Melasma is a skin condition that causes skin discoloration and spots. It is patchy brown, tan, or blue-gray skin patches due to over production of pigment on the skin. It is typically the result from over exposure to sun or hormonal changes in women due to progesterone and estrogen. About 9 of 10 people with melasma are women ages 20 to 50 years old. This skin condition is often referred to the “mask of pregnancy” because its dark patches which usually appear around the nose, cheekbones, and jaw. These spots are more prevalent while women are pregnant. There are four different types of melasma:
- Epidermal: this is identified by the presence of excess melanin in the superficial layers of the skin,
- Dermal: it is the presence of melanophages, which are cells that ingest melanin, throughout the dermis.
- Mixed: this includes both epidermal and the dermal type.
- Unnamed: it is found in dark-complexioned individuals and it is an excess of melanocytes.
It is usually diagnosed by a doctor and it appears on its own. Treatments do not guarantee that it will not come back and some cases of melasma cannot be completely lightened. You may have to return for follow-up visits with your doctor, but there are some great treatments that can help this skin condition! Here are some of the best treatment options for melasma:
Hydroquinone: this is available in a cream, lotion, gel, or liquid. It is a medication that works by lightening the skin and it can be found in over-the-counter preparations, but higher strength versions can only be obtained with a prescription from a doctor.
Tretinoin and corticosteroids: these medications enhance the skin lightening process and some contain three compounds: hydroquinone, tretinoin, and a corticosteroid. That is why it can be known as the “triple cream”.
Other medications: are always applied to the skin and some medications may include lighteners such as azelaic acid or kojic acid.
Procedures: when medications do not help, dermatologists may perform in-office procedures such as a chemical peel, microdermabrasion, or dermabrasion treatment. Those take off the top layers of skin.
No treatment for melasma offers permanent results. However, there are ways to prevent melasma from occurring or coming back. Here are some tips on how to prevent melasma:
Sunscreen: using daily sunscreen can help a lot because sunlight is one of the biggest triggers of melasma. Choose a sunscreen with a broad-spectrum protection with an SPF of 30 or higher. Even some face makeup products contain sunscreen, so keep on the lookout for makeup that will contain the right SPF for your face.
Hats: broad-brimmed hats will help keep the sun rays off parts of your face. When outdoors, look for shade as well.
Gentle Skin Care: Avoid products that can irritate the skin and use gentle products that do not sting or burn.