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How to Manage Melasma

With summer coming to a close and fall right around the corner, now is a good time to assess the negative effects the sun may have had over the summer. With sun exposure, it is not uncommon for our skin to present in many ways that reveals the damage we may have been exposed to. Increased freckles, moles, precancerous lesions are some of the ways the damage can present, but one condition often brings people in to our office due to the darkening brown pigment on the face. This is known as melasma.

Melasma, also known as “the mask of pregnancy,” usually involves excessive large brown pigment patches occurring in a somewhat symmetric pattern on the forehead, cheeks, nose, and the skin above the upper lip in genetically susceptible individuals. Melasma affects ten times more women than men, and natural internal hormones or prescription hormones (like birth control) seem to play a causative role. The appearance and severity of melasma is determined by three main factors: genetics, hormones, and sun exposure. In addition, people with darker skin types tend to be more prone to melasma. Sun exposure can cause melasma to worsen, especially if not protecting the skin with SPF.

Managing melasma starts with understanding your triggers and being proactive to treat, but more importantly how to prevent. If you struggle with melasma, make sure you follow these tips:

  1. Use Daily Sun Protection: Although you can’t completely prevent melasma, sunscreen will help reduce the changes of pigmentation from developing. Mineral-based sun blocks with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and a minimum of SPF30 on a daily basis is what is recommended. Elta MD (sold in our office is a great option.)

  2. Apply a skin-lightening product once or twice a day to fade hyper-pigmented areas. Our ZO bleaching cream is a perfect product to help even skin tone. There are several over the counter “bleaching agents” available, however, we find that those are not strong enough to yield results. The very best bleaching agents are sold by a medical office or prescription.

  3. Use Retinol: Retinol speeds up cell turnover and works great in combination with other melasma-fighting agents. With time, retinol helps regularly exfoliate the top layers of the skin and prevent build-up of pigment.

  4. Visit a Dermatologist: We can evaluate your skin and find a treatment plan that works for you. Chemical peels and laser treatments are also available to help patients who aren’t seeing improvement with topical therapy.

Unfortunately, melasma is a chronic skin condition that may not completely respond to treatment. In addition, recurrence is possible despite the best efforts of both patient and provider. If you are struggling with melasma we would love to help. One of our providers can help make an individualized treatment plan that is right for you.