Melasma (a condition in which brown or grayish patches appear on the skin) is a very common skin condition. Most people get hyperpigmented spots on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin, and above their upper lip. Melasma can also appear on other areas of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the arms and neck.
Many different factors contribute to melasma, but sun exposure and hormonal changes are two of the most common triggers. Women are much more susceptible to have melasma, especially during pregnancy due to all of the hormone changes taking effect. In fact, it is so common during pregnancy that it is often called the “pregnancy mask”. Birth control pills can also contribute to melasma, as they cause hormonal changes within the body. Most people with melasma have a history of sun exposure, although heat alone is also suspected to be an underlying trigger/factor. People with olive-colored or darker skin, like Hispanic, Asian, and Middle Eastern individuals have higher incidences of melasma.
One of the easiest and most common treatments for melasma is the use of sunscreen to prevent further darkening the pigmented areas. Hydroquinone and other lightening topicals are very popular and effective for treating melasma. They work by decreasing the production of melanin in the skin, which helps to fade the darker spots without lightening all of the skin. Retinols are also effective in combination with lightening topicals, as they help to exfoliate the surface of the skin. There are also many in office treatments that patients can take advantage of, such as microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, and chemical peels. These help to increase cell turnover, and can help lighten the pigmented areas on the surface of the skin. Certain lasers, such as the Clear and Brilliant Permea, are also used to treat melasma.
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