What You Need to Know About Melasma

Melasma is a common skin condition that causes dark spots or patches on facial skin. Although this condition is common and affects more than 200,000 women each year, it can cause patients to feel self-conscious about the way their skin looks. Studies also show that dealing with Melasma causes emotional distress and can negatively impact someone’s social life. At Renew Medical Spa, we see many patients with this condition and understand the way it can drastically affect self-confidence and overall well-being. Thankfully, there are many available treatments and steps that you can take to help handle this condition and minimize its impact. 

What is Melasma? 

The Cleveland Clinic defines Melasma as “a common skin disorder characterized by light brown, dark brown, or blue/gray patches on your skin.” These spots or patches can also resemble freckles. This skin condition most frequently affects the face (cheeks, upper lip, and forehead), and can also appear on the forearms. Often, it’s called the “mask of pregnancy” because many pregnant women experience symptoms. In addition, patients with Melasma usually notice darkening during the summer and lightening during the winter months. Many people think Melasma is a type of cancer (because it sounds similar to melanoma), but it is not a type of cancer or a sign of skin cancer (unlike skin cancer, Melasma is flat in texture and can appear on both sides of the face). Although it is less common, patients can also have Melasma on their back or other parts of their bodies. 

There are three different types of Melasma, and the differences have to do with the depth of the pigment affected. A Wood’s lamp that uses black light can be used to determine which type a patient has. The three types include:

  • Epidermal Melasma: This type has a dark brown color, and a border that is well-defined. It responds well to treatment. 
  • Dermal Melasma: This type has a light brown or bluish tone, with a less-defined border. It appears the same under black light, but does not respond well to treatment. 
  • Mixed Melasma: Just like its name, this type has both bluish and brown spots, and responds partially to treatment. 

What causes Melasma? 

Researchers have made significant strides in discovering the causes behind Melasma, but there is no single answer and more research is needed. The commonality they have discovered is that the cells that give skin its tone (called melanocytes) become more active, but the reason why isn’t known. Some studies have shown that Melasma develops when these melanocytes are triggered. Some suggested triggers include sunlight, pregnancy, and medications such as anti-seizure medications, birth control pills, tanning beds, and medications that make your skin sensitive to sun. In addition, thyroid disease has been linked to an increased risk for Melasma.

It is known that some people have a higher risk of developing Melasma, including:

  • Women who are between 20 and 40. Melasma is more common in women, because of hormones.
  • Patients with a medium or dark skin tone: If you are a woman of Latin, Asian, Native American, or Black heritage, you have a higher risk of developing Melasma. 
  • Patients who have Melasma in their family: Several studies from the Cleveland Clinic have determined that if you have one or more blood relatives with Melasma, you are at a higher risk of developing it. One study found that 48% of Melasma patients have a family member with the condition. 

What treatment options are available? 

If you have a temporary trigger like pregnancy or medication, your Melasma may clear up on its own when you give birth or stop taking a medication. However, Melasma that is not triggered by pregnancy or medication can be a chronic condition, which means many patients experience it for years or their entire lives. Thankfully, the condition is harmless and is not contagious, painful, or uncomfortable to patients who have it. 

Some topical treatments have improved Melasma, including medications that use tyrosinase inhibitors. These topical medications prevent new pigment formations by slowing or stopping the production of melanin (the dark color). Examples include: Azelaic acid, cysteamine, hydrocortisone, hydroquinone, methimazole, alpha hydroxy acid, tranexamic acid, and tretinoin. Only a trained skincare professional should guide you through deciding which treatment will be best. Ordering many of these medications requires a prescription or a visit to a dermatologist to protect you and promote proper usage of the products. Additionally, a topical treatment isn’t your only option. At a medical spa or dermatologist, you can receive procedures that improve the appearance of Melasma. Here are procedures you can have done here at Renew Medical Spa:

  • Chemical peels
  • Forever Young™ Phototherapy
  • Halo Laser™ 
  • Hydroplus
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Laser resurfacing 
  • Microneedling
  • Microlaser peel 

How do I get started? 

Getting started is easy at Renew Medical Spa. Simply call us at (541) 524-4408 to schedule your consultation and skin analysis or use our contact form. Our experienced providers will then guide you through the process of diagnosis and treatment and help you manage this chronic skin condition. Although there is no “cure” for chronic Melasma, there are many ways to treat the symptoms and help you feel confident about your skin’s appearance.