Melasma Demystified: What You Need to Know

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Melasma Demystified

Melasma, a common skin condition characterized by brown or grayish patches on the face, affects millions worldwide, mostly women. While melasma in Glen Allen is not a medically harmful condition, it can significantly impact an individual’s self-esteem and quality of life.

Understanding melasma

Melasma is a chronic skin disorder primarily affecting women, although men can also develop it. The exact cause of melasma is still not fully understood, but it is believed to be influenced by various factors, including sun exposure and the use of certain cosmetics. It is commonly observed during pregnancy.

Causes and risk factors

Hormonal fluctuations, such as while taking oral contraceptives, are known to trigger melasma. Additionally, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds can worsen melasma or contribute to its development. Genetic factors also play a role, as individuals with a family history of melasma are more likely to develop the condition. Certain medications, such as hormone replacement therapy or antiseizure drugs, may also increase the risk.

Signs and symptoms

Melasma presents as brownish-gray or tan patches on the face, most commonly on the cheeks, forehead, chin, and upper lip. These patches often have a symmetrical appearance, affecting both sides of the face equally. The borders of the patches may be irregular, and the pigmentation can range from light to dark. 

Diagnosis and treatment

A dermatologist can usually diagnose melasma by visually examining the affected skin. In some cases, a wood lamp examination (a blacklight or an ultraviolet (UV) light examination) may be used to determine the depth of pigmentation. It is essential to rule out other conditions resembling melasma, such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or certain types of skin cancer. The primary goal is to lighten the hyperpigmented areas and tone the skin. 

Management of melasma

Sun protection

Since sun exposure is a significant trigger for melasma, sun protection is recommended in managing the condition. This includes using broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding direct sunlight during peak hours.

Topical treatments

Topical treatments are often the first line of defense in managing melasma. Hydroquinone, a skin-lightening agent, is commonly prescribed to lighten the pigmented areas. Other topical medications, such as corticosteroids and retinoids, may also be recommended to enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels involve applying a chemical solution to the skin, which causes controlled exfoliation and removal of the outer layers. This process helps lighten melasma patches and promotes the growth of new, healthier skin growth. Superficial or medium-depth peels containing ingredients like glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid are commonly used for melasma treatment.

Laser therapy

Laser devices emit concentrated beams of light that target and break down melanin pigments in the skin. This treatment option requires multiple sessions, and results may vary depending on the individual.

Combination therapies

To achieve optimal results, dermatologists often recommend combination therapies for melasma management. This may involve using a combination of topical medications, chemical peels, and laser therapy tailored to the individual’s specific needs and skin type.

Speak to your doctor at Absolute Dermatology and Skin Cancer to get treatment for melasma.