Are you a momma-to-be who’s started noticing pesky large brown spots on your face that seem to have come out of nowhere? Or maybe you’re on birth control or spend a lot of time in the sun and are experiencing the same thing. These spots, also known as melasma, most often affect women between 20-50 years of age and can be brown, tan, or blue-gray in color. If you’re suffering from melasma, these changes are certainly not welcomed ones. Dr. Sikorski of Natural Image OC has been helping women put their best face forward for over 20 years, and she’s here to help you get rid of those unsightly spots with various types of melasma treatments. Keep reading to learn more about this frustrating skin condition and what our dermatologist can do to help you regain your clear complexion.
What Is Melasma and What Causes It?
Melasma is characterized by patchy brown, tan, or blue-gray skin discoloration found on the face, specifically on the forehead, cheekbone, and jawline. While melasma was once thought to be a disorder caused by hyperpigmentation, doctors aren’t completely certain why some people get melasma and others do not. Melasma is most commonly experienced by women, but men can get it as well.
Some of the most common causes of melasma are:
Hormonal Changes: Women who are pregnant or are on birth control or hormone replacement medication are traditionally more prone to melasma. If this skin condition is experienced during pregnancy, it is often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.”
Sun Exposure: Sunlight stimulates the melanocytes in your skin and can cause melasma to appear almost immediately, even if you’ve only been out in the beautiful sunshine for a short period of time. Sun exposure is the main reason why many people who have suffered from melasma, both men and women, often find themselves with it again and again and in need of melasma treatment.
Genetic Predisposition: People with darker skin tones tend to be more prone to melasma because the melanocytes in their skin are more active than that of people with lighter skin.
While melasma isn’t painful, most people do not like the way they look when these dark spots appear. It can cause patients to feel self-conscious or embarrassed to be seen in public and can compound the already unsteady emotions that come with pregnancy. This frustrating skin condition can be prevented by avoiding excessive sun exposure, which isn’t always easy, and is why Dr. Sikorski encourages you to use sunscreen with a high SPF or wear a hat to shade your face when you go out in order to prevent needing melasma treatment in the first place.
How to Treat Melasma
Before Dr. Sikorski can provide you with melasma treatment, she will first have to examine your skin carefully. This is because melasma can sometimes look like other skin conditions. While it’s not always necessary, Dr. Sikorski may need to take a small biopsy, so she can be sure your dark spots are, in fact, due to melasma and not a more serious condition, such as skin cancer.
Patients who have melasma caused by hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or birth control, often find that it fades on its own once the baby is born or when they stop taking birth control medication. However, some people can have melasma for a lifetime. If your melasma does not fade, or if you do not want to stop taking birth control or hormonal treatments, there are several melasma treatments available from Natural Image OC.
Some available melasma treatments offered by Dr. Sikorski are:
Hydroquinone: As the first step in your melasma treatment, Dr. Sikorski may choose to use hydroquinone to address your melasma. It is applied to the affected area and lightens the skin. It comes in a cream, lotion, gel, or liquid and is sometimes available without a prescription. This medication is a good place to start with your melasma treatment when dealing with mild conditions.
Tretinoin and corticosteroids: If hydroquinone doesn’t quite do the job, tretinoin and corticosteroids are additional options to enhance your skin lightening. Sometimes, you can get all three medications – hydroquinone, tretinoin, and corticosteroid – in one convenient cream.
If your melasma is very dark and covers a large part of your face, Dr. Sikorski may recommend a dermatological procedure as a melasma treatment option. Some procedures that have proven to be effective in correcting melasma include:
Chemical Peel: a technique that removes the outermost layers of skin and is used to improve and smooth the texture of the skin.
Microdermabrasion: a non-invasive procedure that uses tiny crystals to exfoliate and remove the superficial layer of skin.
Dermabrasion: a surgical procedure that uses an exfoliating technique by using a rotating instrument to remove the outer layers of skin.
Laser Treatments: while laser treatments will speed up the removal of melasma, they will not cure the skin condition, meaning it could come back after your melasma treatment. Laser treatments should be considered a third-line approach when treating melasma.