Concerned about a tanned or dark patch on your face that won’t go away? It might be Melasma, a type of hyperpigmentation that is a common concern among women, especially during pregnancy and is common among those with a darker skin type. Keep reading to learn more about melasma and how to treat it.
What is melasma?
Melasma is a skin condition characterized by tanned patches of pigment that form on the cheeks, upper lip, nose, and sometimes the forehead area. While the facial area is the most common site by far, other sun-exposed areas such as the arms, neck and elsewhere can also be affected. Typically, melasma form gradually over time and become more noticeable and prominent with time. Melasma is not a medical concern, but its appearance can be a psychologically distressing skin condition for some.
What causes melasma?
When someone has melasma, the cells (melanocytes) which give skin its colour become overactive, producing spots that are darker than the surrounding skin.
While the exact cause of melasma formation is still unknown, several factors can contribute to melasma: sun exposure, heat, skin trauma, and or genetics. But hormones are the main trigger. Melasma mostly affects women for this reason, but it can occasionally affect men as well. Birth control pills, pregnancy, or various hormonal therapies can trigger a bout of melasma for many women, and estrogen levels or sensitivity to estrogen appear to be a cause of melasma.
Who can get melasma?
Melasma can affect anyone, but some are more prone to it than others.
This skin condition is common among women, those who use hormonal birth control and especially among pregnant women, as hormonal factors often play a major role. For this reason, melasma is commonly referred to as the “mask of pregnancy”.
Will melasma go away?
Melasma will sometimes disappear spontaneously, especially if it was caused by temporary hormonal changes from pregnancy or taking birth control pills. In many cases, once the pregnancy is over, or you stop taking birth control pills, the melasma subsides as well.
Unfortunately, some will struggle with their melasma more than others. Which makes it difficult to predict which cases of melasma will fade or how quickly it will take to treat.
How do you treat melasma?
Limit exposure to sunlight & use a broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen
Treatment of melasma is often very challenging. For many, treatment is slow to take effect, and in many cases, the melasma recurs even after successful treatment. Ongoing continuous sun protection is critical in treating melasma. Very often, a small amount of sun exposure can reverse the progress made with treatments. Sometimes even after successful treatment, sun exposure can bring the melasma right back, which can be extremely frustrating. Remember to wear a hat and wear sunscreen year-round.
Topical treatments (tyrosinase inhibitors, brightening creams)
Another treatment is to brighten/lighten the dark spots with topical creams and lotions that contain actives that will help block tyrosinase that inhibits melanin. Look for products with these ingredients: hydroquinone, azelaic acid, kojic acid, arbutin, Melaslow or vitamin C. Patients should expect their melasma to improve slowly over months of treatment, provided that they continue to be vigilant with sun protection both throughout the treatment period and after the melasma has been successfully treated.
Lomelin Skin Brightening Cream contains 2% alpha arbutin and 5% Melaslow to help reduce skin melanization. For further information on the brightening cream please visit Lomelin’s site.
Other treatment options you can add include chemical peels and laser treatments. Consult with a medical professional to find out which treatment may be best for you and your skin.
What are the challenges of treating melasma?
Treatment of melasma is often very challenging. For many, treatment is slow to take effect, and in many cases, the melasma recurs even after successful treatment. Ongoing continuous sun protection is critical in treating melasma. Very often, a small amount of sun exposure can reverse the progress made with treatments. Sometimes even after successful treatment, sun exposure can bring the melasma right back, which can be incredibly frustrating. Remember the following:
- Patience is required, as many treatments take time to see changes.
- Meticulous sun protection is required. Sunscreens must have broad-spectrum protection as UVA light is a melasma trigger.
- Topical treatments using hydroquinone, azelaic acid, kojic acid, alpha arbutin, Melaslow or vitamin C are the most common.
- There are professional treatments such as chemical peels and laser treatments for treating melasma available. Consult with your doctor or dermatologist to see if it’s a suitable option.