Melasma is a skin condition characterized by patches of blue-gray, tan, and brown skin discoloration. It’s most often evident in women in their mid-reproductive years. The condition is a form of facial pigmentation that typically appears in three areas of the face: the central part, the cheekbones, and the jawline.
In many people, melasma appears on the forehead, chin, and bridge of the nose, among other areas of the body, including the arms, neck, or chest – any patch of skin that is exposed to the sun a lot.
While melasma doesn’t have lasting health consequences, the patches that form can cause embarrassment and distress. The good news is that there are a number of ways to treat the condition and reduce its appearance. If you notice symptoms of melasma, see a health care specialist for melasma treatment.
Let’s delve into the causes of melasma and how to cope with it to prevent future discoloration.
Types of Melasma Diagnoses
1. Dermal – This is identified by bluish or light-brown patches with less-defined borders. Its appearance doesn’t change under a black light and it doesn’t respond very well to treatment.
2. Epidermal – This is identified by well-defined borders and dark-brown patches. It is more apparent in black light and responds very well to treatment.
3. Mixed – This is the most common type of melasma and is identified by a combination of bluish discoloration and light and dark-brown patches. It responds relatively well to treatment.
Causes of Melasma
The exact cause of melasma is yet to be pinpointed. Experts believe that the cause of dark patches occurs when melanocytes (the skin’s color-making cells) create too much color. As such, those who are more likely to experience melasma are people with skin of color as they have more active melanocytes than fair-skinned people.
The severity and appearance of melasma can be triggered by three main factors, namely genetics, hormonal fluctuations, and sun exposure. Let’s take an in-depth look at two of these factors:
• Hormonal fluctuations – Pregnant women usually experience hormonal fluctuations. Since melasma can be triggered by a shift in hormones, it tends to be common during the gestational period. Nowadays, it’s referred to as the ‘mask of pregnancy.’ Hyperpigmentation can also be caused by hormonal replacement or birth control medications.
• Sun exposure – Skin melanocytes can be stimulated by ultraviolet rays, and sun exposure can worsen melasma. That’s why this condition tends to worsen during the summer. When you spend too much time in the sun, faded hyperpigmentation can return.
Melasma Treatment Options
In women, melasma associated with birth control pills or pregnancy may disappear on its own. For other people, dermatological treatment may be required.
You can get some prescriptions such as topical steroids to lighten the skin from your health care professional. If these don’t work, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, or dermabrasion are other possible options – they work by stripping away the top layers of skin to help in lightening the dark patches.
These treatment procedures don’t guarantee that the condition won’t return, and in some cases, they can’t be lightened completely. To reduce the risk of melasma coming back, keep to strict follow-up visits for treatment and minimize your exposure to the sun. This, together with some anti-aging tips, will go a long way in transforming your beauty routine.
Coping with Melasma
Even after trying many treatment options, some cases of melasma will not clear up. However, you can do several things to ensure that the condition doesn’t worsen while minimizing the appearance of discoloration. These may include:
• Covering areas of discoloration using makeup
• Wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 daily
• Taking prescribed medication
• Providing shade to your face by wearing a wide-brimmed hat
At-home Treatment and Prevention of Melasma
Melasma treatment can be taken at home. To effectively manage this condition, you need to understand what triggers you and do all that it takes to protect yourself. To help prevent melasma, you can practice the following:
• Wear protective clothing – While using sunscreen is the number one priority, you can increase sun protection by adding layered clothing and other protective attire to your wardrobe.
• Don’t wax – Waxing can cause immediate inflammation of the skin and worsen melasma, and is therefore not recommended.
• Wear shades – To shield the sensitive skin around the eyes, put on a pair of sunglasses and ensure that you select the right style. Metal rims should be avoided as they can attract heat – they can make melasma worse when placed against the skin.