Melasma: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments

Updated on February 11, 2022

The occurrence of Melasma can be a significant cause for concern. Melasma is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages. It can also be a chronic condition. The presence of patches on the face can be uncomfortable and cause low self-esteem. Melasma does not have any health-related risks. It can, however, create a decrease in self-confidence levels.

Your face is the most visible and noticeable part of the body. Melasma occurs mostly on the face. This is why it is always tempting to use extreme measures to get rid of this skin condition. However, drastic measures can worsen the case. There are known Melasma treatment methods that have been proven to work. 

Have you been noticing brown blotchy patches on your face? Luckily, you can easily get Melasma symptoms under control with the right approach. However, there are different known causes of Melasma. Therefore it is essential to be able to identify Melasma, the signs, symptoms and how to treat it. All you need is a little guide, and this article gives you that. Essential tips that will help prevent a recurrence or a worsening of the skin condition are explained in the article.

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a skin pigmentation condition that causes raised brown patches on the skin. Although it affects the face majorly, it can affect other parts of the body. Also, you most likely will notice discoloration on the skin when there is a presence of Melasma. Melasma is common in three different parts of the face – the forehead, the cheeks, and the jawline. Melasma also affects other body parts too including the nose and the back. 

Symptoms of Melasma

Melasma can easily be mistaken for other skin conditions. However, there are visible symptoms that can point to the condition. Melasma does not have many symptoms asides these two main symptoms. 

  • Darkening of the skin
  • Irregular patches

What causes Melasma?

It is not yet sure what causes Melasma. However, certain factors contribute to the development of Melasma on the face. If you have what appears to be Melasma symptoms, you need to assess the four main predisposing factors. They are:

1. Sun exposure:

Melanocytes are skin cells that contain melanin. Excessive stimulation of the melanocytes can be a significant cause of Melasma. Melasma is known to be a chronic condition. Therefore, if you have had Melasma before, the chances of a recurrence are high. A little sunlight can make Melasma return after it has faded. As a result, you can have a Melasma breakout during summer.  

2. Hormonal imbalance:

Possibly, you have been waiting to get your glow back after pregnancy. Suddenly you notice a discoloration on your face and skin. Melasma is known as the mask of pregnancy. Hormonal imbalances trigger Melasma after birth. Also, pregnancy is not the only source of hormonal imbalance. 

Oral contraceptives and hormonal therapy are other factors that can cause your hormonal level to fluctuate. The sudden increase in progesterone and estrogen in conjunction with other factors can increase the occurrence of Melasma. 

3. Skin products:

Certain skin products that are harsh for the skin can cause Melasma. Did you recently change your skin products then notice Melasma symptoms? You should consider stopping it and monitoring the changes. It is a possibility that another person might use the product and not notice the signs. A reaction means your body is reacting to the skin care product or it is too harsh for your skin type.

4. Thyroid dysfunction:

Individuals with thyroid diseases are likely to have melanocyte. The thyroid is responsible for the production of melanocyte stimulating hormones. Consequently, thyroid disease can cause an overstimulation of the thyroid causing a high level of melanocytes in the body.

Who is susceptible to Melasma?     

Women: More than 90% of people affected by Melasma are female. If you are female, you are more likely to have Melasma compared to a male. Melasma in females is due to the production of hormones and hormonal imbalance.  

Individuals with genetic history: Genetics is a significant factor to be considered in Melasma. If a member of your family has Melasma, the chances of you having Melasma are also high.

Individuals with darker skin: You can have Melasma if you have a darker skin tone. Melasma is more common among Hispanic individuals, Africans, and Central Asians.

Ways to treat Melasma 

You ought to be aware that Melasma does not have any side effects on your health. Therefore, Melasma treatment should consider slow and safe options. Some cases of Melasma do not require medications or active therapies. Generally, if it is due to stress, pregnancy or hormonal treatment, modifications in lifestyle can help stop the Melasma.

When stressed, a decrease in stressful events can make your skin clearer. In cases of pregnancy, you should wait at least six months before you take any action. Also, if you are on any hormonal therapy, you can consider a replacement and monitor the changes. If your Melasma is triggered by UV exposure, limited time in sunlight should be your goal. Melasma does not have a permanent cure, but you can effectively manage it.

Topical treatments for Melasma

1.Topical agents: Topical agents like hydroquinone can undo the skin discoloration caused by Melasma. It is an organic compound that lightens the skin. Also, it helps your body to decrease the production of melanin. 

Hydroquinone is available in high and low strength intensities. If your Melasma is mild, you can try over the counter hydroquinone.  The combination of hydroquinone with other topical agents like tretinoin has been proven to be more productive. It is the best way to treat Melasma topically. Tretinoin increases the rate at which your cell replacement occurs. However, if you are pregnant, Tretinoin can be harmful to you. Retinol is another topical agent commonly used in the treatment of Melasma.  

2. Corticosteroids: Dermatologist prescribe corticosteroid when Melasma is very severe. If your Melasma is not mild, see a dermatologist. Most times severe cases of Melasma do not respond to topical agents. However, you should avoid long term use of corticosteroids.

Cosmetic treatments for Melasma

Usually, Melasma is responsive to topical treatments. However, in some severe and chronic cases, a better approach is necessary. You should consider these procedures when all other measures have been exhausted. Therefore, they should not be your first option. They are more costly than topical treatments but have lasting effects on your skin. 

They include:

1.Light therapy: Light therapy helps you to decrease inflammation. Also, it lightens up the skin giving it more color.  Red light therapy has been an effective method for Melasma treatment. However, you should use light therapy with caution. Red lights (lasers) can penetrate deeper into the skin. 

Light therapy helps to stimulate elastin and collagen production. The functions of the two products are to stimulate blood flow and to decrease the formation of Melasma. Using light therapy in safe doses and correctly would reduce Melasma. Usually, light treatment is done every week until changes are visible. 

2. Microdermabrasion: This varies from light to deep microdermabrasion. Microdermabrasion works by increases the rate of skin turnover. It allows new cells to replace the old ones at a faster pace. Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive and risk-free procedure. It involves blasting the skin with aluminum oxide micro crystals that eventually peels off a layer of the skin. 

The whole process takes 25-30 minutes. You can consider using microdermabrasion with other Melasma treatment. After the procedure, it is easier for exfoliating and lightening agents to penetrate the skin. Immediately after treatment, your skin will feel smoother and calmer. However, you need to do this more than once for the desired outcome.

3. Chemical peels: Chemical peeling is a standard cosmetic procedure for Melasma. It is one of the best ways to treat Melasma. You can consider going for a chemical peel as it is beneficial. It works by peeling off the dead and outermost layer of the skin. As a result, it exposes new segments of the skin and reduces skin discoloration. 

Chemical peels use chemical solutions to remove dead skin cells. They can be used to treat various skin conditions including Melasma. Phenols, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are typically used for chemical peeling. There are different types of chemical peels you can consider depending on the severity of your Melasma. They are: 

  • Mild peels: It is the least severe form of chemical peeling. It involves using solutions containing alpha hydroxyl acids. Usually, the procedure lasts for 10-20 minutes, and pain is minimal. Recovery of your skin can take up to six days.
  • Medium peels: Medium peels use trichloroacetic acid. It is severe when compared to mild peels. Recovery time is longer. There can be visible signs like redness of the skin and swelling. However, these signs disappear with time, and the results lasts longer. 
  • Deep peels: Deep peels often make use of phenols. They cause skin burns and should be used with care. Deep peels penetrate deep into your skin and the effects last longer than mild or medium peels. It is essential to know that the pain associated with deep peels is severe. Therefore, make sure it’s your last resort before you go ahead. 

Now you may be wondering which chemical peel is the best way to treat Melasma. Generally, a lot of factors should come into consideration. These include the severity of your Melasma, how fast you want results, your budget and how much pain you can endure. All types of chemical peels are effective. However, mild ones do not last as for as long as medium or intense ones. There might be a need to redo it over time or supplement It with other forms of treatment.

Tips to consider during Melasma treatment

While considering the best way to treat Melasma, it is crucial for you not to rely only on procedures and medications. Specific tips will help you enhance results. Also, treating Melasma without addressing the underlying causes will not yield results. Therefore, consider following these tips when treating Melasma. They are:

1.Daily sunscreen: Sun rays activates melanocytes which cause increased pigmentation. Sunscreen help to reflect sun rays. Therefore, your skin will not absorb UV rays. When going out each day, regular use of sunscreen is essential. Also, make use of mineral sunscreen, not chemical sunscreen. The chemical ones still absorb sun rays and can irritate your skin. Asides from using mineral sunscreen, you can use a broad spectrum sunscreen. You should always reapply sunscreen if you stay under the sun for an extended period. 

2. Hats and sun shades: In cases where you spend a lot of time outdoors, hats and shades would help. However, this should be used with sunscreen and not alone. 

3. Bright and clean skin: Melasma occurs as a result of inflammation. Keeping your skin clean and clear will aid healing. Use a gentle cleanser and stay away from harsh products. Also, avoid the urge to always touch your face. A dirty face can further cause blemishes. 

When buying cleansers, you can consider products with rose water or glycerin. They have both toning and cleansing abilities. Also, home products like turmeric and  chamomile can decrease inflammation and clean the face. The overall effect of clean skin is a fresh face.

4. Have a skin care routine: You should have a skin care routine that you follow every day. Following Melasma treatment, ensuring you follow a skin regimen that will enhance treatment results. Also, your skin health is at an optimal level. A general skin care routine should involve washing, cleansing, moisturizing and toning. Moisturizing should be done every day for better results.

5. Get adequate sleep and manage stress levels: Poor sleep can increase your stress levels. Stress leads to hormonal imbalance, and this can worsen Melasma symptoms. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep is essential. For stress management, do fun things during your leisure time. Also, yoga and meditation will help you to reduce stress and enhance your sleep.

6. Anti-inflammatory diet: A proper and adequate diet will help you in the inflammatory process. Diet high in vitamins, protein, and minerals are better than food with minimal nutritional contents. It is important to avoid triggers like alcohol, processed food, simple sugar, caffeine, and yeast. You can substitute all this with complex carbs, 2.5-3 liters of water daily. Vegetables and healthy fats like olive oil also speed up your healing process. 

7. Moisturizer: Moisturizing your skin during Melasma treatment should be a habit. You should moisturize every morning and night. Even if you have oily skin, it will help you to prevent skin dehydration.  

8. Vitamin C and E serum: Vitamins serve as antioxidants that help your skin to heal after damage from the sun. Also, it reverses the damages caused by harmful UV exposure. However, you should do this at night before sleeping. It helps the serum to work efficiently. Therefore, always be sure to apply serum and your skin health will improve with time.  

9. Be patient: Melasma doesn’t often clear off quickly. It takes time for you to notice visible changes during your Melasma treatment. Being patient with your skin is essential. With time, Melasma reduces especially when you avoid all triggers.

Significant factors to avoid during a Melasma breakout

1.Excessive heat: Heat worsens Melasma and stimulates melanocytes. Avoid rooms with extreme temperatures like saunas and steam rooms. You can try to stay cool during the summer by using a water spray. Occasionally, you can spray a bit over your bare face. Also, cold water rinses will help to reduce pigmentation on your skin. 

Using cold water has been proven to be effective in the treatment of Melasma. If your job is one that involves extreme heat, you should consider getting an air conditioner in the room. The key is to minimize heat exposure to the face.

2. An aggressive approach: The idea of going aggressive is prevalent among people with Melasma. While it might seem like the right approach, it only worsens the Melasma symptoms. Trying aggressive treatments can cause trauma to your skin and is not the best way to treat Melasma. Eventually, this will do more harm than good. Staying away from harsh toners and cleansers, intense and deep scrubs is better for your skin. 

Also, mixing various products in an attempt to get rid of Melasma is terrible for skin health. Although topical treatments are suitable, use them with caution. Discuss treatment regimens with your dermatologist and stop if Melasma is not getting any better.

3. Obsessing over the patches: Obsessing over Melasma will further increase your stress levels. The best way is to use the various treatment modalities and await results. Also, you can use a simple makeover to cover the patches if it’s a cause for concern. 

Letting the Melasma heal at its own pace is very crucial. Stressing over it will only worsen the inflammatory process and cause more breakouts. Avoid touching and looking at your face every minute. 

4. Avoid bleaching creams: Following a skin discoloration, it is always tempting to use temporary fixes to lighten skin. Bleaching creams have harsh ingredients that can cause trauma to the face. Light toning creams can be a substitute for harsh bleaching creams. However, it is vital to always look out for changes when using a cream. If Melasma symptoms worsen, stop immediately.

5. Cosmetic overkill: Light makeup will help you conceal the Melasma symptoms for a while.  Avoiding heavy makeup is as important as treatment. Also, removing makeup products every night is essential for skin health. The skin needs air and moisture. Excessive makeup can leave your skin dry and worsen Melasma. 

In conclusion, Melasma is a skin condition that causes pigmentation in some areas of the face. Melasma is treatable, but a cure is not available yet. The chances of recurrence are high. However, with proper management, you can enjoy beautiful, radiant skin. Book a consultation session with us today!

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.