Although skin conditions can be challenging to treat, there are ways to reduce the appearance of scars.
You probably noticed it in the mirror one day while doing your daily skincare routine or inspecting that rogue pimple that popped up out of nowhere: a flaw (or a few), just a shade or two darker from your actual skin color.
This is what we call melasma. And you are not the only one who has noticed it on your skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), women are most likely to experience melasma (only about 10% of people who have melasma are men). While it can affect anyone, people with darker skin have a greater chance of seeing the flaws.
There’s good news. Melasma can be hard to treat, but it is not dangerous for your health. Although the patches can be alarming to those who have never seen them, dermatologists can give you the facts about melasma. How to prevent it from happening in the first instance.
What is melasma, and how can it be prevented?
“Melasma is a skin condition that causes discolored, dark patches on the skin. These patches can be darker than your skin’s color and look brownish or brownish-ish gray,” Annie Gonzalez MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology, Miami, Florida, tells Health.
These dark spots, also known as hyperpigmentation (a general term for skin discoloration), tend to appear on the face. They are most noticeable on the forehead, cheeks, and upper lip. However, it can also show up on the neck, back, or forearms.
What causes melasma
Experts don’t know. Health is told by Jordan Carqueville MD, a board-certified dermatologist who founded and served as medical director at The Derm Institute of Chicago.
All forms of hyperpigmentation are caused by sun exposure. UV rays can trigger melanocytes to go into overdrive, which is the part of our skin that produces pigment. Dr. Gonzalez says that people with darker skin are more likely to develop melasma because of more active melanocytes.
However, melasma is different from other forms of hyperpigmentation because it has a hormonal component. Dr. Carqueville says estrogen is the problem. This is why melasma can occur so frequently during pregnancy. Anywhere from 15% to 50% of pregnant women can end up developing melasma, especially during the third trimester, when estrogen levels are at their highest, points out Dr. Gonzalez.
Dr. Gonzalez says that stress can also play a role in pregnancy. This is because stress can increase levels of the hormone cortisol, which can lead to an increase in estrogen. Dr. Carqueville says that the estrogen effect can trigger melasma in women as well as men.
Can you stop melasma from happening?
It’s not possible. Dr. Gonzalez says that you can’t prevent melasma because it is influenced by genetics and hormones that can’t be controlled. He also adds that 30% to 50% of those with melasma have it in their families.
Sun exposure is one risk factor that you can control. Dr. Gonzales, Dr. Carqueville both emphasize the importance of sun safety to prevent melasma. That means not only using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily, but also wearing broad-rimmed hats, seeking shade, and generally avoiding the sun as much as possible.
What are the best treatments for melasma?
Dr. Gonzales reminds us that melasma can be a benign condition. It’s purely an aesthetic condition. Some people like the appearance of their melasma. ), do you?
However, it is possible to get rid of the dark spots, but this condition can be challenging to treat. According to Dr. Carqueville, melasma is not like other forms of hyperpigmentation that only affect the epidermis (the skin’s surface layer) but can also be found in the dermis (the deeper skin layer).
Dr. Carqueville says that topical medications containing hydroquinone and kojic acids have the best success rates for reducing the appearance of melasma in patients who are not pregnant. These medications are available over-the-counter or prescription and work by blocking the production of an enzyme required for melanin (or pigment) to be produced.
Microneedling and peels can also help; the peels help lift off some surface pigment, while the micro-needling increases the absorption and efficacy of topical treatment products, says Dr. Carqueville. Although lasers are a great way to target and remove pigment from different levels of the skin, it is essential to be cautious. She says that heat can trigger melasma. A laser that generates too much heat will only make the problem worse.
There is an easy and safe option for anyone, even pregnant women with melasma. It is sun protection. It’s essential to apply sunscreen every day to prevent melasma from becoming more severe.