What is Melasma?
Melasma is a pigmentary disorder of the skin which appears as brown patches on the face of adults. Both sides of the face, especially the cheeks, bridge of nose, forehead, and upper lip, can be involved. This condition is very common, particularly in those with darker skin types.
What is the cause of Melasma?
Although the exact cause of melasma is unknown, affected people often have a family history of melasma. In addition, a change in hormonal status, particularly pregnancy and birth control pills, are commonly associated with melasma, and melasma is often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy”.
Sun and light exposure are some of the most common reasons for the appearance of melasma. Ultraviolet light from the sun can stimulate pigment-producing cells in the skin called melanocytes to produce more pigment. Irritation of the skin can produce a brown color as it heals, and any irritation of the face in those with melasma may cause it to worsen.
Although melasma can cause significant brown staining of the skin as well as psychological stress and a negative impact on quality of life, it is localized only to the skin and is not associated with any internal diseases or organ malfunction.
Broad spectrum sunscreens, which protect against UVA and UVB ultraviolet light should be used. A physical block, such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide, may be used on top of chemical sunscreens to block light even more. Daily use of sunscreens is important, since even small doses of light can worsen melasma. Visors and tinting can protect from ultraviolet light while driving. Hydroquinone is the most commonly used depigmenting agent and is available in low strengths over the counter and in higher strengths through prescription from your provider.
- Hydroquinone is the most effective of all the depigmenting agents, and takes 3-6 months to reach maximum results.
- Combination creams containing Tretinoin, steroids, and glycolic acid can be mixed with or used along with hydroquinone to enhance its depigmenting effect.
- Azelaic acid and kojic acid are two other agents that have depigmenting effects and can be effective for some patients.
- Several over the counter products are available to bleach the skin and may be effective for mild cases of melasma.
To find out what the best treatment is for you, make an appointment with us today.