Blogger Katie Sturino wears a "zinc mustache" in the summers for her melasma, a common skin condition but one no one talks about

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated July 29, 2016 05:05 PM
Credit: Courtesy Katie Sturino

Get ready for the latest trend this summer – colored mustaches.

At least, fashion blogger Katie Sturino is trying her hardest to make it a trend this summer, in the hopes of calling attention to melasma, a common, but seldom mentioned skin condition.

The New York-based Sturino discovered she has melasma, which causes the skin on her upper lip to darken from long sun exposure, about nine years ago.

“I used to go and lay out in the sun with normal, high SPF on my face, and my sister would be like, ‘Whoa, what is on your lip? You need to get a wax,’ ” Sturino, 35, tells PEOPLE. “I even remember seeing this guy, and he was like, ‘I’m sorry to ask you, but what is up with your lip?’ So it’s very noticeable.”

Not to mention, embarrassing for Sturino.

“Heck yes it’s embarrassing!” she says. “I’m Italian and I have to deal with hair removal all over my body anyway, so I didn’t want to deal with an extra thing. I don’t want to look like Mario from Mario Kart!”

Sturino finally decided to see a dermatologist two years after she first noticed the coloration, and they told her it was melasma.

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“It’s so common,” she says. “If you start to look closely at people you’ll start to see it. But it’s not something that many people talk about, I think out of embarrassment.”

Her dermatologist told Sturino to wear thick zinc, a waxy shield that physically blocks the sun from hitting her lip. At first, she was self-conscious about the thick zinc, but eventually moved past it and started embracing the brightly colored formulas.

“I’ve gotten over it,” she says. “I used to wear white zinc, and people would just think I’m walking around bleaching my mustache, and that was not ideal. So I just figured, if people are going to be staring at me anyway, I might as well use color.”

Now she proudly wears every color – from cobalt blues to sunshine yellows – and hopes that other women will join in after seeing her posts on her blog, The 12ish, and on her Instagram.

“I’m really excited seeing women tag their friends, or get tagged and say, ‘This is it! This is the summer mustache we get.’ ” Sturino says.

“I have yet to get a picture of someone wearing full on zinc. I would love to walk into a pool and see someone else wearing it and just cry because I’ve been doing it by myself for so long.”