Melasma is a common condition that often appears as brown or gray spots on the face, neck, chest or forearms. Though melasma can go away on its own, improvement usually requires treatment from a dermatologist. Continue reading to learn more about melasma.
WHAT IS MELASMA?
Melasma is a common skin issue where dark, discolored patches appear on the skin. Melasma often appears more on women than men’s skin, with 90 percent of those with melasma being women. Those with darker skin are also more likely to get melasma. In addition, melasma is genetic, so those who have a relative with it are more susceptible to getting it.
WHAT CAUSES MELASMA?
There is yet to be enough research on what causes melasma. However, it is suggested that melasma occurs when the color-making cells in the skin called melanocytes produce too much color. Those born with darker skin are more prone to melasma because they have more active melanocytes than those with lighter skin.
There are a few suggested things that can onset and trigger melasma. They include:
- Change in hormones. Especially seen in pregnant women and referred to as chloasma. Other hormone factors that can trigger melasma include birth control pills or hormone replacement medicine.
- Too much sun exposure. Too much sun is not recommended for anyone. The ultraviolet light from the sun also stimulates the melanocytes. Even a short exposure can make melasma return after it has faded. Sun exposure is a reason that people continue to get melasma over and over again.
- Skincare products. This may not be the leading cause of melasma, but it can worsen if you use products that irritate the skin.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS/SIGNS OF MELASMA?
As stated above, melasma causes discolored patches on the skin. The patches are noticeable since they appear darker than your skin color. These patches are typically symmetrical and occur on the face. However, other areas exposed to the sun can also develop melasma.
Melasma patches on the face can often be found on the cheeks, nose bridge, chin and forehead. Sometimes, melasma will occur on the forearms and neck as well. If you believe you have melasma, you should speak with your dermatologist.
CAN MELASMA BE DIAGNOSED?
The good news is that melasma doesn’t cause pain, although people feel self-conscious about it and how they look. Your dermatologist will be able to determine if you have melasma with a simple visual exam of the affected area.
Your dermatologist may also need to perform a test referred to as a Wood’s lamp examination. This test is performed with a special light held up to your skin, which allows them to determine how many layers of skin are affected by the melasma. In more severe cases, a biopsy may be performed using a small piece of the affected skin.
CAN MELASMA BE TREATED?
Depending on the individual and the cause of the melasma, it will sometimes disappear on its own. This disappearance often happens if melasma occurs due to a hormonal change.
After diagnosis, your dermatologist can prescribe medicated creams to help lighten the skin.
If the topical creams do not work, your dermatologist may recommend trying in office procedures, such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, microneedling or laser . Those procedures can be combined and have different mechanisms of action to reduce and lighten the stubborn melasma.
Microdermabrasion is a 30-minute, minimally invasive treatment for the skin that promotes micro-circulation and oxygen production. It effectively boosts collagen, elastin, exfoliation and healthy skin.
At the Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC, we use the DermaSweep cosmetic device; this is an affordable and customizable option for improving overall skin health and helping treat melasma. Additionally, DermaSweep is used with customized infusions, which allows us to tailor our patient’s treatment options. This procedure can help with melasma and more, including:
- Fine lines
- Tone and texture
- Neck and décolleté
- Hands and arms
Chemical peels are procedures that entail a chemical solution applied to the skin to exfoliate the skin and improve the skin’s appearance on the face, neck, chest or hands. The results of chemical peels are newer, healthier and brighter skin. Chemical peels can be used to treat and help improve:
- Precancerous skin cells (actinic keratosis)
- Sun-damaged skin
- Skin rejuvenation
- Skin tone and texture
These procedures can help, but they do not guarantee that your melasma will not return. Minimizing skin exposure and wearing sunscreen every day are other actions you can take to help it not to return.
TREATING MELASMA | DERMATOLOGY CENTER FOR SKIN HEALTH, PLLC
Although melasma is not painful, its effects can be irritating. If you believe you have melasma, let our dermatologists at the Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC can help.
If you’re ready to make an appointment to discuss options for improving your melasma, or if you have any questions or concerns, give us a call at (304) 598-3888 or click here. We’re currently accepting new patients and encourage you to make your appointment soon. We look forward to hearing from you!