Melasma is a common type of hyperpigmentation characterized by brownish or grayish patches on the face. It is also called chloasma and referred to as “the mask of pregnancy”, as it is common among pregnant women. Melasma isn’t harmful and does not pose any major health concerns, but it can cause emotional distress.
If you or a loved one has melasma, you may probably have lots of questions about this patchy discoloration. Continue reading to find out the answers to common questions about melasma.
Where does melasma usually appear?
Melasma commonly affects the face, particularly the forehead, cheeks, bridge of the nose, chin, and above the upper lip. These gray-brown patches, however, can also occur on other areas of the body that are usually exposed to the sun like the neck and forearms.
What causes melasma?
The exact cause of melasma is unclear. There are, however, a number of factors that are known to trigger this skin condition. Melasma is also more common among those with darker skin tone, as they have more active melanocytes (melanin-producing skin cells).
Here are the other factors that can cause or trigger melasma:
- Hormonal fluctuations – Changes in hormone levels, which are common during pregnancy and perimenopause can trigger this type of pigmentation. The same is also true if you start or stop taking hormone replacement medication and birth control pills.
- Sun exposure – Extended sunlight exposure can trigger and worsen skin pigmentation like melasma and age spots. UV rays activate the melanocytes, causing it to release melanin to protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation. It is also why melasma gets worse in the summer.
- Genetics – While melasma is not hereditary, there is some genetic link to the condition. It can run in families and is more common among those with family history of the skin condition.
Why is melasma common during pregnancy?
Significant hormone level fluctuations during pregnancy trigger skin discoloration. An increase in estrogen and progesterone levels can stimulate excessive melanin production, resulting in hyperpigmentation. This can make your skin and existing spots and freckles appear darker than usual.
If pregnancy is the trigger, melasma may go away on its own. This can happen months after you deliver the baby or after you finish breastfeeding.
Is melasma preventable?
Not entirely. This is because of the uncontrollable factors that can trigger the condition (hormones, pregnancy, and genetics). If you, however, have melasma, it is best to seek treatment and follow other protection measures to keep it from getting worse. These include:
- Prioritize proper sun protection – Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more daily. Be sure to limit sun exposure during peak hours (10am to 3pm). And if you’ll be out in the sun, wear a brimmed hat, protective clothing, and sunglasses that block 99 to 100% of UV rays.
- Don’t wax areas affected by melasma – Waxing can cause skin inflammation and make your melasma worse. Consult a skin or aesthetic doctor for other hair removal methods that are suitable for you.
- Use gentle skin care products – Harsh products or those that burn or sting can cause redness and irritation that may worsen melasma. Switch to gentle formulas or ask your dermatologist for other product recommendations.
Does melasma resolve on its own?
It can disappear and fade away on its own, but there are also cases where melasma can linger for years or even permanently. As previously mentioned, melasma triggered by pregnancy may start fading after having the baby, but this is not always the case for everyone.
How can I treat melasma?
If melasma bothers you, treatments are available. There are also aesthetic procedures that can lighten these patches and improve the appearance of your melasma. Be reminded, however, that you should not treat melasma on your own; you need to see a skin or aesthetic doctor.
- Hydroquinone – This comes in creams, gels, or lotions and works by lightening the skin. It is a common first treatment for the condition and is applied to the skin.
- Tretinoin and corticosteroids – Both help with skin lightening. Some medications may also contain tretinoin and corticosteroid, along with hydroquinone.
- Other medications/supplements – Topical treatments with kojic acid or azelaic may also be prescribed to lighten the patches. There are also cases where certain oral supplements with Phytofloral and tranexamic acid are used to treat melasma and brown spots.
- Aesthetic treatments – At Cutis Medical Laser Clinics in Singapore, we have a number of aesthetic treatments that can help improve melasma. These include:
- VI Peel – This safe yet powerful peel is designed to treat age spots, pigmentation, fine lines, acne scars, and uneven skin texture. VI Peel Precision Plus is the VI Peel for skin discoloration, including melasma, sun damage, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
- Pearl Resurfacing – This uses an FDA-cleared laser device for treating sun damage, hyperpigmentation wrinkles, and acne scars. It removes a portion of the skin surface and triggers it to produce a protective dressing. This will peel off after three to five days, revealing a pearly-glow.
- Limelight IPL Photo Facial – This works by delivering intelligent pulses of light that targets pigmentation. This will draw out brown spots on the top layers, which will scab and fall off after three to five days. It can be customized for different skin tones.
Schedule a consultation today
Want to learn more about the treatments for melasma and skin pigmentation? Contact Cutis Medical Laser Clinics today and schedule a consultation with our aesthetic doctor to fade or improve your skin discoloration.