What is melasma?
Melasma is a common skin problem that usually affects skin on the face with dark grey-brown patches. These patches, often darker than your skin tone, can appear in many places: on your neck, chin, nose, forehead or forearms, to name a few.
Melasma typically occurs in pregnant women; often called the ‘mask of pregnancy’, Melasma is much more common in women than men and often forms from sun exposure, heat or a change in hormones. Although Melasma is often found in people of darker skin tones, it can occur among any individual of any ethnicity.
When Melasma starts to affect the skin, it usually follows a gradual process. The dark patches will develop over a series of weeks or months that become more visible as time goes on. Not to worry, though—the discoloration isn’t hazardous to your physical health, however it may cause you to feel less confident in your appearance, especially if the patches are located in a highly visible area, like the face.
UV light from the sun stimulates something in the skin called melanocytes to produce too much pigment, resulting in the dark skin patches. This means that Melasma is often worse in the summer with increased sun exposure. If you think you have Melasma, one thing to remember is that it is exacerbated by UV exposure and heat. We can’t say it enough, wear your sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat!
One thing to be aware of, though, is melasma is completely different from hyperpigmentation. While both are skin conditions that are characterized by “dark discoloration,” they have different causes and separate treatment options. Hyperpigmentation is a broad term that refers to any type of skin darkening and discoloration. Melasma is more specific and can be stubborn to treat. If you’re experiencing discolouration, your best bet is to see a specialist in order to become properly diagnosed.
Now that I know I have Melasma, how do I treat it?
Depending on the case, Melasma can fade on its own, but it can also be around for years. Some treatments worth checking out are as follows:
Hydroquinone: This medication is commonly used in treating Melasma and is applied directly to the skin. Since it does require a prescription, you’d have to seek that from a dermatologist.
Tretinoin: To enhance skin lightening, your dermatologist might also prescribe tretinoin. Tretinoin can help dark spots to fade and is an effective treatment to consider
Vitamin C and Antioxidants: Vitamin C is an effective natural melasma treatment as it is a tyrosinase inhibitor – one of the most common skincare ingredients to treat pigmentation. Tyrosinase is the enzyme the body needs to make melanin pigment, so when you inhibit tyrosinase, you can lighten the skin.
Chemical Peels: Some chemical peels, which contain specific ingredients, can brighten and even your overall skin tone and improve the appearance of discolouration.
Procedures: If you don’t notice any improvement with the Melasma after using topical creams, sometimes chemical peels or lasers can be successful. During a chemical peel, the top layer of your skin gets peeled off, removing discoloured patches and promotes new skin growth. With laser, the targets within the laser used for skin lightening are called chromophores which include melanin. Lasers are considered second or third-line treatment options for Melasma.