Melasma is said to be a form of pigmentation on the face usually mistaken for a tan, appearing around the cheeks, forehead, upper lip, nose, chin, and jaw line. It also may appear on the forearms, but this is quite rare. The melasma pregnancy mask syndrome impacts Latino and Asian women primarily. Although it is most common in women of childbearing age, you don’t even have to be a woman to be afflicted by it. Up to 10% of cases are shown in dark skinned men.
The cause of melasma remains unknown but is believed to be due to an increase in the production of cells which release the pigment melanin, which is responsible for the dark color of the skin. What causes the increased production of melanin is not known, but some triggers include:
- Heredity factors and hormone fluctuation/production: the rash is most common in pregnant females
- Prolonged sun exposure
- Use of birth control pills
- Certain medications like tetracycline, anti-seizure drugs anti-malarial drugs (derived from quinine)
- Skin inflammations from allergic reactions, or waxing of facial hair, especially above the lip
Melasma is not related to any medical disorder and by itself is a harmless skin condition despite the cosmetic concern associated with its appearance on facial skin. Diagnosing melasma in pregnant women is relatively simple, yet in men and women who are not pregnant, drug related skin reactions and other medical conditions may have to be ruled out. A skin biopsy may be performed for diagnosis in some cases.
May Fade with Time
Melasma is usually a transient skin disorder that may resolve itself. This may occur after childbirth in pregnant women. In cases where the melasma occurs in men or non-pregnant women, it may exist for a few months to a few years and then suddenly disappear.
Prevention and Treatment
Although there is no real cure for Melasma, there are steps you can take to avoid it and to minimize the visible effects. The best treatment for melasma is prevention.The key to preventing melasma is sun avoidance and daily sunscreen use. Protective clothing and wearing a hat may help to prevent melasma from worsening. Protective facial make-up may also be worn to help even skin tone and block out the sun. If it is too late for prevention, there are still a number of treatment options available. These treatments do not necessarily cure the cause of melasma and the effectiveness of each will vary from patient to patient. Even after treatment, skin discoloration may not always disappear completely and each patient may have to try various different treatment options to see a satisfactory result. No treatment for melasma will be successful without sunscreen. The best sunscreens are those which are mineral based, such as zinc and titanium. Also make sure the sunscreen it at least SPF 30.
Treatment with Chemical Peels
Chemical Peels offer a relatively successful and controlled short-term strategy to the facial areas affected by melasma. Our HQ+ peel has been specifically designed to provide a deeper peel to remove melasma, and inhibit new pigmentation. The Lactic peels are also very effective at fading pigmentation. Stronger peeling agents tend to have a higher effectiveness rate than lighter strength peeling agents, but can also carry the risk of side effects such as burning, skin peeling, scarring and even worsening the skin discoloration.
Other Treatment Options
There are many skin lightening agents on the market and the most commonly used is hydroquinone. Numerous other agents sold in herbal and nutrition stores may work as skin lightening agents as well, however each patient has a unique skin type and reactions to skin lightening agents vary. These may have to be continually performed to sustain results, combined with effective sunscreen usage and sun exposure avoidance. Laser skin resurfacing can also provide positive results.
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