First, let’s understand the common skin condition: Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation that typically manifests as larger patches of skin discoloration, as opposed to smaller dark spots. It tends to crop up on the forehead, cheeks, and upper lip area—also known as the “melasma mustache.” It’s typically triggered by sun exposure, heat, and hormonal changes (especially around pregnancy).
Here’s where things get nuanced. While UV rays are the most common factor for initial and preexisting melasma patches1, “even heat, in the absence of sun, has been known to cause a flare,” board-certified dermatologist Rebecca Marcus, M.D.,previously told mbg about the condition.
Even though infrared technology is technically anti-inflammatory, “When it comes to melasma specifically, it can induce a chronic inflammatory response,” Idriss explains in a recent TikTok. “That allows your blood vessels to then dilate, bringing in more blood, more heat, to your face and allowing your melanocytes to get more stimulated, and your melanoma to worsen in the process.”
Working out already heats up your body, but working out under infrared lights does so at a much quicker rate. This is good news for detoxification—but not so great for melasma-prone skin.
“Infrared light is believed to penetrate the skin more deeply than the heat generated by traditional saunas,” Liam Murphy, M.D., a functional doctor at Melbourne Functional Medicine in Australia, says regarding the perks of infrared. This deeper penetration has benefits for general skin health, but for folks with melasma, it might result in more flares.