Melasma: Concerns

What Is Melasma?

Melasma is a common skin condition characterised by patches of darker skin tone, or hyperpigmentation, usually on the face. It’s also called chloasma, or the ‘mask of pregnancy’, as it can affect many women during their reproductive years, though men can also suffer with symptoms. Melasma sometimes resolves on its own after a few months or sometimes years, but there are several treatments that can help reduce the appearance.

Symptoms of Melasma

Melasma often appears as symmetrical, hyperpigmented patches on the skin, usually on the face, however it can also appear on the neck, upper back, chest and arms. The patches are usually a few shades darker than your usual skin tone, so can vary from dark brown to light tan or even grey in colour. Melasma does not cause any other symptoms other than darkening of the skin, so should not itch or be painful.

Causes

The exact cause of melasma is not definitively confirmed but can be caused by a combination of factors.

People with darker skin tones can be more at risk of experiencing pigmentation changes than those with fair skin as they have a more reactive melanin response.


Melasma often becomes apparent or is exacerbated during major hormonal changes, such as pregnancy, hormonal birth control and perimenopause, and so often affects women more, but men can also experience pigmentation changes. Stress, thyroid conditions, and a family history of melasma can also contribute to the onset of pigmentary changes in the skin.


Additionally, sun exposure can cause or worsen melasma as the UV rays that are emitted from the sun affect the cells that control pigment (melanocytes). Heat can also play a role in aggravating melasma, so it’s always really helpful to know when your symptoms started to become apparent to advise the best treatment options.

Treatments

Melasma can be challenging to treat, often requiring multiple treatments or medical grade skincare through prescription. Consistency and patience are crucial when treating melasma – depending on the depth of pigmentation and severity of symptoms, there are a few options to help reduce the appearance of darker skin patches.

 

Sun Protection – protect your skin from UV exposure by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen, seek shade during peak sun hours and wear a wide brimmed hat/protective clothing with an SPF factor. While protecting the skin from the sun will not alleviate symptoms, it will prevent them becoming darker or deeper.

 

Skincare products – ingredients called tyrosinase inhibitors can help reduce the appearance of melasma as they block tyrosinase, the enzyme that your skin needs to make melanin. These ingredients help to target the cause of pigmentation, by reducing the over-reactive melanin production and gives long lasting relief from melasma.


The most effective tyrosinase inhibitors include hydroquinone and tretinoin, which are prescription-only medical grade skincare products. Other tyrosinase inhibitors include kojic acid, arbutin, vitamin C and liquorice root extract. A consultation with our skin specialist can help determine the best products for your skin type and symptoms.

 

Chemical Peels – Chemical Peels involve applying an acid solution to the skin to exfoliate the upper layers of the epidermis, revealing fresher skin with a more even skin tone. It is important to note that multiple treatments may be required to attain the desired result, but can only reduce the symptoms of melasma, rather than treating the cause.

 

Combination therapy – in some cases, a combination of treatments may be recommended for optimal results. A consultation with our skin specialist can help determine the best treatment plan for your symptoms.

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