Melasma is a common skin condition characterized by dark, blotchy patches of skin that often appear on the face in one or more areas, including the forehead, cheeks, bridge of the nose, upper lip and chin.
What causes melasma?
People with darker skin are more likely to develop melasma, as are people who are related to someone who has melasma.
While exact causes are not clear, melasma has been linked to sun exposure and changes in hormones. Melasma develops when the skin produces too much color because of overactive melanocytes that are responsible for pigmentation of the skin.
- Sun Exposure is thought to be a leading cause of melasma, as the appearance of melasma often changes seasonally and worsens during the summer when the sun is its strongest.
- Changes in Hormones are also thought to be a leading cause of melasma. Melasma often appears for the first time in women who are pregnant and may lessen or fade after childbirth. This phenomenon has given melasma its more commonly known name, “pregnancy mask.”
- Birth Control Pills are also thought to trigger melasma in some people, as melasma .
Who is affected by melasma?
While it affects both men and women, it is much more common in women, who account for 90 percent of cases.
How do I know if I have melasma?
Oftentimes, a dermatologist can diagnose melasma simply by looking at the skin. To determine how deeply melasma penetrates the skin, a dermatologist may use a Wood’s light, a simple and painless light to view your skin more closely.
In some cases, melasma can appear similar to another, more serious skin condition. In some cases, to rule out another skin condition, a dermatologist may conduct a simple and small biopsy of the skin that can be conducted quickly during a regular office visit.
How is melasma treated?
While some cases of melasma fade on their own, as is common with pregnancy and birth-control-related cases, others can last for years and even a lifetime.
In all cases, treatment can help reduce symptoms.
Common treatment methods include a host of dermatological treatments, from topical creams to simple and affordable treatments that can be completed by a dermatological specialist in an hour or less.
- Hydroquinone is a common topical treatment cream that lightens the skin. Dermatologists can prescribe a variety of strengths and monitor the success of the treatment.
- Corticosteroid creams are another treatment that help lighten the skin and reduce the appearance of melasma, as are tretinoin creams, azelaic acid creams and kojic acid creams.
- Simple and common procedures used to treat melasma include medically-supervised chemical peels, microdermabrasion, which lightly buffs and removes dead layers from the surface of the skin and dermabrasion, which buffs and removes slightly deeper layers of skin than microdermabrasion.
Successful treatment of melasma is often an ongoing process to reduce and maintain results.
For help with diagnosis and treatment, contact the skin care specialists at the Skin and Cancer Center of Scottsdale today, (480) 596-1110.