What is melasma?
Melasma is a common skin disorder characterized by light brown, dark brown, or blue-gray patches on your skin. It’s also known as “chloasma”, or the “mask of pregnancy” when it occurs in pregnant women. Affected areas usually include the face, including the cheeks, upper lip, and forehead, as well as the forearms.
It occurs because of the overproduction of the cells that make the color of your skin. It typically darkens and lightens over time; it gets worse when it’s summer and better when it’s winter. Melasma is completely harmless, and although it usually fades after a few months, some people still feel self-conscious.
What causes melasma?
While doctors still can’t determine the exact reason for melasma, it probably happens because of the overproduction of the cells that make the color of your skin. Anyone can get it, but it is more frequent among young and pregnant women. The condition is usually associated with the female hormones (estrogen and progesterone).
Your risk of having melasma is increased if you’re a woman who takes birth control pills, takes hormone replacement therapy, and is pregnant. Being exposed to the sun for a long time also increases the risk of this condition. Melasma is common in people who live in tropical climates; people who have darker skin are also more likely to get it.
What treatment is used to treat melasma?
Treating it is unlikely to be effective if the underlying cause isn’t addressed; the first step in treating melasma is confirming with a dermatologist that your darkened skin patches are indeed melasma, and determining what’s causing it. Even the oral treatments that now exist for severe cases of melasma are really pointless to do if there are still triggers in place.
The next step in treating it is to prevent the sun from aggravating the condition. The most important way to treat melasma is by using a strict sunscreen regimen, but keep in mind that not all sunscreens are created equal. To prevent melasma, you need a sunscreen that blocks not only the sun’s rays but also its light and heat.
There are two main types of sunscreens:
- sunscreens that use chemicals, such as oxybenzone
- sunscreens that use physical blockers, such as zinc and titanium dioxide.
You want to choose the non-chemical, blocking sunscreen, because that will stop all the light and different wavelengths from coming through. Fortunately, today’s zinc and titanium dioxide formulas are micronized so they can sink into the skin, while still offering the same protection.
Chemical sunscreens don’t offer the same protection for melasma, and in some instances, they may even trigger allergic reactions that can make melasma worse.
Medications and Topical Treatments
Melasma fades on its own; this usually happens when a trigger, such as a pregnancy or birth control pills, causes the melasma. It fades after a woman delivers her baby, or she stops taking birth control pills.
Unfortunately, some people have melasma for years or even a lifetime. If the melasma does not go away or a woman wants to keep taking birth control pills, treatments for melasma are available. These include:
Hydroquinone. This medicine is a common first treatment for melasma. It is applied to your skin and works by lightening your skin. You will find hydroquinone in medicine that comes as a cream, lotion, gel, or liquid. You can get some of these without a prescription.
Tretinoin and corticosteroids. To enhance skin lightening, your dermatologist may prescribe a second medicine; this medicine may be tretinoin or a corticosteroid. Sometimes a medicine contains three medicines (hydroquinone, tretinoin, and a corticosteroid) in one cream. This is often called a triple cream.
Other topical (applied to the skin) medicines. Your dermatologist may prescribe azelaic acid or kojic acid to help lighten melasma.
Procedures for Melasma
If the medicine you apply to your skin does not get rid of your melasma, a procedure may be needed. Procedures for melasma include a chemical peel, laser treatment, or a light-based procedure. Only a dermatologist should perform these procedures.
ZO Skin Health 3-Step Peel. Not just another ordinary peel, the ZO® 3-Step Peel is the only multifunctional epidermal peel designed to provide longer-lasting treatment benefits. Utilizing a blend of exfoliants, a 6% concentration of retinol, and multi-action agents that stimulate collagen and restore moisture balance, it evens skin texture for softer, smoother, tighter-looking skin.
The ZO® 3-Step Peel is an innovative in-office treatment for professional use only, designed to support dermal and epidermal stimulation. This chemical peel treatment is designed to offer bigger, more long-lasting effects than glycolic peels. It works by aggressively exfoliating and renewing the epidermis while stimulating the dermis to produce collagen. This combined action has both a firming and smoothing effect on the skin that results in a more youthful complexion.
Vi Precision Plus Peel. The Vi Precision Plus Peel is a supercharged version of the Vi Precision Peel for stubborn melasma and pigmentation problems; it is supplemented with three additional substances that attack pigments without pain and very little downtime. The Vi Precision Plus Peel will:
- Improve the tone, texture, and clarity of your skin
- Reduce or eliminate age spots, freckles, actinic keratoses, and hyper-pigmentation, including melasma
- Soften lines and wrinkles
- Clear acne skin conditions, reduce or eliminate acne scars
- Stimulate the production of collagen for firmer, more youthful skin
Perfect Derma Peel with Plus Plus Booster. This booster is an excellent addition if you’re wanting a bit more of a boost from the regular Perfect Derma Peel. It has a bit more added ingredients than the Plus booster for treating stubborn hyperpigmentation including melasma, acne scars, and age spots on hands, arms, and chest. Just add it into the regular Perfect derma solution before applying.
Photorejuvenation IPL. There has been a growing trend of clinics that suggest removing Melasma with intense pulsed light (IPL). IPL is a form of light treatment that has been used to smooth lines and wrinkles, remove unwanted facial hair, and undo some pigment problems like sunspots.
Photorejuvenation, which uses Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) technology, can help minimize the appearance of some of the most common skin problems, including brown spots, melasma, and sun damage. It also minimizes pore size and fine lines, stimulates dormant skin cells, and promotes new collagen to grow. This minimally invasive skin procedure treats the sign of aging and has a little recovery time and few side effects, making it a popular skin treatment.