Melasma is a common skin condition in which patches of skin on the face darken. Typically, the affected areas are the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead or upper lip. The dark patches are often symmetrical. Melasma can occur in anyone, but is much more frequently found among women, especially women who are pregnant when it is called chloasma, and is sometimes referred to as the "pregnancy mask." Although not a painful or dangerous problem, melasma can be very distressing emotionally because of its alteration of the appearance. Melasma is not always a permanent condition. It may disappear in a woman several months after she gives birth, but may reoccur after unprotected exposure to the sun. Learn more about melasma and the various treatment options offered by our expert providers by dialing 754-544-9030 today!
Risk Factors for Melasma
While the precise cause of melasma is unknown, certain individuals have a genetic predisposition to developing this condition and it more frequently occurs in people with brown skin. There is also a clear correlation between female hormones and melasma, since not only are pregnant women more susceptible, but so are women on birth control or hormone replacement therapy. Sun exposure makes the development of melasma more likely, so women in tropical climates are more prone to the condition.
Symptoms of Melasma
A telltale sign of melasma is brown patches on the face, primarily the cheeks, chin, upper lip, and forehead. In some patients, melasma may also be present on the arms and neck. In most cases, the patches are symmetrical and worsen with sun exposure.
Diagnosis of Melasma
Melasma is usually diagnosed through a simple physical examination of the skin. A Wood's lamp, which uses ultraviolet light, is used to highlight skin discolorations and direct the course of treatment.
Treatment for Melasma
Sometimes patients may achieve symptom relief if they stop taking estrogen and progesterone, the hormones linked to the disorder. Other treatments for melasma may include:
- Topical skin-bleaching agents
- Chemical peels
- Topical corticosteroids
- Laser treatment
- Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy
- Microdermabrasion or dermabrasion
Patients with melasma should apply strong sunscreen or sunblock outdoors since sun exposure will worsen the condition.
How Do I Prevent Melasma?
While melasma is not always preventable, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of occurrence. Always wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF when outdoors, in addition to protective clothing when possible.
Is Melasma Permanent?
Melasma is considered a chronic condition that can wax and wane. It can be treated and kept under good control. The first step is consultation with a board-certified dermatologist who can examine your skin and create a personalized treatment plan.
Does Pregnancy-Induced Melasma Go Away?
In many cases, pregnancy-induced melasma resolves once you give birth. However, it is possible for it to come back with hormonal changes or if you become pregnant again.
Can I Use Over-the-Counter Treatments?
While some over-the-counter products may reduce the appearance of melasma, prescription medications and treatment are usually more effective.