What is Melasma?
Melasma is a common skin condition that causes the appearance of brown to gray-brown patches of skin due to the body producing too much melanin, a natural substance that gives color to our hair, skin, and eyes. It usually appears on the face, although it can also develop on the forearms and neck.
No one is really certain exactly what causes melasma, but there are many factors that can trigger it including pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone therapy, cosmetics, and anti-seizure medications. Because melasma is so common during pregnancy, it is sometimes referred to as “the mask of pregnancy.” Sun exposure is also a major melasma trigger because ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can increase melanin production.
Tips for treating melasma
Fortunately, there are many treatment options to help manage melasma. “Dermatologists are excited about the FDA’s approval of Fraxel for treating Melasma. And while there is no magic bullet for the problem, we have additional therapies at our disposal that are safe and effective,” says Fox. These include:
- The first line of defense is a broad spectrum sunscreen, which will help prevent further skin discoloration. “If a patient is vigilant about sunscreen use and stays out of the sun, the condition can spontaneously improve,” says Fox. “More importantly, it will help prevent further discoloration.”
- One of the first-line treatments is often a hydroquinone (HQ) cream, lotion or gel to lighten skin, which is available over-the-counter and in prescription doses. A dermatologist may also prescribe other topical medicines to lighten skin such as tretinoin, corticosteroids, azelaic acid and kojic acid. Several new products have been developed without HQ to treat the condition.
- Procedures for melasma include chemical peels, microdermabrasion , Fraxel Dual 1550/1927, Q-switched Nd-YAG and Ruby Lasers.
- A final option is a combination of several aforementioned therapies. In one recent study researchers in New York found that microdermabrasion and laser treatments used together can be a safe, a non-invasive approach with minimal or no recovery time, and it had long-lasting effects.