Melasma appears in the form of brown, blue, or black spots on your face. It’s most commonly seen in women from the age of 20 to 50 years old and can typically be found in 3 areas including the forehead, cheeks, and jaw. The main causes of melasma are sun exposure, hormonal changes, and, sometimes, genetics. The most effective prevention of melasma is minimizing sun exposure and using sunscreen every day.
Nevertheless, these are still hypotheses. In fact, dermatologists have not found the exact causes of melasma yet. They believe that the dark patches on the face can be associated with factors like pregnancy, birth control pills, genetics, races, and certain types of antiepileptic medications. Sunlight is the biggest contributor to melasma among these. Clinical studies have confirmed that women are at the highest risk of melasma in the summer – the time of the harshest sunlight. In the winter, the dark-colored pigmentation on the skin tends to fade.
Common types of melasma
There are 4 types of melasma proposed by specialists, including epidermal, dermal, mixed type, and an indeterminate type seen in people of color. While epidermal melasma is identified by the presence of extra melanin in surface skin layers, dermal melasma refers to the presence of melabophages in the dermis. Mixed type melasma is the combination of both epidermal and dermal melasma. The fourth type of melasma is distinguished by excess melanocytes in the skin of people of color.
How to diagnose melasma?
Melasma can be easily diagnosed by looking for the appearance of dark-colored skin patches on the face. Additionally, dermatologists can also diagnose melasma by visual examinations or using black light technology.
Mixed type melasma is the most common among cases of melasma. This is caused by the discoloration of the epidermis and dermis.
Treatment of melasma
According to Thea’s experts, the most frequently used treatment for melasma consists of anti-melasma creams containing about 2% of hydroquinone, non-prescription products such as Esoterica, Porcelana, or prescription-strength medications such as Obagi Clear, NeoCutis Blanche, and 4% hydroquinone. Nonetheless, products with hydroquinone concentrations of more than 2% usually require guidelines from cosmetic specialists or dermatologists.
In addition, keep in mind that sunscreen is a must-have product to be used in combination with anti-melasma creams for optimal results. Thea Clinic’s specialists recommend using a sunscreen with a high SPF of at least 30 when going outside under the hot weather conditions of Vietnam.
In mild cases of melasma, the dark-colored skin patches can go away by themselves without treatment. For some people, melasma only occurs during pregnancy or while using birth control pills. After that, melasma will disappear on its own.
With more severe cases of melasma, dermatologists can advise you to use creams with high concentrations of hydroquinone together with other ingredients such as tretinoin, corticosteroids, or glycolic acid. However, this treatment option can result in temporary skin irritation. Those who receive a hydroquinone treatment of high concentrations for a long time (from a few months to years) are at risk of developing exogenous ochronosis. People with this condition experience skin darkening even when using a whitening agent.
Regardless, hydroquinone is still the most effective and most commonly used anti-melasma ingredient at beauty clinics to date.
Is laser treatment effective for melasma?
Thea Clinic’s dermatologists also share that lasers are one of the most common anti-melasma treatment options these days. However, typically, this option can only bring short-term results and needs to be repeated frequently if you want to keep melasma at bay.
They also stress the importance of using sunscreen to prevent and treat melasma no matter what treatment choice you are using. Pregnant or breastfeeding women also need to consider thoroughly when choosing a treatment option for melasma. Lasers are considered unfriendly to fetal development. Similarly, anti-melasma creams may as well leave negative impacts on pregnancy and the infants.
Although melasma won’t do much harm to your health, it can make you self-conscious about your appearance. People with melasma can experience low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority when socializing with others. If for any reason, you can’t use the treatment methods mentioned above, try wearing make-up products to cover the dark skin patches. If you’ve got any questions, do not hesitate to contact the dermatologists and cosmetic specialists at Thea Aesthetic Clinic!