What is melasma?
Often called the mask of pregnancy, this pigmentation problem frequently affects expectant mothers. It manifests as darkened (blue-gray, tan, or brown) areas of skin, usually on the face. Despite its prevalence in pregnant women, anyone can develop melasma. It is not considered harmful, but it is a cosmetic concern.
Hormones are a contributing factor, which is why pregnant women and those taking oral contraceptives are especially susceptible. Other factors, such as genetics, will affect your risk of developing melasma. Sun exposure also plays a significant role in triggering melasma.
Causes of Melasma
The precise cause of melasma is not yet fully understood, though research indicates that specific factors make a person susceptible. These include:
- Ethnicity (It is most common among individuals of North African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian, or Latin ancestry.)
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Birth control pills
Hormones and genetics often play a role in making the skin susceptible to pigmentation problems. It is believed that UV exposure triggers the onset of melasma, making sun-protection especially important for at-risk individuals.
Types of melasma
Dark patches of skin typically develop in one of three very specific patterns.
- Centrofacial – The most common pattern develops on the chin, nose, upper lip, forehead, and cheeks.
- Malar – This pattern forms over the nose and cheeks.
- Mandibular – The dark areas appear along the jawline and on the sides of the cheeks.
Melasma treatment at Dr. W Dermatology
The dark areas of skin can be lightened with bleaching treatments. This is typically accomplished by using products containing hydroquinone. It may take between two and six months to achieve optimal results. In some cases, skin resurfacing with the fractional laser may be recommended. For many women who develop melasma during pregnancy, the problem will begin resolving naturally after childbirth.
An important part of melasma treatment is prevention, which can be accomplished with sun protection. If you do not protect your skin from UV rays, the problem will continue developing, essentially negating the effects of treatment. We recommend wearing SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen, and a wide-brimmed sunhat. During peak hours (midday) it is best to stay indoors if possible.
We can help you erase the signs of melasma, and prevent recurrence. Call us at (281) 771-0494 and schedule a consultation at our Kay practice or our Houston practice.