What is Melasma?

Melasma is a common skin issue that causes discolored, dark patches on the skin. These patches are darker than your natural skin tone and usually occur on the face in a symmetrical pattern. Other areas of the body that are often exposed to sunlight, such as the forearms can also develop melasma.

Common signs of melasma are brown-gray patches of skin on the face. These spots commonly appear on the:

  • Forehead
  • Cheeks
  • Bridge of the nose
  • Chin
  • Above the upper lip
  • More rarely, on the neck or forearms

While it is not known what causes melasma, women, and patients with skin of color are at a higher risk. Estrogen and progesterone sensitivity, as well as sun exposure, are also associated with this condition. Common triggers include exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, irritating skincare products, and a change in hormones as occurs with pregnancy.

Who is a Good Candidate for Melasma Treatment?

If you are experiencing discolored patches on your skin, or develop skin irritation, or extreme darkening of the skin, contact our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled dermatologists. During your consultation, you will be able to discuss your symptoms with your dermatologist. She will then examine your skin and create a treatment plan to help improve your melasma.

What to Expect During Melasma Treatment?

In order to diagnose melasma, a visual exam will be performed. A Wood’s lamp examination may also be done, which involves a special light that is held up to the skin, allowing your doctor to check for fungal and bacterial infections and determine the number of layers of skin melasma affects. A biopsy may also be performed, if necessary, to rule out conditions such as lupus, lichen planus, and ochronosis which could mimic melasma.

For some individuals, melasma disappears on its own. However, there are a number of treatment options to help lighten or improve the affected areas, including:

  • Hydroquinone: This medication is available in stronger forms (4% and greater) as a  prescription. It is applied to the topically and works by lightening the skin. It is available as a lotion, cream, gel, or liquid.
  • Corticosteroids and tretinoin: A second medication such as corticosteroid or tretinoin may be prescribed and added to the hydroquinone to further enhance skin lightening.
  • Other topical medications: Azelaic acid or kojic acid may be prescribed to light melasma
  • Procedures:  If topical medications do not work to lighten your melasma, procedures such as a chemical peel, microdermabrasion, or laser treatments may be successful.

Following Melasma Treatment

Following melasma treatment, many patients can enjoy a lightening of their melasma so it is less noticeable. It may take a few months of treatment to see results, and it is important to follow your dermatologist’s advice and instructions. After your melasma improves or clears, you should continue protecting your skin from ultraviolet light. This can help prevent melasma from returning or worsening.

Schedule a Consultation

If you would like to learn more about melasma treatment options, contact HMGS Dermatology today. Our team will be happy to assist you in scheduling your consultation appointment with one of our dermatologists or physician assistants, which is the first step toward diagnosis and treatment.

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