What is Melasma?
Also known as the “mask of pregnancy”, Melasma is the presence of either brown or grayish brown patches, that typically appears on both sides of the face, especially on cheeks, upper lip, nose, forehead or chin area. The excessive production of melanin from melasma causes the pigment in the affected skin area to tan, resulting in a brownish or grayish brown discolouration.
Who does Melasma affect?
Although anyone can have melasma, it is more common amongst pregnant women, women who consume oral contraceptives and people with darker skin types. Even though sun exposure is seen to be a triggering factor, experts believe that the pigmentation is caused by hormonal changes that occur when a woman begins to consume birth control pills or is on hormone replacement therapy or during her second or third trimester of pregnancy.
What should I know about Melasma?
The duration in which the pigmentation fades, varies from individual to individual depending on the intensity and cause of Melasma. For some individuals, pigmentation caused by Melasma may worsen over time. For individuals who have been affected by Melasma during pregnancy or through the consumption of birth control pills or undergoing hormonal therapy, it may fade without treatment after childbirth or the discontinuation of such hormonal treatments. However, it is important to note that, Melasma can return with each future pregnancy, even if it fades after a prior child delivery.
What are the treatment plans available for Melasma?
Before starting any treatment against melasma it is important to consult a trained and accredited dermatologist. This is important to confirm the diagnosis of Melasma and to check that there is no underlying or associated skin disease that would require immediate treatment. Secondly, as Melasma can worsen over time and even become permanent, by having a consultation with a dermatologist this can be prevented. Thirdly, as effective medical melasma treatments require a prescription — as these treatments may sometimes produce mild side effects — these medications need to be consumed under medical supervision.
There are 3 ways that are used to treat Melasma:
- Cosmetic: The use of cosmetics such as colour correctors, concealers and foundations to cover the dark areas. However, in the long haul, this method does not help melasma to fade.
- Medical: Prescription medications such as those containing hydroquinone. These medications are aimed at inhibiting melanin production selectively, therefore causing a depigmenting effect, allowing Melasma to fade over time.
- Physical: The use of topical agents such as chemical peels and lasers.
Dermatologists may recommend undergoing ‘combination therapies’ such as creams that combines a few active ingredients, in conjunction with laser treatments and chemical peels. This prescription treatment is able to lighten moderate to severe melasma quickly and effectively.
How to prevent Melasma from getting worse?
As tanning of the skin occurs when the pigment in the skin — melanin — absorbs the ultraviolet rays produced by the sun, with constant exposure to the sun, Melasma has a tendency to get darker. It is recommended that one avoids exposure from the sun to prevent further darkening of existing melasma as well as the formation of new patches. By protecting your face from harmful UV rays of the sun by either wearing a hat or a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher, the possibilities of Melasma darkening could be reduced.
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