Melasma: Causes, Prevention, & Treatments
Skin discoloration is very common due to sun exposure, hormones, and aging. One of the most common hyperpigmentation skin disorders is melasma. Melasma is a benign skin disorder that is characterized by patches of darker skin on the cheeks, upper lip, and forehead. It is a chronic skin condition caused by UV sunlight exposure, hormones, and genetics.
Melasma is triggered by UV sun exposure and hormone fluctuations. It is often referred to as a “pregnancy mask” due to the fluctuations in hormones that occur during pregnancy.
When the skin is exposed to the sun, our melanocytes (the cells which produce the brown pigment called melanin) proliferate leading to the darkening of the skin. In patients who are prone to melasma or have preexisting melasma, sun exposure stimulates melanocyte activity and can darken preexisting spots and create new ones.
The exact cause of Melasma is still being researched, but there are many factors commonly linked to Melasma. Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels have been associated with melasma. Therefore pregnant women and those on birth control are at risk of developing melasma. Melasma is definitely more common in women with darker skin tones.
Prevention is the most important step for melasma. Dr. Zenovia recommends wearing hats and covering your face from direct sun exposure when outdoors. A physical sunscreen should be applied daily – it is the most important step in treating melasma! A physical blocker has broad-spectrum coverage against harmful UV rays which trigger melanocyte overproduction. Dr. Zenovia’s Vitamin C Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30 provides transparent nano-zinc oxide 360-degree mineral protection and contains clinical grade Vitamin C-Ester to visibly help minimize the appearance of dark spots, discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles. Dr. Zenovia prefers a physical sunscreen for melasma because it will block more visible light and UV radiation from penetrating the skin compared to chemical sunscreens.
If melasma is present, there are treatment options available. If hormonal imbalance is the cause, melasma can improve if you discontinue oral contraceptives and or hormone replacements. Also, after pregnancy as your hormonal fluctuations level out your melasma will improve with time.
If your melasma is not due to hormone fluctuations, topical creams such as hydroquinone, tretinoin, and Vitamin C compounds can help lighten the skin. Dr. Zenovia’s Vitamin C Brightening Toner serves as a daily dose of Vitamin C for an even-toned, glowing complexion. Formulated with her proprietary REG-ulate360 Complex™, this toner helps balance hormonal skin and immediately rejuvenates the appearance of dullness.
Dr. Zenovia’s Essentials Collection includes seven breakthrough skincare products scientifically formulated to help restore an even skin tone. In a 6-week patient trial, 100% of participants reported a reduction in the appearance of skin discoloration!
If topical creams fail, a board-certified dermatologist can perform treatments in-office to help reduce melasma. There are appropriate chemical peels and laser procedures. Since treatments are specifically tailored to your skin, it is important to consult a board-certified dermatologist for the best treatment plan for you because melasma can worsen with more heat or tissue trauma.
Dr. Zenovia’s Top Tip
Identifying the cause of your melasma is the most important step in treatment. Sunscreen and sun avoidance is the most important intervention. Topical creams and treatments can be effective in lightening melasma patches, but if the underlying hormonal imbalances are not addressed, treatment will not be effective long-term.
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