Melasma is a common skin condition. Most people get it on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin, and above their upper lip. It also can appear on other parts of the body that get more UV exposure such as the forearms and neck. Women are far more likely than men to get melasma. Most women tend to see the first appearance of melasma during pregnancy or shortly thereafter.
- Sun exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun stimulates the melanocytes (the color-making cells in the skin). Even just a small amount of sun exposure can trigger it and make melasma return (even after fading). Sun exposure is why melasma often is worse in summer. It also is the main reason why many people with melasma get it again and again.
- Hormone Changes: Pregnant women often get melasma. When melasma appears in pregnant women, it is called chloasma, or the mask of pregnancy. Birth control pills and hormone replacement medicine also can trigger melasma. As well as constant ongoing hormonal flucuations; which occur pretty much throughout an adult woman’s lifetime.
- Cosmetics: Some skin care products that irritate the skin may worsen melasma, but this is a less common trigger.
- Procedures: Procedures for melasma include chemical peels, dermabrasion, and some fractional laser treatments. Laser facials, IPL treatments, and any other type of treatments that use intense light or heat, are not advisable for treating melasma. These types of treatments should be performed by a certified skin specialist or physician. There are risks involved (such as hypo-pigmentation, scarring, etc.) so it is important that you find a professional who is skilled in these procedures.
- Skin Care Products: One of the most effective ways to treat Melasma is with skin care products. Using a good physical sunblock (one with a high amount of Zinc Oxide) daily can help control and prevent melasma from getting worse. Targeted treatment products like a prescription Tretinoin Cream, Vitamin C, Alpha-Hydroxy Acids, etc. can help to break up the pigment. Using good skin care products, in conjunction with treatments, is the best way to target this stubborn problem. It does take a commitment and requires time and patience. However, if you’re willing to stick with it, it is highly treatable!