Lea says

    Hello, I have terrible melasma and was grateful to have found your site. I’m still in the very early ages of starting to understand hormone imbalances and wondering if you could provide some advise on vitamins I could get. I’m seeing a naturopath soon who will hopefully help with the hormone test. Look forward to hearing from you

  10. Diana says

    Hi, Vanessa,

    Hi, Vanessa!
    I’m 40 years old, I suffering from melasma. 5 years past and my melasma it’s worse. I belive the adrenal fatigue is the answer, but I have a long way until I see any results. Please, tell me if it’s possible, what I should never eat.
    I’m from eastern Europe and for me, to get the Sara’s Gottfried book is almost impossible.
    Thank you very much.

  11. Molly says

    Hello, During your treatment did you also treat candida or leaky gut? Did you have a healthy thyroid? Once your hormones were balanced how many months after that did you see the melasma fade?

  12. Kelsey says

    Hi Vanessa,

    Now that you have treated your hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue, are you able to go in the sun without further developing melasma, or does the sun still trigger it?

    Thank you,

  13. Jenni says


    I’m 35 and have suffered with melasma for over 10 years (although I didn’t know that’s what it was initially) I can trace it back to a period of extreme stress during a relationship breakdown and five boits of tonsillitis in a year. I tried all sorts of creams and expensive laser treatment before coming to the conclusion it was an internal imbalance. Having had no skin problems in my teens, in my early 30s I stopped taking any form of contraceptive as I knew it was mucking up my system. Ialso started to suffer from cystic acne so by now I was doubly depressed about my appearance! In July 2014 I found your website and it all started to make sense. I have since found a herbal medicine practitioner and have recently had a stool test which revealed an imbalance in bacteria and more crucially extremely low Siga levels. I also have allergies which have developed over the same period of time as my melasma so the low Siga explains a lot and as you know is also linked to adrenal fatigue. I can have eight hours sleep and still be tired with puffy eyes so I’m now in the process of conducting a saliva hormone test, adrenal function test and a food allergy test. After years of knowing that something wasn’t right I finally feel like Im getting somewhere in understanding my body’s problems and feel positive that I can turn it around. I really just wanted to say a huge thank you for your very informative article for helping get me on the right track to recovery. I will keep you updated on my progress!

    • Jenn C says

      You sound just like me! I have even dealing with melasma for 5 years and have been working with a naturopathic doc to find the root cause. I kow just how you feel. It can be a very lonely feeling to deal with melasma and I’m just trying to keep my head up and keep working on it.


      • Jenni says


        It’s good to hear you’re on the right path too, it is so frustrating when you’re trying to get to the root, but I’ve never accepted that I’m stuck with it!

        I’ve had my hormone and adrenal tests back now and I have confirmed adrenal fatigue and high progesterone. I also had a food intolerance test done and have been sticking to my new diet religiously……I haven’t felt so good in years! I Know it’s not going to be an overnight cure but it feels fantastic to be on the right track! My herbal practitioner thinks that the food intolerance may have been adding more stress to my adrenals.

        I hope you’re doing well too, good luck and stay positive! It is very lonely and it’s so nice to share the journey with people who understand :-)

  14. Meredith Jacobs says

    Hello Vanessa,
    I am 24 and suffereing with melasma. I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am for this post. You have inspired me to seek help for a naturopath in my area and she sat with me for 2 hours talking about adrenal fatigue hormone imbalance and thyroid problems which I have all of. This skin condition has caused me to experience depression and social isolation. Im hoping through my journey to heal it naturally I will be able to reverse this issue. Again your post could not have been more helpful to me. Thank you for sharing your story!

  15. Betty says

    Reaching for answers I run into this blog I m 36 and after my last pregnancy at 33 i thought my malasma would fade and it has only gotten worst, i have found products that will fade it only tobhave it come back as many I also wear sunvlock and hats if outside i came to the conclusion that it must be internal i have all signs of adrenaline fatigue


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