Melasma is a common skin condition which appears as brown or grey flat patches of colour on the skin.
Melasma is known as chloasma or ‘pregnancy mask’ and is a form of hyperpigmentation. This pigmentation is usually limited to the face (particularly the upper lip, nose and forehead) and commonly appears during pregnancy due to hormonal changes in the body.
Melasma is also more common in darker skin tones (or in skin that tans very quickly in the sun) and it’s usually more noticeable in the summer months.
Melasma is not a serious condition and is not linked to skin cancer, but the visibility of the pigmentation may prove distressing for sufferers who feel it negatively affects their appearance and their quality of life.
What causes melasma?
Melasma is different to general hyperpigmentation because it is not solely caused by sun exposure. Although Melasma can be worsened by the sun’s rays, the core cause is likely to be an underlying change within the body. It can be triggered by many things including:
- Change in contraception
- Medication which affects the hormones
- Thyroid problems
- Menopause or perimenopause
- Hereditary conditions
A fluctuation in hormone levels can stimulate the melanocytes (the colour-making cells in the skin) to produce too much pigment. These clumps of pigment can group together which creates the melasma spot. In more extreme cases, the spots can merge together to make a larger ‘mask’ of darker skin which can be very noticeable on the face, as is the case with ‘pregnancy mask’.
Darker skin tones already have more active melanocytes than those with lighter skin, which is why they are more prone to melasma spots. Melasma also affects more women than men but it can appear at any age.
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How to improve melasma
Melasma can be difficult to treat, particularly if the hormonal causes are not known or cannot be altered. Whereas other types of hyperpigmentation can be treated on the surface, Melasma may have a deeper cause within the body and each individual’s reaction to different hormones and medications can be unique.
It’s important to diagnose Melasma with a dermatologist before embarking on improvements or treatments. A dermatologist may recommend a sun protection as a first step to ensure that the skin is protected from further discolouration because UV rays are likely to trigger or increase any darker pigments.
In some cases, Melasma can fade or disappear once the hormonal causes have been balanced. For example, melasma presenting as a ‘pregnancy mask’ may completely fade after pregnancy hormones have left the body.
If the Melasma cannot be prevented with adjustments to medication, or does not reduce and fade over time, there are dermatological treatments to consider.
Treatments for melasma
- Chemical peels are used to treat melasma by removing the top layer of skin which usually also removes the discoloured patches of melasma.
- The dark pigmentation may appear less visible or completely disappear because the melasma is only on the surface level.
- Patients may need multiple treatments depending on the darkness of the spots.
- Chemical peels can be repeated if the melasma is recurring.
- Mesotherapy can help treat melasma spots by renewing the top layer of skin to minimise the dark patches.
- This non-surgical treatment injects small quantities of vitamins, acids and medicines into the top layer of the skin which stimulates skin cells to produce new collagen and elastin.
- Patients may see a more even skin tone after one treatment but multiple sessions are usually required for the best results.
- Microneedling helps to minimise the appearance of melasma spots by penetrating the skin with multiple micro needles.
- They pierce the skin and these tiny ‘injuries’ force the skin to repair and produce new collagen.
- The renewed skin surface usually looks more even in tone and colour.
- It typically penetrates further than Mesotherapy so may be suitable for darker spots.
- Patients may see results after the initial session, but repeated treatments are usually required every 4-6 weeks.
- Sometimes known colloquially as the ‘vampire facelift’, Platelet Rich Plasma uses the patient’s own blood to help treat melasma. The platelets in the blood are separated from red blood cells and then injected into the skin.
- These platelets are the body’s richest source of collagen and promote growth and tissue rejuvenation. They can be placed directly into the skin which has been affected by melasma.
- Multiple treatments are usually recommended over a series of months for the best results.
These dermatological treatments work in different ways so it’s important to choose the right process for your skin needs. Book a free consultation with our team to discover which treatments are best for melasma.