Melasma is a condition that many people suffer from. They’re usually not quite sure how it works or how to improve it. Melasma is the over production of melanin. This causes patchy brown, tan, and blue-gray skin discoloration on the face. It’s seen most in women. According to the American Academy of Dermatology only 10% of all melasma cases occur in men. It’s also more commonly found in those with darker complexions because they have more melanocytes than people with lighter skin. It primarily affects people in their 20s to 50s.
Melasma spots can appear on the upper cheeks, the upper lip, the forehead, the bridge of the nose, and chin. Melasma can also occur on other areas of the body that are exposed to sunlight including your forearms, neck and shoulders. One of the groups it often affects is pregnant women. When it’s found in mom’s to be, it’s called Chloasma or “the mask of pregnancy”.
What Causes Melasma?
Melasma is a medical mystery in a way. Doctors aren’t aware of what causes melasma but it may be due to the malfunction of melanocytes (Skin’s color making cells), which causes them to overproduce color in your skin. Melasma can also be triggered by your birth control pills, pregnancy and the sun. When caused by your birth control it’s called melasma gravidarum.
If you’re one of those people who pick at your acne (don’t do it!) then that can contribute to the formation of melasma as well. The sun can make your melasma worse, even if you’re protecting your skin by covering it or wearing sunscreen. If you’re around strong fluorescent lighting, that can also stimulate the melanin in your skin and make your melasma worse. Some skin products can cause melasma if they irritate your skin. Melasma can be genetically passed on as medical studies have found that melasma does run in families.
The Types of Melasma
The two types of Melasma are epidermal and dermal. Epidermal melasma is much easier to treat as it only affects the top layers of skin where dermal is harder to treat because it’s deeper in the skin.
Ways to Treat Your Melasma
If you suffer from melasma the best treatment methods are topical creams that contain hydroquinone. This cream should be applied to the affected area twice a day, morning and night. It may take months to notice a difference, so be patient. Make sure you’re applying sunscreen daily and trying to keep your exposure to the sun at a minimum. The next best form of aggressive treatment for melasma is a glycolic peel, jessner peel or laser treatments applied to the affected areas. These treatments require some down time but have been proven to be very effective. Chloasma will typically go away once your pregnancy is over and if it doesn’t go away it’s easier to treat and can go away faster than regular melasma.
You can also consume foods that contain hydroquinone to naturally work it into your body to help with your discoloration as well. Hydroquinone is found in bearberry, cranberry, cowberry and some varieties of pears. It oxidizes when it’s exposed to the air and alkaline solutions. Hydroquinone works on melanocytes by inhibiting the production of tyrosine, the enzyme that produces melanin in the melanocytes.
Other treatment methods you could try include corticosteroids, tretinoin and other topical medications if you visit your dermatologist. You could also come in for a Circadia Enzyme Facial with me which is great for those with pigmentation problems and those who want a deep clean. You could also try the Circadia oxygen facial which is also great for those looking to diminish hyperpigmentation.
If you have any questions regarding if a spot on your skin could be melasma, I’m always happy to take a look. Don’t hesitate to ever reach out to me if you have any skincare concerns. Even if I can’t help or treat your condition, I have a variety of friends in skincare and healthcare who I can refer you to!