Unmasking Melasma: What You Need to Know
While the name may sound concerning, melasma is more of an unsightly inconvenience than a serious health concern. Melasma causes greyish brown or brown patches that appear on skin commonly exposed to the sun. Common places where the patches develop include the forehead, cheeks, nose, beneath the eyes, chin, arms, neck, and back. Uniquely, these spots develop in symmetrical pairs – if a spot appears on your right cheekbone, chances are another will follow shortly in the same area of your left cheekbone. Here’s what you need to know about this skin condition, its cause, and how to best treat it.
What Causes Melasma?
So far, there is no definitive cause of melasma – that is to say, being out in the sun will not immediately cause the development of the characteristic patches across your face. However, recent studies by researchers and dermatologists have suggested that certain factors can increase the likelihood of developing melasma. These include sun exposure, genetics, ethnicity, stress, and even thyroid function.
Additionally, it has been noted that hormonal changes and fluctuations are prevailing risk factors for melasma. While the condition can occur in any patient, an estimated 90% of patients with the condition are women. Furthermore, changes to estrogen and progesterone levels like those associated with oral contraceptives, pregnancy, and hormone therapy have been tied to the development of melasma in patients. For this reason, melasma is also called chloasma, or the “mask of pregnancy.”
What is the Difference Between Melasma, Age Spots and Freckles?
Age spots, freckles, and melasma may all seem very similar but can be differentiated from one another rather easily. Each of these blemishes is a form of hyperpigmentation stemming from the over-production of melanin. However, there are significant differences between what triggers the hyperpigmentation associated with each blemish.
In individuals with melasma, the development of patches comes as the result of hormonal changes, genetic predisposition, or sun exposure and are more common among patients with darker skin tones.
In contrast, freckles have a more circular, tan appearance and are more common in patients of lighter skin tones. Melanin production, in the case of freckles, is more so triggered by sun exposure rather than hormones, making it possible for very young children to develop the condition.
On the other hand, age spots are flat and oval-shaped, taking a tan, brown, and even black shade. While they may develop on young adults, age spots are more common among older patients who have had years of sun exposure.
What are My Treatment Options?
While melasma is a purely cosmetic condition, the sudden development of patches can be concerning for many patients. For some, especially pigmented blemishes can be difficult to cover with makeup and can undermine the individual’s self-confidence. Luckily, new techniques and advanced dermatology treatment solutions have made it possible for patients with melasma to overcome their condition and restore smooth, even tone to their skin. Some of the most popular solutions for melasma include:
Considered the gold standard in melasma treatment, topical treatment with professional creams is one of the first treatments recommended. Usually, these topical creams are compounds made with hydroquinone, tretinoin, and a corticosteroid to better even skin tone.
For patients who are not candidates for topical treatment, other options exist that are highly effective in treating melasma. Microdermabrasion is another quick, outpatient solution that has long been used to address hyperpigmentation in delicate areas without the use of chemicals or creams. As a result, many melasma patients have found this solution as an excellent solution for not only treating blemishes but also rejuvenating skin into a healthier appearance.
Much like microdermabrasion, chemical peels have successfully been used by our Madison dermatologist to address hyperpigmentation across the face. Under this procedure, different chemicals are used to remove the dead and damaged top layers of skin. This stimulates important cell rejuvenation as well as collagen production, helping reset skin health.
Fractional laser skin resurfacing has emerged in the last decade as another option for patients looking to clear their appearance of spots as well as fine lines. Under this minimally invasive treatment, the laser operates at specific wavelengths to target hyperpigmentation and other skin flaws within a treatment area, leaving the surrounding tissue unharmed.
Ready to Tackle Your Blemishes? Call our Madison, CT Team Today!
While melasma may be unsightly, there are easily accessible, minimally invasive options for rejuvenating your appearance and restoring your self-confidence. To learn more about this condition and your treatment options, call Aria Dermspa at 203-421-6674 today to schedule your consultation.