Melasma is a common skin condition that causes brown to grayish-brown patches on the cheeks, nose, forehead, chin, and upper lip. 90% of patients with melasma are women, and the condition is more common in people with darker skin, such as those of Asian, Latin or Hispanic, Mediterranean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African descent.
Causes of Melasma
The cause of melasma is not entirely clear, although sun exposure and changes in hormones seem to be important in stimulating over-activation of the skin’s pigment producing cells. Melasma likely occurs when the color-making cells in the skin (melanocytes) produce too much color. People with skin of color are more prone to melasma because they have more active melanocytes than people with light skin.
Common Melasma triggers include:
- Sun exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun stimulates the melanocytes. In fact, just a small amount of sun exposure can make melasma return after fading. Ultraviolet sun exposure makes melasma worse in the summer and causes it to return quickly after treatment, if the skin isn’t protected from the sun.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes have been known to cause melasma. Pregnant women are often susceptible to melasma. When melasma appears in pregnant women, it is also referred to as chloasma, or the ‘mask of pregnancy’.
- Medication and skin care products: Some medications such as birth control and skin care products that affect one’s hormones can lead to melasma. If a product irritates your skin, melasma can worsen.
Melasma is most often diagnosed clinically by your dermatologist looking at your skin. Melasma does not cause any pain or symptoms. Melasma is exclusively an aesthetic condition.
Treatment can be challenging depending on where the pigment is located in your skin. Pigment closer to the skin’s surface is more easily treated, while deep pigment can be very persistent. Treatment often includes a combination of therapies including:
- Sun protection: excellent sun protection is one of the most common treatments for melasma. Since sunlight triggers melasma, it is important to wear sunscreen daily. Choose a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more, and zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to physically limit the effects of the sun’s rays on your skin. Consider our DNA Defense SPF sunscreen.
- Skin bleaching and other lightening creams: some products can be used to lighten the appearance of Melasma such as Hydroquinone, Tretinoin and Corticosteroids. These products may be suitable for minor cases of Melasma or as a complimentary treatment alongside a more aggressive approach.
- Procedures: Procedures for melasma include a chemical peel, microdermabrasion, dermabrasion, DNA facials, microneedling, laser treatment, or a light-based procedure. Moy-Fincher-Chipps Facial Plastics and Dermatology have the latest and highest efficacy devises such as the PiQo4 Pigmentation Laser to treat Melasma, brown spots and hyperpigmentation.
Schedule a consultation
We understand that melasma is a frustrating, chronic condition and look forward to working with you to devise a successful treatment regimen. Schedule a consultation with one of our fellowship-trained, board-certified dermatologists today. With offices in Beverly Hills, Encino, and Torrance, CA we hopefully have a dermatology office located near your.