Melasma Causes and Treatments
It is well known, and obvious enough, that the environment and aging can have undesired effects on the skin. Among the possible problems that can result is melasma.
We discuss this skin condition in this article. You will learn about factors that may cause you to have it. There is also information on what you can do to deal with the problem.
What is Melasma?
Melasma is a discoloration of the skin that usually results from sun exposure. It is characterized by patches that could be dark, brown, tan or gray in color.
This problem has been observed to be more common among people with darker skin. The discoloration has a connection with the amount of the pigment melanin in the skin. Typically, you will notice it in exposed areas, such as the forehead, bridge of the nose, cheeks, neck and shoulders.
Melasma isn’t really a health concern – it is not dangerous. It is more of a cosmetic or aesthetic problem. Some people find the dark patches rather irritating and may become self-conscious because of them.
Causes and Risk Factors
Experts do not fully understand the factor responsible for melasma. But it is thought that it may have to do with a malfunction of the cells that make melanin (melanocytes). Dark-skinned persons have more of these cells, which make them more likely to have the condition.
Exposure to ultraviolet rays has effect on melanocytes. This is why melasma is usually associated to sun exposure.
Being a woman appears to increase your risk of having the patches. Only just about 1 in every 10 people affected is male, according to estimate by the American Academy of Dermatologists.
Pregnancy also contributes to increase cases among women. The type that results due to this is called chloasma or the “mask of pregnancy.” Up to about 50 percent of pregnant women are estimated to have it.
Furthermore, it has been observed that the skin problem may be hereditary in nature. Chances are that you may have it at some point if either of your parents has it.
Other factors that could cause you to have melasma or increase your risk of having it include:
- Birth control pills
- Female hormone (estrogen and progesterone) sensitivity
- Hormone treatment
- Conditions that increase your sensitivity to sunlight
- Beauty products that irritate the skin
How Do You Treat Melasma?
It’s rather easy for doctors to diagnose this issue through visual examination. This may involve the use of a special light called Wood’s lamp. It is possible that your doctor requests for a biopsy to rule out other somewhat similar skin conditions.
There are two main options for dealing with melasma, if you are found to have it. There are skin lightening creams and cosmetic procedures.
Creams and other topical solutions that help to lighten dark spots are mostly used for controlling melasma. Many of such products contain hydroquinone or, in some cases, steroids (precisely, corticosteroids). However, these substances come with possible side effects, which more and more people are becoming aware of.
It is advisable to look out for skin lightening creams, gels or lotions that contain proven, natural ingredients such as Illuminatural 6i Skin Lightening Cream. Some of those include hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and vitamin C. These help to inhibit excess production of melanin as well as to moisturize and brighten your skin.
If topical remedies fail to help, your dermatologist may suggest having a procedure. This may be a chemical peel, microdermabrasion, fraxel, Microneedling or another option that does away with the top layers of your skin.
There are risks associated with these cosmetic procedures and they are more expensive. This explains why they are typically options of last resort.
Sadly, there is no 100% guarantee with any of these treatment options that you won’t have melasma in the future. There may be need for treatment from time to time to prevent a recurrence.
Success of each treatment option will vary between individuals. Different treatments may also be combined to treat certain cases.
In some people, melasma resolves on its own after some time. It could just vanish when the underlying cause is no longer there. For example, the kind that develops during pregnancy usually goes away after childbirth.
You can prevent the dark skin patches by avoiding things that could trigger it. These include contraceptive use, sun exposure, and conditions that make you extra-sensitive to sunlight. It’s good practice to wear sunscreen religiously.