Often called the pregnancy mask, melasma is a skin pigmentation disorder which affects patients of all skin types making them feel unattractive and self-conscious. It is most common with women with darker skin tones which adds difficulty in treating this chronic skin disorder. Many dermatologists list it as the most common skin disorder next to acne with many people afflicted, but not treated because they are unaware of their options.
The most telling symptom of melasma is dark patches found primarily on the face. These patches worsen when the body experiences an increase in the hormone estrogen caused by birth control pills or pregnancy. Triggers may also include excessive sun exposure and thyroid abnormalities.
Dark patches are usually found on:
- Upper lip
The condition causes no physical danger but can affect the confidence in one’s appearance. When symptoms become apparent, it is best to seek the advice of a board-certified dermatologist before moving forward with any treatment regimen.
Although a visual examination is often enough to determine a patient has melasma, some detailed testing by a qualified dermatologist may be necessary to rule out specific causes. Certain laboratory exams can be helpful if you have symptoms of thyroid abnormalities. Also, a biopsy for any atypical appearing pigment or in more serious cases can assist in ruling out other less common causes of pigment changes. A wood’s lamp exam can – utilizing a hand-held device utilizing black light – can help in determining the extent of your melisma.
When melasma triggers like birth control pills or pregnancy cause an outbreak, the condition may fade on its own when a female stops taking the pills or after the baby is born. However, some patients have melasma for years. When this happens, there are treatments available to manage the symptoms and outbreaks. They include:
This medication is often used as a first treatment to manage melasma. Hydroquinone can come in liquid or gel form, a lotion or cream. It is best to use the product at medical-grade strength prescribed by a dermatologist.
Tretinoin and Corticosteroids
Another prescribed medication which is used to lighten the skin and resolve melasma is a combination of these ingredients along with hydroquinone in a topical cream. The medication is referred to as a triple cream.
H3: Kojic acid/azelaic acid
These gels can have a role in lightening up your melasma affected areas. Azelaic acid can also be used to treat acne and rosacea.
Skin Rejuvenation Procedures
Also, effective in resolving melasma are skin care treatments, including laser skin toning and certain chemical peels. These choices must be made under the consultation of a dermatologist.
Many patients experience a successful outcome with their melasma treatments under the care of a dermatologist. However, the condition can be stubborn, taking a few months to get under control. It is important to follow the advice of your dermatologist to get the most benefit from their treatments. Also, adjusting lifestyle choices to stay clear of skin irritations and their effects is crucial.
Once your melasma clears, continue treatment to avoid recurring outbreaks.