Melasma- How to lose the unwanted mask!
Updated: Jan 31
Dark spots and brown discoloration are one of the most common concerns brought up in plastic surgery offices, according to Priti Patel, MD a New Jersey based Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon.
Often times, it is the result of acne scars or even sun related changes. However, when the occasional brown spot becomes a bigger, widespread issue it can be the sign of another medical condition called melasma.
What causes melasma?
While most commonly associated with pregnancy and hormonal changes, there are many etiologies that can lead to melasma. Sun exposure and genetics can also increase concerns of pigmentation. The condition affects women of all ethnicities.
What are the signs and symptoms of melasma?
Melasma is a very common chronic condition that affects individuals generally in their 20s-40s. An irregular dark pigmentation pattern is often seen in the central portions of the face including forehead, nose, cheeks, and the chin. The pigmentation can worsen with extended sun exposure or skin irritation.
How can I treat pigmentation concerns?
Unfortunately, the bad thing about melasma is that there is no absolute cure to this condition. However there are many treatment options that can help to control symptoms and lighten the areas of patchy pigmentation. All of these require multiple treatments and consistency in care.
Topical skincare: There are some products that may be able to help with skin color and with continued use can improve the appearance of skin. Products such as skin lightening creams (hydroquinone or kojic acid) can temporarily decrease the melanin production in skin. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C also have the ability to lighten skin and reduce wrinkles. For more effective results a retinol will turn over the skin faster and lead to quicker results. Glycolic acid is another product that can vary in percentage and is used as pads or even peels to help lift off pigmentation from melasma. While pads can be used at home, an in office medical grade peel can provide improved results.
Office based procedures: Daily skincare is a must when treating melasma, but office based procedures are often used in conjunction with home treatments for the most ideal results. Medical grade chemical peels are used in varying grades to chemically treat the skin and bring unwanted pigmentation to the surface. Lasers can also result in skin rejuvenation with regard to color, texture, and tightness. IPL treatments use technologies that can remove years of pigment in a few quick treatments.
Can anything be done to prevent melasma?
Sun protection is one of the best means of preventing worsening of pigmentation. A mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is recommended as a physical block which can prevent UV light exposure. Sunscreen should be reapplied often throughout the day even in the winter when sun can reflect off of the snow! Hormonal changes can also be controlled if this is the inciting cause. Daily prevention is the key to controlling melasma symptoms!