Skin discolouration is a very common condition. Many of us often ignore them as they are not affecting our health while some of us are too busy to worry about our skin imperfections. But when we spend a few minutes in front of the mirror; we often think why these unwanted pigmented spots have suddenly appeared on our face. These pigmented spots are generally known as melasma. This page will help you to understand everything about melasma.
What is Melasma?
Our skin is pigmented due to melanin. People with fair complexion tend to have less melanin as compared to those with darker skin. We all have sun increase melanin in our skin, also melanocytes, the cells that produced melanin can be affected by hormonal balance, ageing, genetics, pregnancy, and products that irritate the skin.
How can you treat Melasma?
The best approach is recognizing why the skin becomes discoloured. Is it due to the natural ageing process, certain hormone imbalance, sun damage, etc.? Once you know the cause of pigmentation patches, then you can choose the best treatment that suits your skin condition. Here are some treatment methods for melasma:
- Treatment with Prescription Medications
- Talk to your primary health care physician if you are undergoing any hormonal changes and if yes, then ask ways to return to your body’s hormones back to a healthy level. Before going to a dermatologist, you can ask your primary physician about melasma creams that can reduce your imperfections.
- Stop medications that may contribute to melasma- medications such as contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can disbalance your hormones and give rise to melasma. Discuss with your physician and stop the use of these medications if you are getting melasma spots. Even though the skin condition is quite common during pregnancy and is sometimes called the mask of pregnancy, these discoloured patches have been known to appear with medications and conditions that affect your hormone levels. Birth control pills and HRT are the two most common causes of melasma after pregnancy. Consider an alternative to birth control pill to fade your dark patches. However, it is not possible to stop HRT so consider dosage adjustment so that you will be less likely to have discolouration. Consult your physician before making any changes.
- Ask for Hydroquinone Treatment- You can get many over the counter products containing hydroquinone but it is always better to consult a physician or dermatologist. He/she can prescribe a stronger version that will be more effective and safe for skin lightening. Hydroquinone formulation is available in the form of creams, gel, lotion, or liquid. It is known to block the natural chemical process in the skin which is responsible for producing melanin, and since melanin is responsible for producing dark skin pigmentation, the appearance of dark patches associated with melasma will also be reduced.
- Consider a skin lightening agent as a second treatment- Hydroquinone formulations are used as a first treatment in most cases, your dermatologist might prescribe a skin lightening agent to enhance the effect. Tretinoins and corticosteroids preparations are most frequently used as a secondary treatment. These are believed to speed up the process of shedding of old cells and to replace with the new ones. You might even get a formulation with a triple combination including hydroquinone, corticosteroid, and tretinoin. Other options include kojic acid or Azelaic acid which works by slowing down the production of skin darkening pigment.
- Professional Procedures for Melasma Treatment
- Check out Chemical Peel- If topical treatments do not bring a solution, consider light chemical peel ones that contain glycolic acid and another similar chemical to peel the affected top layer of the skin. The chemical may cause a mild burn. As the burned layer peels off, there left behind melasma free skin. However, the procedure doesn’t work if the underlying hormonal imbalance has not treated.
- Microdermabrasion- During these treatments, the epidermis or the uppermost layer of the skin is gradually removed away, leaving the fresh and melasma free skin. The technique involves spraying of free crystals over the skin to strip away the surface’s dead skin cells. With the help of a vacuum, crystals and exfoliated skin cells are removed.
- Try Laser Therapy- A restorative or fractional dual laser therapy may target pigmentation on the skin’s surface. Be careful with laser treatments because some can worsen the mask instead of stripping away the affected skin.
- Treating Melasma with Home Remedies
- Protect your skin from sun rays- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen and wear protective clothing to protect your skin against sun damage. Sun protection can help in the prevention of an outbreak of melasma and may reduce the appearance of existing patches and spots. Apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher twenty minutes before stepping out in the sun. In addition, consider the one with added nutrients like zinc to benefit your skin. Double sun screening is also a good option. You can try applying a layer of SPF 15 on beneath an SPF 30 for more protection against harmful UV rays. When it comes to protective clothing, pick a wide-brimmed hat and large sunglasses to provide additional protection to your face. If your condition is worse, consider wearing full sleeves tops and pants. Try to stay away from the sun as much as possible.
- Reduce stress- Stress can worsen hormonal imbalances and if your culprit is hormonal imbalance, finding stress-reducing techniques are necessary to help treat your melasma. You can try meditation and yoga to calm down. Moreover, give your hobbies some time or do things that you enjoy the most.
- Try holistic treatments- Ingredients that have been known to apply topically include bearberry, vitamin C, lemon peel, apple cider vinegar, mandelic acid, and lactic acid. All these can reduce the production of pigment-producing compounds in your skin without causing irritation or sensitivity to sunrays.
- Pick paper mulberry- The plant has many medical uses, its extract can be used orally and topically to treat melasma. If you use products containing paper mulberry as per the instruction is given on the product, you will find a significant reduction in your pigmented spots.