Melasma: What It Is and What You Can Do About It

Unwanted spots on your face can make anyone feel self-conscious. Women between the ages of 20 and 50 are particularly susceptible to a condition known as melasma, which results from an overproduction of pigment on the skin. An estimated 6 million women in the United States are coping with melasma, whose dark patches usually crop up on the cheeks, nose, forehead, chin, and jaw. The most common causes of melasma are hormonal imbalances in women due to changes in progesterone and estrogen production (most frequently triggered by birth control, hormone replacement, and pregnancy), as well as sun exposure. Thyroid conditions, heat, and stress are also thought to play a role.

During pregnancy, fluctuating hormones can cause pigmentation levels to go into overdrive. In fact, because the condition is so much more prevalent when a woman is expecting, melasma is often referred to as the "mask of pregnancy.” According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, up to 70 percent of pregnant women develop the condition. Fortunately, however, it normally clears up on its own a few months after delivery.

For other indications that you might develop melasma, look to your family members. Those with a genetic predispo­sition and darker skin tone are more prone to the condition.

So, are you doomed to put up with these spots for the rest of your life? Clients ask this question often, and the answer is, not necessarily. While there is no permanent cure for melasma, it can be effectively treated using a variety of methods.

What You Can Do About It

Melasma can fade on its own, especially in cases when the root cause, such as pregnancy, ends. If you’d like to take matters into your own hands, though, we recommend the following treatment options:

Topical Procedures:

  • Phytowhite Dark Spot Serum: This Hydroquinone-free botanical lightener performs as well as 4% Hydroquinone without irritating your skin. It contains potent anti-inflammatory ingredients, including licorice extract to reduce melanin production, vitamin C, and glycolic and azelaic acids to lighten the surface and stimulate collagen production. It will make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to include a facial sunscreenof at least SPF 15 or higher in your daily skin care routine.
  • Other topical options include products containing tretinoin and corticos­teroids, both of which enhance the skin lightening process.

In-Office Procedures:

  • Chemical peels work to treat skin discoloration with naturally occurring alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHA), retinol and trichloroacetic acid (TCA) that loosen dead cells from the skin’s surface, revealing new, healthy cells.
  • Other facial treatments like microdermabrasion, which sloughs off the top layers of skin, can also effectively treat melasma.

The best form of melasma prevention involves both sun avoidance and sun protection, including wearing wide-brimmed hats and a daily dose of broad-spectrum, high-protection sunscreen (this one is a great pick).

Melasma can be stubborn, but don’t get discouraged. Our team of skin care experts is ready to help you choose the most effective treatment option. If you’re dealing with melasma, schedule a free consultation, and let Leah Nickie ADVANCED AESTHETICS help you determine the best course of action for your individual skin care needs.

Feature Photo via Pexels