What is Melasma?
Melasma is a common skin condition of adults, mostly women, in which light to dark brown patchy pigmentation develops usually on the face.
Although it can affect both genders secondary to excess ultraviolet irradiation, it is more common in women. It occurs in pregnancy and also can be caused or exacerbated by the oestrogen in the oral contraceptive pill.
Melasma is usually very noticeable during the summer months when the face can actually appear dirty and fades a lot during the winter months. It has no cancerous potential.
What causes Melasma?
The cause is not fully understood although it occurs quite frequently in pregnancy, and in the majority of women the condition fades after the delivery. Some acquire it while taking oral contraceptives although it doesn’t always fade after discontinuation of these. All patients with melasma find that it is increased with increased exposure to UV light and this must indeed be the cause in males where oestrogen is not contributory.
What does Melasma look like?
There is pigmentation on the face. It is usually fairly symmetrical, patchy, ill defined and light or dark brown depending on recent sun exposure.
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Explanation and solar protection are the most important as the condition is difficult to treat. Fair skinned individuals have the best prognosis and may recover completely after pregnancy or stopping the oral contraceptive pill.
Proper skin care is essential in melasma. I would start the day with either an AHA or BHA cleanser which wakes up the skin cells and makes them respond better to active products. Sunscreen daily is very important; SPF 50 winter and summer. Wearing a hat in the sun is a simple and effective measure. It is useful to get a moisturizer with a sunblock in it. Keep it as simple as you can.
Vitamin C 12% or 20% is a very powerful anti-oxidant and offers additional sun protection and is a whitening agent. Skin lightening serum with hydroquinone is used to lighten the pigmentation. It also improves fine lines, pigmentation and ageing, BUT it is not to be used in pregnancy or breast feeding.
The products will usually need to be used long-term for maintenance but are excellent for skin anti-ageing. Medical grade Peels are and an excellent way to improve melasma. A course of peels initially and then maintenance peels are necessary.
*DISCLAIMER Patient experience and results may vary. These are dependent on a number of factors such as lifestyle, age and medical history.