1. What is the difference between melasma and hyperpigmentation?
Pigmentation is the discoloration of the skin. Melasma and hyperpigmentation are causes of pigmentation. Melasma tends to be related to changes in hormones such as during pregnancy or after menopause. It is also closely related to genetics and sun exposure. We only use the term “hyperpigmentation” in the context of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation as a form of scarring following inflammation. Melasma itself is also distributed differently. It tends to appear in a butterfly-like configuration over the cheeks and sometimes spreading to the forehead. It also tends to be very symmetrical, even and diffused, whereas, hyperpigmentation is usually localized to the area of previous injury.
2. Is melasma curable? How about Home remedies?
A cure would mean a one-time treatment that causes all symptoms to go away forever. Most skin conditions are treatable but the underlying root cause has to do with the amount of environmental exposure such as sun exposure in one’s lifetime, genetics, as well as other factors such as hormones.
Some home remedies that have been proposed to treat melasma are quite dangerous. Apple cider vinegar has been proposed as one of the solutions as it contains acetic acid which is proven by research to be effective in lightening skin pigmentation. However, the method and form of acetic acid in apple cider vinegar only causes skin irritation, the most severe form being irritant contact dermatitis or even facial eczema and chemical burn.
The usage of aloe vera is unlikely to be harmful. However, many aloe vera products contain certain compounds such as alcohol that helps to maintain the product in a gel form.
The key thing to understand about these DIY remedies is that while the source and raw ingredients may contain an active ingredient, proven to lighten pigmentation in laboratory studies, it is often not in the correct form for it to be effective on the skin. It can also cause severe irritant reactions that can causes pigmentation to worsen.
3. How should one treat melasma?
For melasma to be effectively treated, you have to use a combination of therapies. To me, the most effective treatment is a combination of the use of a q-switched laser, a 1064nm laser toning device, spaced at weekly intervals, together with topicals, such as hydroquinone to help remove underlying pigmentation, and cosmeceutical skincare. The Radiancé Fluide™ Hydrating Emulsion contains oligopeptides that help reduce the hyperpigmentation while increasing the function of the pigment removing cells. The Vitá C GOLD™ Serum contains nano-formulated sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable and effective derivative of Vitamin C, well known for its amazing ability to treat hyperpigmentation and photoageing.