Hi friends! Allow me to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Lydia Adams. She is the expert voice behind Skincare Skills, a skincare-focused blog, that emphasizes on a proper routine and healthy practices for glowing skin.
I asked Lydia to speak to one of my favorite topics: Melasma. Melasma has been apart of my life since I turned 25. Whether I like it or not, it’s here to stay, and it’s all about how I treat it and take care of it moving forward. I know so many of you struggle with the same issue with melasma.
After reading this post, go check out my Instagram @Lexwhatwear where I’m sharing my NEW make up products for melasma coverage. Products linked below too. I’ll let Lydia take it from here. Thank you all for giving Lydia a super warm welcome here at Lex What Wear!
Maintaining healthy skin often involves getting rid of the blemishes and irregularities that can occur on your face and other problem areas. Whilst it may be easy to identify and remove blemishes like blackheads or pimples, getting rid of melasma is often more difficult and takes more time because they’re pigmentation changes in the skin itself rather than being impurities under the skin’s surface.
This article will give you the full rundown of what melasma is, how it manifests, how to identify it, and, of course, how to treat and prevent it. That way, you can proactively beat melasma and find confidence in a clear complexion.
What is Melasma?
Melasma is the term given to a common disorder that results in hyperpigmentation, that is, the emergence and increase of dark spots on the skin. Usually, they’re brown, tan, or grey since melasma is caused by certain areas of the skin producing more melanin content than the rest, causing minor but noticeable dark spots and blotches. This can often stand in the way of a clear complexion, hence why it’s deemed as a blemish that needs reducing to achieve healthy, glowing skin.
What Are the Different Types of Melasma?
Four main pigmentation varieties come under melasma, those being epidermal melasma, dermal melasma, mixed melasma, and excess melanocytes.
Epidermal melasma is often the more common, where an excess of melanin exists in the superficial layers of your skin.
Dermal melasma, on the other hand, is easier to treat and occurs when melanin-ingesting cells called melanophages are more present than normal.
Mixed melasma is, as its name suggests, a hybrid of both epidermal and dermal types, meaning your skin can be suffering from pigmentation issues on multiple levels.
Lastly, melanocytes are the skin cells responsible for the creation of melanin when triggered by certain hormones in the body. Excess melanocytes are when there are too many of these cells, and it’s the main cause of melasma-like symptoms in people with a darker complexion.
Where on the Body Does Melasma Appear?
Melasma commonly appears on the face, mainly the bridge of your nose, the forehead, the cheeks, and the upper lip. That doesn’t mean that it can’t develop anywhere else, however, with the neck, shoulders, and forearms being alternative problem areas where melasma can also develop. The body parts that are most affected are those that are often bare to the sun, especially when you consider that women suffer from melasma at a higher rate than men.
The true cause of melasma isn’t fully known. We can only deduce that it comes from too much melanocyte activity that makes them produce too much color in your skin pigment. Because of this, the higher the melanin production in your skin, the higher the chance you can develop melasma, making those with darker skin tones more at risk than those with lighter skin tones.
Melasma can be triggered by some natural occurrences during life, such as from hormone changes during pregnancy or prolonged exposure to the sunlight, because it’s no accident that the body parts with the most melasma build-up are those like the neck and shoulders which see the most sun. Certain skincare products will tell you whether they’re safe to use or not, so we’d advise staying away from products you think will irritate your skin.
Signs of melasma can also hint at more serious health conditions like diabetes, which darkens your skin with acanthosis nigricans as it progresses, so if you’ve had persistent problems with dark spots, then you might want to see a specialist to make sure there isn’t an underlying cause.
As previously discussed, the main symptom of melasma that you need to worry about is the discolored patches of skin on the face, arms, and neck. There are no other physical symptoms to speak of, so any melasma on your face and body should be your primary concern.
Melasma isn’t very complicated to diagnose, with most dermatologists able to identify it by looking. For professionality’s sake, however, they’ll usually take a small biopsy for testing purposes. A Wood’s light can also be used to take a closer look at your skin, allowing the dermatologist to check for melasma discoloration without any invasive testing.
Treatment for melasma isn’t necessary, especially if you think that temporary hormones are responsible for the melasma, at which point you can stop taking birth control pills or wait out your pregnancy until your hormones rebalance.
That said, if your melasma isn’t caused by a sudden change in your hormonal situation then it can last years. Many cases will fade over time, but you can get treatment to help them fade faster if they’re bothering you.
Your treatment options will usually start with a lotion, cream, or gel where the primary ingredient is hydroquinone. It’s applied directly onto the affected patches of skin and will fade them over time. It’s available over the counter but if you need the strong stuff, you’ll have to go through a doctor.
Another topical treatment is corticosteroids and tretinoin, both of which are great for lightening the skin which has the effect of making melasma spots more obscure and less hard to spot. You can also be prescribed triple combination creams where hydroquinone, corticosteroids, and tretinoin are rolled into one for a reparative and brightening skincare product.
Otherwise, there are some medical procedures that you can do if topical medications don’t work as well as you’d hoped. Such procedures range from microdermabrasion to a chemical peel or laser treatments, but each will have their own side effects connected to them, so make sure you speak to your doctor or dermatologist before taking the risk.
We mentioned above how exposure of certain body parts to the sunlight can exacerbate, if not outright cause, melasma build up. That’s why we’d recommend you take it easy and limit your exposure. If you must go outside, make sure that you use a lot of sunscreen and/or wear a hat to keep the sunlight away from potentially sensitive areas.