You’ve seen those dreaded brown patches on people’s faces. Maybe you’ve wondered if it’s a sign of something worse or what they did to cause it. If you’ve noticed a patchy area on your own face, you may be wary of labeling it, hoping it’ll just disappear one day. However, what you’re seeing may be a condition known as melasma.
Melasma, or the darkening of skin on the face, is triggered by a combination of several factors but has no single cause. Thankfully, it also has no serious or life-threatening side effects. It’s simply a cosmetic frustration that no one wants to deal with. However, if you have melasma, it’s best to understand your condition and work towards treating its effects.
What Causes Melasma?
Melasma first makes its appearance when the perfect storm of sun exposure, hormones, and genetics takes place. Some link genetics to melasma as there are often several occurrences within a family. However, genetic predisposition alone does not determine the change in skin tones.
Often, the hormones of pregnancy or birth control pills trigger melasma. Others find that frequent sun exposure provokes melasma. Here are a few common misconceptions about this condition:
Misconception 1: Melasma Will Go Away Soon.
There’s good news and bad news. The bad news: Melasma won’t go away completely. The good news: You have treatment options to improve your skin’s appearance. These treatments range from sunblock to facial creams to laser therapy.
Misconception 2: Only Pregnant Women Get Melasma.
Yes, it’s often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy,” but melasma affects both men and women. Hormones from pregnancy may trigger the pigmentation changes, but are not the sole cause of melasma. However, women more commonly experience melasma than men, as do people with darker skin.
Although melasma won’t go away completely, there are a few treatment options to prevent the condition from worsening and improving the skin’s appearance.
Sun exposure causes the patchy areas of your skin to darken even more. If you’ve worked to neutralize your skin coloring, time in the sun reverses your progress. Using a high SPF sunblock and shielding your face by wearing a hat outdoors helps to prevent the condition from worsening.
Ask your dermatologist about creams that lighten your skin. Pigment blocking creams work alongside your sunscreen to keep pigment from rising to the top layer of skin. Essentially, this prevents melasmic areas from darkening further.
Pigment blockers also complement retinol products. Retinol increases your skin’s cell turnover. The more you help cells regenerate, the more quickly the pigmented cells exfoliate away. As a result, the darker areas of your skin begin to fade.
Lasers offer the best results for improving your skin’s appearance. They have the ability to penetrate deep into the skin and break up pigmentation. Depending on the way melasma has affected you, your dermatologist will be able to determine if this is the best option for your treatment.
What to Expect From Melasma
Although there are now many options for fighting the effects of melasma, expect a lifelong battle. Options for lightening these patches exist, but you must apply sunscreen diligently and stay persistent with treatments. Clearer skin awaits you, but it’s a long road ahead.
Interested in learning more about melasma treatments? Contact us to schedule a consultation.
Dr. R. Todd Plott is a board-certified dermatologist in Coppell, Keller, and Saginaw, TX. His specialization and professional interests include treating patients suffering with acne, identifying and solving complex skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and identifying and treating all types of skin cancers. In his spare time, Dr. Plott enjoys cycling, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his children and new grandson.
Learn more about Dr. Plott.