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What is Melasma, How Does it Look Like and Best Treatment For It

by Ella Goodman 29 Jul 2018

There are many types of hyperpigmentation issues. Everything from a light scattering of freckles to severe cases of skin discoloration, and everything in between are various degrees of hyperpigmentation. While mild discolorations, like freckles and age spots are quite common, occasionally a person will look in the mirror and suddenly notice that the something has happened to the even tone of their skin.

There’s a chance that what they’re seeing evidence of is Melasma. Melasma is a skin pigmentation condition that’s in a league of its own. If you’re sitting there saying, “Wait, what’s Melasma and is it serious?” let’s take a minute to discuss what Melasma means for you and your skin. 

What Is Melasma?

Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that affects an estimated five million Americans, with women presenting with the majority of cases. While the exact cause of Melasma is unknown, it is suspected to be triggered by hormonal changes and made worse through sun exposure. If this is the first time you’ve heard of Melasma, you might be more familiar with its not so affectionate nickname – the mask of pregnancy.

Melasma is characterized by patches of darkened skin, ranging in color from brown to almost grayish, that affect mostly the forehead, upper lip, bridge of the nose and cheek area – hence the mask reference. However, it can appear on other parts of the body that are exposed to the sun - it’s just most common in the facial area. It might seem that Melasma appears suddenly, but in actuality, the changes were probably slowly taking place and then a trigger like sun exposure made the discoloration even more noticeable.

Hormonal influences, like those experienced in pregnancy or with the use of hormonal contraceptives, seem to be the biggest culprit in the development of Melasma, although it does occasionally occur without any underlying known triggers.

If the only cause of Melasma was exposure to the sun, it would be easier to treat by simply avoiding the sun and applying a skin lightening product like Hydroquinone. Unfortunately, the hormonal triggers of Melasma make it exponentially more difficult to treat than other forms of hyperpigmentation simply because you don’t always have complete control over the situation.

For example, a woman who experiences Melasma in pregnancy can’t really do anything about the hormonal surges, so her only option is to lessen the severity by avoiding the sun as much as possible. 

Identifying the Mask – What Does Melasma Look Like?

The first signs of Melasma might look like little groups of clustered freckles, and for some people this is as severe as it gets. However, if there’s repeated exposure to the instigating factors, like hormones and exposure to UV rays, the condition can quickly become more noticeable and cover a larger area of the skin.

As mentioned earlier, Melasma occurs most frequently on the forehead, nose, chin, upper lip and cheeks. You can distinguish it from freckles, age spots or other skin discolorations by its unique pattern.

Melasma tends to appear in “splotches” with uneven borders. Some have compared the affected areas as resembling a map, while others say that it looks like some one just took a paint brush dipped in brown paint and splattered it randomly over their face. Admittedly, neither description sounds attractive, but it’s often the case that it feels like Melasma looks worse than what it actually is.

And now for the good news – you don’t need to let Melasma set up permanent residence on your face.

Can Melasma Dark Patches be Treated?

The first step to treating Melasma is identifying any easily identifiable instigating factors. For example, hormones. It’s estimated that as many as 70% of women experience some degree of Melasma during pregnancy. For most women, the condition gradually fades in the months after birth. Likewise, hormonal contraceptives and other shifts in hormones can cause Melasma as well.

To prevent Melasma or stop it from getting worse, it’s important to avoid the sun as much as possible. A high quality, high SPF sunscreen is essential when spending any amount of time outside. However, sunscreen alone usually isn’t enough. You’ll also want to wear a hat, protective eye wear that shades the fragile skin around the eyes and stay in the shade as much as possible. Unfortunately, it isn’t just the sun that seems to be the issue but also heat, so staying as cool as possible is important.

You also have at your disposal skin care products that are extremely effective for treating Melasma. For example, Hydroquinone is one of the absolute best ingredients for treating Melasma, and when combined with other ingredients like Azelaic Acid and Vitamin C, its power is amplified with dramatic results visible within just a week or two of starting treatment.

That said, Hydroquinone isn’t recommended for use by pregnant or breastfeeding women, so if you fall into either of those categories you’ll want to discuss Melasma solutions with your health care provider beforehand. 

Putting Your Best Face Forward

In the realm of health issues, Melasma is relatively minor, but even a minor case can significantly affect your self-esteem. Melasma is treatable, so there’s no reason to live with it. Consider Hydroquinone as the perfect solution to treat your unsightly and stubborn Melasma today.

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