What is Melasma?

Red hair female peeking through her hands

August 21, 2016

Melasma, or Chloasma faciei, is a skin condition resulting in dark or tan skin discoloration. Anyone can have the condition, but it typically affects women, particularly pregnant women and people on hormone replacement therapy or those using patch or oral contraceptives.

What Are the Symptoms?

This condition makes its presence known as irregular, dark, hyper-pigmented skin sections or patches normally seen on the nose, lips, upper cheeks and forehead. The patches will often gradually develop over time. The condition will not result in other symptoms and is considered purely a cosmetic concern. Pre-menopausal women frequently develop melasma, which is believed to be due to the overproduction of some hormones.

Common Causes

It is believed that this condition develops when pigment-creating cells called melanocytes begin overproducing melanin due to sun exposure. Females who have darker skin types and live in areas with intense sunlight are more likely to develop melasma than other people. Having a family history of melasma also increases a person’s chances of developing the condition.

People suffering from thyroid disease also have a greater chance of developing this condition. It is believed that melanocyte-stimulating hormone overproduction due to stress may lead to developing melasma. Other factors include cosmetic and medication allergies.

Prevention Tips

Avoiding exposure to sunlight and using sunscreen can help to prevent the formation of melasma. Using oral contraceptives has been firmly established as one cause of the condition, particularly in women without a genetic predisposition to the condition. Avoiding the future use of contraceptive pills is advised for those who develop the condition after taking these medications.

Treatment Options

The discoloration caused by melasma often resolves itself over a span of several months, once birth has taken place or hormone replacement therapy or contraceptive use has ended.

Treatments for this condition usually offer temporary results, if sun exposure is not avoided. Melasma is most effectively treated by combining hydroquinone cream, retinoids and laser treatments along with eliminating estrogen and sun exposure. Hydroquinone is a topical bleaching agent often used in conjunction with IPL to treat melasma. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that help to decrease the activity of melanocytes, cells that create darker skin pigments. They also allow the skin to be better penetrated by other topical agents.

Consult the Experts

At Torrey Pines Dermatology & Laser Center in La Jolla, we offer a variety of treatment options for melasma. During a consultation with Dr. Richards or Christine Corso PA-C, a customized treatment plan can be created for you. We proudly serve the San Diego and surrounding areas. Contact our office today to schedule your appointment.

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