Melasma is a common skin condition that causes dark, discolored patches typically appearing on the face.

What is Melasma

Melasma is a skin condition that causes brown to gray-brown patches, usually on the face. Most people get it on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin, and above their upper lip. It can also appear on other parts of the body that get lots of sun exposure like the forearms and neck.

Causes of Melasma

Experts are still not completely sure what causes melasma. However, it's believed that people with darker skin tones are more at risk because they have more active melanocytes than those with light skin. These melanocytes produce melanin; when they produce too much, melasma occurs.

Moreover, hormonal changes during pregnancy or from taking birth control pills may also trigger the development of melasma. This has led some researchers to suggest a connection between female hormones and melasma.

It's important to note that exposure to sun greatly increases melanoma's development because ultraviolet rays affect the cells controlling pigments (melanocytes).

Treatment Options for Melasma

While there's no definitive cure for melasma, treatments are available to help reduce its appearance. The first line of treatment involves over-the-counter (OTC) creams containing hydroquinone, a type of phenol that can lighten skin.

For persistent cases, dermatologists might prescribe topical medications containing tretinoin and corticosteroids (Triple cream). This combination enhances skin lightening, but it could take several months to see an improvement.

Additionally, procedures such as chemical peels, dermabrasion, and laser therapy might be recommended. However, these treatments could cause side effects like skin irritation and darkening. Therefore, it's crucial to discuss potential risks with a dermatologist.

Preventing Melasma

While not entirely preventable, certain measures can help reduce the risk of developing melasma or prevent it from getting worse. Most notably is safeguarding your skin from the sun by wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen every day and reapplying every two hours.

Understanding melasma is vital for managing this common yet often misunderstood skin condition. By recognizing its causes and treatments, individuals can make informed decisions about their skincare regime.

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Nancy Park, RN, BSN
Certified Aesthetic Nurse