Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation that occurs primarily in women due to hormonal changes and UV exposure. Although it’s an extremely common skin condition, melasma is hard to identify and even more complicated to remove. I’m here to give you the rundown! Read below to learn more about it and how to address it.
What Is Melasma?
Melasma is essentially an overproduction of a pigment called melanin, which is most commonly triggered by hormones and heat/sun exposure. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes and melanin bundle into melanosomes, which travel to the surface of the skin and spread. This is what essentially causes brown or gray-brown patches on the surface of skin. It most commonly appears on the forehead, around the mouth (especially on the upper lip), and along the outer frame of the face.
How To Distinguish Melasma Compared To Hyperpigmentation?
If you suspect you have melasma, it’s best to confirm it by seeing a dermatologist. In the meantime, here is a simple test you can do at home:
Start by cleansing your hands and face. In a bright-lit room, gently stretch the area of your face that seems discolored. If your skin appears lighter when it’s stretched, the pigmentation is close to the surface and is most likely NOT melasma. If your skin appears darker when it’s stretched, the pigmentation lies deep in the layers of the skin, meaning it’s most likely melasma.
What Can Be Done?
Melasma is very complex and occurs deep within the skin, which means it is very challenging to get rid of. Great results truly depend on the individual’s skin type, tolerance, and how dedicated he or she is to consistent care.
Other than lifestyle changes such as avoiding sun and heat exposure and reconsidering your birth control, there are great ways to treat Melasma by switching up your at-home products.
Seek products with ingredients that block tyrosinase such as hydroquinone, azelaic acid, vitamin c, and more.
Exfoliation is important because it helps lift visible pigmentation off the skin. Seek exfoliants with glycolic, salicylic acid, and fruit enzymes (like papaya or pineapple).
If you are commonly exposed to heat, keep it simple and use ice cubes or frozen peas to quickly cool your skin. I also recommend keeping skincare products, like toners and gel-based masques, in the fridge for a cooling effect on your skin.
Consultation with an expert is always a good idea when you are facing any type of skin concern. They will give you a treatment plan of action that is tailored specifically to your needs and skin type. Here are a few professional treatments that can help Melasma:
Chemical peels - A series of chemical peels that use salicylic, lactic, or glycolic acids can break up pigment cells that have risen to the surface of the skin.
Heatless laser treatments - Lasers can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin where melasma is formed. Consult a skin professional to find out which one is best suited for you and your skin. Pro tip: Now (the Fall and Winter season) is the best time to start laser treatments since you are less likely to be exposed to heat and sun, which results in treatment lasting longer.
- Tranexamic Acid Prescription - Prescribed by a dermatologist, this product has been my savior over my many years of battling melasma. Its purpose? Tranexamic acid slows the production of melanin by inhibiting a pathway known as the plasminogen/plasmin pathway. This reduces the interactions between melanocytes and skin cells, which leads to a reduction in pigmentation.
If you have any questions or concerns on Melasma, I highly suggest reaching out to a dermatologist specialist near you! Like I said above, they will walk you through a plan that has the highest chance of working specifically for you. Stay patient with the process!
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