Melasma is a form of skin pigmentation that is characterized by patches of brown, tan, or blue-gray skin discoloration. It’s most often seen in women in the middle of their reproductive years. Melasma is typically found in three different areas of the face: the jawline, the central part of the face, and the cheekbones. Many people will notice melasma on the bridge of their nose, cheeks, and forehead, but it may appear on other areas of the body, including the neck, chest, or arms—any area of the skin that gets high levels of UV exposure.
According Dr. Abigail Donnelly, board-certified dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology in Carmel, Indiana, “The appearance and severity of melasma is determined by three main factors: genetics, hormones, and sun exposure. It is sometimes referred to as the “mask of pregnancy,” because many women see the first patch of melasma during pregnancy. Hormones in birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy can also exacerbate melasma. While it is more common in women, it is important to realize that men also suffer with melasma.”
There are three types of melasma that you can be diagnosed with:
1. Epidermal Melasma – this type has dark brown patches with a well-defined border
2. Dermal Melasma – this type has light brown or bluish patches with a less-defined border
3. Mixed Melasma – this type is the most common and combines types one and two featuring light and dark patches and bluish patches with varying borders.
Treating and Improving Melasma
“Melasma is a major source of frustration and lowered self-confidence with one’s skin” added Dr. Donnelly.
Managing this skin condition means understanding your triggers and being proactive to treat, but more important to prevent exposure to triggers. If you are struggling with melasma, make sure you practice the following to help create a more even skin tone
• Use Daily Sun Protection: Although you can’t completely prevent melasma, sunscreen will help reduce the changes of pigmentation from developing. Dr. Donnelly recommends mineral-based sun blocks with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and a minimum of SPF30 on a daily basis.
• Use a Pigment Blocker: Apply a skin-lightening product once or twice a day to fade hyper-pigmented areas. Avoid spot-treatment. Instead, apply the product evenly to your entire face before applying other skin care regimen.
• Use Retinol: Retinol speeds up cell turnover and works great in combination with other melasma-fighting agents. With time, retinol helps regularly exfoliate the top layers of the skin and prevent build up of pigment.
• Visit a Dermatologist: Your dermatologist will examine your skin and develop a customized treatment plan best for your condition. Some options include prescription-strength topical medications, chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser treatments. Each of these treatments work to treat the melasma from a deeper level, increasing cell turnover and evening skin tone.
Melasma is a frustrating skin condition. You don’t know you have it until you see it and there’s no sure way to prevent it. However, just as the combination of hormones and the sun bring out discoloration, the combination of the above treatment options will help reduce its appearance.
At Forefront Dermatology, we know that life is all about the moments when you don’t need us. That’s why we’re here for all the moments when you do. We offer comprehensive and compassionate care for all skin conditions and create customized treatment plans for all stages and ages – even the tiniest of patients! Find a location near you today.