Skin disorders are worrisome, whether it is natural or as a result of an alteration of lifestyle. There are different types of skin conditions that a lot of people find uncomfortable, among such is Melasma. Melasma causes grey or brown patches, often on the face, and darker than a person’s skin tone.
This article shall discuss what melasma is, the causes of Melasma, ways to get rid of Melasma, as well as other important notes to make on Melasma.
What is Melasma
Melasma is a skin condition characterised by freckle-like or blue-grey brown patches that are usually darker than a person’s normal skin tone. This skin condition is mainly found on the facial area such as the forehead, cheeks, upper lip, chin and nose bridge. On rare occasions, there are some areas where Melasma appears on the body. These areas could be the neck, the forearm, or other body parts usually exposed to sunlight.
Women tend to be more susceptible to having Melasma than men. When pregnant women have melasma, they call it “the mask of pregnancy”. It is also common for light brown-skinned people and those with darker skin tones to be at risk of melasma more than light-skinned humans.
Types of Melasma
The three types of Melasma include;
This type of melasma is the most superficial melasma. It comes with an increase in melanin (skin pigment) in the top layer of the skin (epidermis). It comes in dark brown and appears obvious under black light.
Epidermal Melasma is easier to treat.
Dermal Melasma has an increased skin pigment that eats into the second layer of the skin(the dermis).
It comes in brown bluish colour and appears no differently under black light.
Dermal Melasma, however, doesn’t respond well to treatment.
Mixed Melasma combines the two types above (epidermal and dermal Melasma). It is the most common type with bluish and brown patches. It also appears in a mixed pattern under black light and shows some response to treatment.
Causes of Melasma
Doctors have not fully understood the real cause of melasma. However, it can be traced to the malfunction of the melanocytes(colour-making cells) in the skin, which can cause the production of too much colour in some parts of the body.
Risk factors of Melasma
The triggers of melasma in the body include;
- Sun exposure
When body parts are exposed to sunlight, ultraviolet rays affect the cells that control pigment (melanocytes), triggering melasma. It explains why the face is the central place for melasma growth.
The American Academy of Dermatology has put the percentage of melasma risk at 90-10 per cent between women and men. It is that the risk of melasma in men is low than that of melasma in women.
Asides from women being more susceptible to having melasma, pregnancy hormones make women more prone to having Melasma than others. About 15-50 per cent of pregnant women have Melasma.
- Skin colour
People with light brown skin tones and darker skin tones are at more risk of melasma than people with more golden tones.
If parents or other close relatives have melasma, it is possible to be at risk of the skin condition, as it can be in the genes.
Some medications, such as oral contraceptives(birth control pills), anti-seizure medications, and some medications, such as retinoids, certain antibiotics, and several other blood pressure medications that make the body more sensitive to sunlight, can also trigger melasma.
- LED screws
The LED lights from your laptop, television, cellphone and tablet can also cause melasma.
An underactive thyroid can also cause Melasma.
- Tanning beds
Tanning beds produce UV lights that can cause damage to the skin just as the sun’s UV light, or even worse.
- Skincare products
Several skincare products can also trigger Melasma.
Symptoms of Melasma
Melasma symptoms are visible with discolouration patches that are darker than your standard skin colour. It usually comes in light or dark brownish-coloured patches on the cheeks, chin, bridge of the nose and forehead. Melasma can also appear on the neck and forearms. It can also form bluish patches or freckle-like spots.
These symptoms appear in areas that are often exposed to the sun.
Although the skin discolouration doesn’t do any physical harm, you may visit your dermatologist if you feel self-conscious about how your skin looks. Dermatologists may discover that what you call melasma isn’t melasma but something else. So, it’s always good to check in with your dermatologist on any skin issue.
Where Melasma appears on the body
- Lateral check pattern: This is the appearance of melasma on the cheeks.
- Brachial: This is when the melasma appears on the shoulders and upper arms.
- Centrofacial: This is the appearance of melasma on the nose, upper lip and cheeks.
- Malar: This is the appearance of melasma on the nose and cheeks.
- Mandibular: This is the appearance of melasma on the jawline.
- Neck: Melasma also appears on the neck, especially in people 50 and older.
Treatment of Melasma
The treatment of your Melasma is hinged on its cause. If your melasma is caused by hormonal changes such as the one that occurs while taking birth control pills or during pregnancy, you do not need treatment because the melasma would fade out after those phases.
However, if your melanoma is taking time to fade such that it is affecting your self-esteem, you may book a skincare consultation with Dr Nina Bal. Dr Nina Bal is a cosmetic treatment expert. She will examine your skin, diagnose your condition and prescribe a bespoke treatment or series of treatments to repair your skin and restore its original colour.
Some of the treatment options include the following;
Prescription of medical skin-grade products
Upon consultation, Dr Nina may prescribe a wide range of medical skin-grade products that contain AHAs, BHAs, L-ascorbic acid, Cysteamine and Retinol. It is essential to only use medical skin products based on prescription by skin care experts.
AHAs and BHAs
AHAs ( alpha hydroxy acids)
and BHAs ( beta hydroxy acid) work together to break the barrier of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. Once these barriers are broken, the skin will shed the dead skin cells and reveal a brighter newer layer. Using products that contain AHAs and BHAs helps lighten hyperpigmented skin and tone the skin.
Salicylic acid is a form of BHA that act as an effective peeling agent that effectively improves skin conditions such as melasma, sun damage, acne and age spots. Glycolic and lactic acid are also forms of AHA that exfoliate the skin surface to eliminate dead skin cells to reveal a smooth and even skin tone.
L -ascorbic Acid
L- ascorbic acid is another effective compound that aids dark spot fading. It also aids the production of collagen.
Cysteamine is naturally present in our skin cells. Its function is to regulate the synthesis of melanin in the skin. It is an active topical cream ingredient that eliminates pigmented browns and dark spots. It also promotes brighter even skin tone
Retinol is a form of vitamin A called retinoid. It is an effective anti-ageing ingredient that is also potent in treating melasma because it can reduce the appearance of dark spots and improve cell turnover. Retinol removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, lightens dark spots and improves skin texture.
Other forms of topical treatment of melanoma include
Hydroquinone is one of the first treatment options for Melasma. It is a melasma treatment cream that also comes in gel or lotion. Hydroquinone works for melasma by lightening the colour patches on the affected area.
- Tretinoin and Corticosteroids
Tretinoin and Corticosteroids also help lighten melasma patches’ colour. They come in gels, creams, and lotions.
- Cream Combination
She may decide to go on what is called triple creams. This is often the combination of corticosteroids, hydroquinone and tretinoin in one. This can be referred to as the best treatment for melasma on the face and other body parts.
Medical procedures for melasma
In case topical medications are not fading away your melasma, the following medical procedures may be prescribed; dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser treatment and light therapy. They help strip away the top layers of the skin, including the dark patches of Melasma.
How to cure Melasma from the inside
Many melasma options only target the outer layer of the skin. However, Tranexamic acid, a pill that is yet to be approved for melasma by FDA, has been proven to help with stubborn Melasma significantly.
However, you should also limit your sun exposure, know your hormone status, reduce your stress, eat a well-balanced diet and hydrate yourself always. Growing these habits is a sure way if you are wondering how to cure melasma permanently.
Melasma poses no physical threat, but there is often emotional damage because skin blemish is not something everyone is okay living with, especially among those who do not have it. There may be stigmatisation from others, which in turn, causes body insecurity.
Although women are more prone to having melasma, men also have Melasma. Men’s melasma is often due to frequent sun exposure, unlike women, that may have melasma due to birth control pills or pregnancy.
Melasma can be caused by a high deficiency of low vitamin B12 and iron deficiency anaemia in the body.
Once you start seeing signs of melasma, be quick to see your skincare expert so you can quickly know the way forward. Alongside your medication, you should ensure you eat well, reduce your stress and stay hydrated enough.
You can reduce your melasma or the risk of having it by protecting yourself from the sun’s UV rays. Always wear your sunscreen whenever you are going out into the sun. Apply on areas such as the face and neck exposed to direct sunlight. Get a sunscreen that fits your skin and won’t give you a white cast, so you will always be eager to use it.
Melasma may go away with or without treatment. For women using contraceptives, stopping the usage will enable the melasma to fade away gradually without medications. Pregnant women also tend to get their skin back from the shackles of melasma after childbirth.
Melasma is like a stain on the skin, which a lot of people detest. Quite a number of the causes of melasma can be prevented, while some, such as pregnancy, can only be conquered with patience till after birth.
However, the best way of preventing melasma is by reducing sun exposure and using sunscreen daily.