Melasma is more commonly found in women than in men. It is also linked with hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and therefore, dark patches are usual in pregnant women. If a woman is taking HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) or contraceptive pills, melasma is likely to occur.
There is a difference between melasma and chloasma. The dark patches during pregnancy are known as a mask of pregnancy or chloasma. They remain on the body until the pregnancy lasts.
CAUSES OF MELASMA
HOW DOES MELASMA OCCUR?
The dark patches are thought to be produced as a result of stimulation of pigment-making cells (called as melanocytes) mainly due to female sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone). Excessive production of melanin results in darkening of the skin.
Individuals with a known history of melasma running in family (genetic predisposition) are more likely to contract the dark patches on the skin in the form of melasma. Such fellows should avoid going out in the sunlight and apply extra sunblock to protect the skin from the harmful rays. This is because individuals with a genetic predisposition have sensitive cells that easily get stimulated and produce hyperpigmentation.
HOW TO DETERMINE MELASMA
Melasma should be differentially diagnosed with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and actinic lichen planus, which are quite similar conditions. The diagnosis of melasma is done with the help of a Wood’s lamp (340-400 nm wavelength). The affected area is carefully studied with excess melanin in the epidermis.
SKIN MELASMA SYMPTOMS
Melasma shows no other symptoms than darkening of the skin. The patient is presented with a dark skin patch on cheeks, forehead, upper lip or nose. In some rare cases, melasma is found on the neck and forearms. It does not do any physical harm, but cosmetically, the sufferers may worry as it may make the face ugly.
For women with good luck, melasma may be vanished with its own. The chances of this incidence are more in case of pregnancy or birth control pills as cause of melasma. In others, topical application (creams with 2% hydroquinone) can be prescribed that help lighten the skin. If this does not work, further treatment with dermabrasion, microdermabrasion and chemical peel can be thought of. Nevertheless, surgical procedure does not guarantee of its non-recurrence of the dark patches in future.
In any melasma case it is advised to protect herself from the direct sunlight. Sunscreen lotions (SPF of 30 or above) and avoiding out in the sunlight is followed as a regimen.
In advanced cases of melasma, creams with a high concentration of HQ (hydroquinone) or HQ with other ingredients’ combination (such as glycolic acid, tretinoin or corticosteroids) is used. However, before using any over-the-counter medicine, one should contact a dermatologist.
You may ask the dermatologist some cosmetic product to cover up the patches on the skin. Products with white or yellow undertone will help fade the patches.
HOW MUCH TIME IT TAKES TO NORMALIZE THE SKIN TONE BACK?
Melasma ends as soon as pregnancy ends. The dark patches start fading as the pregnancy approaches its end. In the other case, stopping hormone replacement therapy works as best remedy to cure melasma. In the normal case of melasma (the condition without any complication), it takes a few months to heal. However, discoloration does not go totally.
HOW TO PREVENT MELASMA?
The best way to prevent melasma is avoiding direct contact of sun rays onto the skin. If you have to go out in the sunlight, take precautionary measures mentioned below:
Skin Care Professional
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