Debunking Melasma – Causes, Types, and Management Strategies
With the summer gone, you might be wondering why those tan marks on your face are still there. These tan marks or spots might be an indication of Melasma. It is a skin condition where dark patches appear on the skin. These patches usually occur on the forehead, cheeks, upper lip, and nose. Melasma does not have a health risk, but it does hamper the self-esteem of the affected. This condition affects many, particularly women who are at a higher risk. Let’s shed some light on this skin condition and understand it.
‘Mask of pregnancy’ is another term for the skin condition. This is because it can frequently affect pregnant women.
Causes of Melasma
Melasma being a complex skin condition, it is often misunderstood. The causes of Melasma are not fully understood. There are however a couple of factors that can lead to Melasma.
1. Hormonal Changes
Hormonal changes are a significant trigger for Melasma. These changes might occur due to pregnancy or by taking hormonal contraceptives.
2. Sun Exposure
Sun’s ultraviolet radiation is another crucial factor that might lead to Melasma. Extended exposure to sunlight can stimulate excessive production of melanin. It is the pigment that gives color to the skin. Increased production can cause increased pigmentation in that area.
3. Vascular factor
In this condition, blood vessels play an important role. A substance called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is released from certain skin cells when exposed to sunlight. This stimulates the melanocytes which causes pigmentation.
A family history of this skin condition can increase the individual’s risk of developing Melasma. Certain genetic factors may cause an individual to be more susceptible to sun exposure and hormonal changes.
People with darker skin tones have a greater risk of developing Melasma. Ethnicities like Asian, African, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern fall under this category. They have a higher level of melanin in their skin which makes them more susceptible.
6. Cosmetic Products
Some skincare products can exacerbate melasma. The ingredients or harsh chemicals used in it may trigger or worsen the condition. For Melasma affected individuals, it is important to use skincare products that are specifically formulated for melasma-prone or sensitive skin.
7. Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid causes hormonal imbalances. Hence, individuals having thyroid can be prone to Melasma. The hormonal imbalances can be a contributing factor or worsen the condition.
Types of Melasma
Melasma is categorized into 3 types
1. Dermal Melasma
It affects deeper layers of the skin with an appearance of gray or blue-gray patches. Dermal Melasma can be quite challenging to treat.
2. Epidermal Melasma
It affects the top layer of the skin and responds well to treatments. It is easier to treat than Dermal Melasma.
3. Mixed Melasma
As the name suggests, it’s a mixture of Dermal and Epidermal Melasma. It appears as a mixture of gray, tan, and brown patches. Mixed Melasma requires a very comprehensive approach to treat it.
How to Manage Melasma?
1. Chemical Peels
They involve applying a chemical solution to the skin, which in turn, exfoliates the top layer. This exfoliation helps in improving pigmentation irregularities. Superficial peels, often containing alpha hydroxy acids are used often to treat Melasma.
2. Laser Therapy
These include treatments like Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and fractional lasers. They can target the pigmented areas of Melasma. The lasers break the excess pigment and stimulate the production of collagen. This helps in achieving an even skin tone.
3. Topical Treatments
There are various topical agents that can help lighten the pigmentation caused by Melasma. These agents include hydroquinone, retinoids, and azelaic acid. Every individual has a different skin type, hence consulting a dermatologist is important for treatment.
4. Oral Therapy
Oral therapies have gained prominence as a supplementary treatment, in addition to topical treatments. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can damage the skin cells and can worsen the condition. Oral antioxidants like vitamins C & E, glutathione, and coenzyme Q10 can counter the free radicals which cause Melasma.
5. Sun Protection
This is a very crucial method to manage Melasma. Applying a high-SPF sunscreen can help protect the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Tinted sunscreens containing iron oxide are effective against UV rays and blue light. Wear a brimmed hat or seek shade during peak sunlight hours to protect from sun damage.
6. Cosmetic Camouflage
This is a temporary fix for covering Melasma patches. Applying these camouflages helps even out the skin tone and hide the patches. There are certain organic cosmetic camouflages to conceal the dark spots which are specifically designed for Melasma.
Certain changes in diet and lifestyle can help manage Melasma. Managing stress levels and incorporating a healthy diet can help avoid hormonal triggers. Following a good skincare regime can support Melasma management.
8. Combination Therapies
In a few cases, a combination of multiple therapies might be required. These are with respect to the personalized needs of the individual and achieving optimal results.
Melasma is a challenging skin condition that affects many individuals, particularly women. With the right knowledge and right management strategies, it can be managed and treated. Consult a dermatologist for professional opinion and treatment. Take proper care, regain your confidence, and enjoy radiant skin!