Ever noticed dark areas of skin on your face? Then you’ve probably been hit by melasma – a common skin condition in adults (Melas: Greek work for black.). It’s not an infection, it’s not contagious and it’s not cancerous. So, what exactly is it and what can be done to get rid of it? Lovoir tells all!
Image: Kylie Aquino/Flickr
What causes melasma?
Also known as hyperpigmentation, the chronic skin condition is most common in women – particularly during pregnancy or other hormone-related changes, such as taking birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, thyroid problems or long periods of stress, although men can be affected too. It also rears its head most frequently in dark skin, as well as in people who work around heat for large lengths of time, such as chefs. Certain medications may also carry it as a potential side effect.
The exact cause is not known, but it is widely believed to be the result of melanocytes in the skin (pigment-producing cells) producing too much pigment (melanin). Unsurprisingly, therefore, too much exposure to UV light from the sun or sunbeds can either trigger the chronic skin condition or make it worse.
Whilst it carries no other symptoms, most people with it are upset by its appearance. Finding ways to deal with it, therefore, is invaluable, which is where we step in!
Types of melasma
- Epidermal. Well-defined border, dark brown in colour, responds well to treatment.
- Dermal. Ill-defined border, light brown or blueish in colour, responds poorly to treatment.
- Mixed. The most common type, this presents as a combination of dark, light and blueish patches and responds partially well to treatment.
- If your melasma has occurred during pregnancy (known as chloasma), don’t do anything! This is because a. It may well go away after delivery and b. Melasma creams, such as hydroquinone and retinoid, should be avoided during this time as they could harm the foetus.
- Try to avoid known triggers, such as birth control pills – non-hormonal solutions may be a better idea. Get used to cold showers too, as hot water can also activate the production of melanin.
- Avoid the sun as much as is physically possible and use sunscreen daily (SPF 30 minimum), reapplying every two hours. Some sunscreens even contain melasma-fighting ingredients, such as hydroquinone, so it’s definitely worth doing your research before buying! (Spoiler alert: We sell a range right here!) When you do find yourself in the sun for prolonged periods of time, always wear a wide-brimmed hat.
- Skin irritants can make it worse, so always choose gentle products that don’t sting or burn.
- Invest in a cosmetic camouflage makeup.
- The longer you suffer with it, the harder it is to budge, as – believe it or not – cells have a good memory! Therefore, book yourself in for a treatment as soon as possible!
Best melasma treatments
- Skin lightening creams. Hydroquinone prevents pigment cells in the skin from producing melanin and, as such, is commonly used to treat the condition. Retinoid creams – commonly used to treat acne – as well as certain steroids, can also cause positive results in treating it. However, these topical creams may cause irritation so should only be used for a few weeks at a time. They are also best prescribed by a doctor, to minimise the risks of unwanted side effects.
- Skincare. We offer professional strength skincare to effectively prevent and reverse the over production of melanin.
- Chemical peels. By removing the outer layer of the skin that contains the unwanted pigment, chemical peels can greatly improve a variety of skin concerns. However, they should only be conducted by an experienced practitioner (like us!), otherwise they can make the situation worse or cause scarring. What peels are best for melasma? Different types and strength are available, depending on your skin type, and we’d be delighted to talk through your options with you.
- Microdermabrasion. Another exfoliation technique that uses a diamond head machine to rid your skin of dead, undesirable matter. Read more here.
- Microneedling, a highly effective treatment utilising your skin’s natural healing response to make significant changes in the skin’s tone, colour and texture. Read more here.
Featured image: Kylie Aquino/Flickr