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What is Melasma and How Do You Treat It?

Home » Learning Center » What is Melasma and How Do You Treat It?

Melasma is one of the most common and, frankly, one of the most irritating of skin conditions. It appears as grayish-brown patches of skin typically on the face. While there aren’t any known health risks related to melasma, it can leave you feeling self-conscious every time you step out in public. There isn’t a cure for melasma, but there are effective at-home and professional treatments to help minimize the appearance.

Today we’re going to cover exactly what melasma is, what causes someone to get it, who’s most at risk, and the best part—treatment options! Let’s dive in.

What exactly is melasma?

Melasma is a skin condition characterized by gray-brown patches on the skin. It usually occurs on the face, but it can appear on other areas of the body like the forearms and neck. Usually it appears in areas where the skin gets the most sun exposure.

Who gets melasma?

Women are far more likely to get melasma than men. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), about 10% of people who get melasma are men. If you have darker skin or close family members who have melasma, you’re more likely to experience it too. Melasma is also very common during pregnancy—so much so that it has a nickname, the “mask of pregnancy.”

What causes someone to get melasma?

The exact causes for melasma aren’t clear. However, there are three major triggers associated with the development of melasma. Those triggers are:

  • sun exposure
  • hormonal changes
  • irritating skin care products

Because UV light stimulates melanocytes (the color-producing cells in your skin), melasma is often worse in the summer—especially if you don’t wear a physical sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 (more on sunscreen below!). As mentioned earlier, melasma is common during or after pregnancy. According to the AADA, “Birth control pills and hormone replacement medicine also can trigger melasma.” When it comes to skincare products, anything that irritates your skin can trigger melasma. This is why it’s important to take it slow when trying new products so that you can monitor how your skin responds.

What treatments are available to treat melasma?

Melasma is very tricky to treat and has no cure. The goal with melasma treatments is to lighten and suppress excess pigment. This can be achieved using a combination of medical-grade at-home products and clinical treatments. It’s also normal for a little bit of trial-and-error to take place while you and your skincare expert figure out to which treatment(s) your melasma responds best.

The most important part of a melasma treatment plan is a strict daily sunblock routine with a physical sunscreen. Melasma pigmentation can darken with either heat or light, so we highly recommend melasma patients to follow strict sun protection with a physical sunscreen.

Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which actually reflect the light and heat away from the skin. This is opposed to chemical sunscreens that absorb the light and redistribute it, blocking the light, but transferring the heat. For melasma patients who are serious about minimizing their pigment, we recommend daily application of physical sunscreen in the morning, with reapplication every 1.5-2 hours while exposed to sunlight.

Light chemical peels and lasers
Light chemical peels are a common clinical starting point for treating melasma because the possibility of the treatment-darkening pigmentation is low. PicoMelasma laser, as well as BBL FotoFacials and Halo laser treatments are also available for the treatment of melasma.

Remember that everyone’s skin will respond differently to different treatments.

The application of light and/or heat can trigger melasma for some people. That’s why it’s important to make sure you talk with your skin expert and allow them to properly monitor your progress with whatever treatment you choose. Heat and light treatments can work really well to lessen the appearance of melasma in some individuals. Here at Dermacare of Hampton Roads we typically alternate chemical peels with either PicoMelasma or BBL treatments every 2 weeks. We monitor patients closely to see how their skin responds to each treatment and make adjustments accordingly.

While melasma can’t be cured, finding and sticking to a treatment plan that works for your skin can help to significantly reduce the appearance of it. So once you find a treatment plan that works for your skin, it’s essential to maintain a strict skincare routine that includes wearing sunscreen and protective clothing and using medical-grade skincare products to suppress excess pigmentation.

To make an appointment with a Dermacare of Hampton Roads Expert, please give us a call at 757-547-7546 .

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