Skin pigmentation problems are a mixed bag. Some conditions lighten your skin in patches while others make your skin darker. Some have unknown causes while others have easy-to-avoid triggers. Some disappear on their own, others can only be managed, and still others disappear with treatment. Melasma is one such common skin pigmentation condition that, while not life-threatening, is very frustrating and can severely weigh on your self-esteem and confidence.
If you suspect that you are suffering from melasma, our world-class staff at West Dermatology/Cosmetic Laser Dermatology specializes in medical and cosmetic skin conditions and can answer your questions, diagnose your condition, and recommend the appropriate treatments. Get in touch with our dermatologists by filling out our online contact form and learn more about what melasma treatment options are right for you.
What is Melasma?
Melasma is a dermatological condition in which gray or brown skin patches develop on various parts of the body. Melasma generally appears on areas that get a lot of sun – forehead, cheeks, chin, upper lip, nose, arms, and neck.
Some people refer to it as chloasma (the “mask of pregnancy”) because it’s so common for it to occur in pregnant women. Although such skin discoloration strikes in men, it’s much more common in women, with perhaps as much as 90% of all cases are women.
Melasma symptoms aren’t anything you can feel. There’s no stinging sensation or pain. You don’t become fatigued or otherwise feel anything unusual, although it’s certainly common to feel anxious or self-conscious in social settings. The patches of skin discoloration, darker than your usual skin color, are the signs. Oddly enough, the gray or brown patches develop symmetrically, making your blotchiness even on both sides of your face.
Watch for the signs of melasma, which include patches that could develop on the following areas:
- Bridge of the nose
- Neck and arms (less common)
If you develop these symptoms, especially on your areas of your body described above, contact West Dermatology/Cosmetic Laser Dermatology to schedule a diagnostic consultation for melasma treatment.
Melasma Causes and Risk Factors
There is no consensus among researchers and dermatologists as to the exact cause. What is known is that fair skinned people are less susceptible than those with darker skin, including people of the following ethnicities:
- North African
- Middle Eastern
People with at least one family member who has melasma are also more susceptible than the rest of the population.
Being out in the sun can bring it on, too, because the sun’s UV rays disturb your body’s melanocytes, the cells that regulate pigment color. This accounts for why it seems to be more common and intense during the summer. Furthermore, if you’ve had melasma that you thought had disappeared (which happens), even a little sun exposure can trigger its return.
As noted earlier, this skin discoloration condition is very common in pregnant women. It’s thought that hormone changes or sensitivity to estrogen or progesterone are triggers, as are birth control pills and hormone therapy.
Stress and thyroid issues are also strongly suspected culprits behind melasma. Even skin care products, especially any that irritate your skin, can trigger your melasma – or exacerbate it.
How is Melasma Diagnosed?
A visual exam from a professional dermatologist is usually enough, but to be sure, and because a few other skin conditions resemble melasma, several types of tests can be performed to confirm whether or not you have it. One such test uses a device called a Wood’s lamp, a special type of light to check to see how deep your skin condition goes. You may also undergo a quick biopsy of your skin to have it tested.
Effective Treatment of Melasma
It’s important to remember that this is an unpredictable skin condition. For some, it disappears on its own, especially if it has been triggered by taking birth control pills or being pregnant. However, for other people, it could last their whole lives.
Although melasma is not consistent, there are different types of effective melasma treatment.
A melasma treatment cream with hydroquinone with or without other skin lightening agents can lighten your skin, although one prescribed by your physician is stronger if your case is particularly severe. Other topical creams or ointments include corticosteroids, tretinoin, and kojic acid, all of which can lighten your discolored patches.
If none of those topical melasma treatments works, there are several cosmetic procedures that can be effective:
- Chemical peel
- Intense Pulsed Light
- Non-ablative lasers like Fraxel Dual 1927
- Laser resurfacing with CO2 or Er:YAG lasers
These procedures effect the layers of your skin to lighten those dark patches. Although these can be more effective than topical applications, they don’t guarantee that your melasma will be wholly eradicated, nor will they guarantee that your condition won’t return even if it completely vanishes. Follow-up visits and certain skin care guidelines might be required to reduce the risk of return.
Dealing with Melasma
Not all cases of melasma will clear up, but there are several things you can do to help you deal with it or even minimizing its visibility:
- Covering up patches with makeup
- Applying at least SPF 30 sun protection when you’re in the sun
- Shielding your face with a wide-brimmed hat
- Wearing sun-protective clothing
- Taking prescribed medication
By determining the melisma treatment that works for you, you can feel confident in your appearance and look the way you want as soon as possible.
To learn more about Melasma treatment, visit WebMD.com.
Affected by Melasma? West Dermatology/Cosmetic Laser Dermatology Can Help
Don’t deal with melasma alone, especially if it’s affecting your social life or giving you anxiety. Join local support groups or talk to the staff at West Dermatology/Cosmetic Laser Dermatology about your skin condition for a consultation to get an expert diagnosis of your skin condition, as well as custom melasma treatment options designed for your specific case. Call us at 888-554-8740 or fill out our online contact form to learn more through an informative consultation.
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