Many people develop dark spots (hyperpigmentation) on their skin as a result of sun exposure, aging, or hormonal changes. But not all dark spots are the same. They vary based on their causes and how you can cope with them.
One relatively common and often frustrating form of hyperpigmentation is melasma. Melasma can be particularly challenging for those who develop it since it can seem as if nothing makes the unwanted dark brown or gray pigmentation go away. If you think you are dealing with melasma, understanding what causes it and what you can do about it can help you resolve the issue.
Where Does Melasma Occur?
Melasma can develop on any area of the body but typically occurs on the face. It often takes the form of brown or gray patches on the cheeks, above the lips, chin, or forehead.
What Causes Melasma?
What sets melasma apart from other types of hyperpigmentation, such as sun spots or freckles, are the factors that trigger it.
Like other types of hyperpigmentation, sun exposure can trigger the development of melasma. But unlike other types of dark spots, there seems to be a hormonal connection to melasma as well. In many cases, melasma is triggered by pregnancy or the use of birth control pills, not the sun alone. Because of its hormonal connection, melasma is sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy.”
Melasma can affect both men and women but it’s much more common in women. It’s also more common in people with darker skin tones.
Can You Prevent Melasma?
It can be difficult to prevent melasma, as it can be triggered by a variety of different things. Since sun exposure does play a role in the formation of melasma, you can attempt to keep it from developing by avoiding spending time in the sun. If you do have to go outside during daylight hours, wear a sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30.
It’s also a good idea to protect your skin from the sun in other ways. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses can offer an additional layer of protection.
Since irritation of the skin can make melasma worse in some cases, it can be a good idea to avoid skincare products that are particularly harsh and irritating. The same is true of waxing to remove hair. The process of waxing can cause inflammation of the skin that leads to melasma.
How Can You Treat Melasma?
Before you treat melasma, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis and confirm that what you’re dealing with is, in fact, melasma, and not another type of hyperpigmentation. It can also be worthwhile to try to figure out what’s triggering the melasma. If you’re on birth control pills, you might try switching to another contraceptive method or trying a different brand of pill.
If the dark patches remain after you’ve removed the suspected melasma triggers, your next option is to try to treat the pigmentation itself. You might try medical-grade skincare products containing ingredients that can help to lighten or brighten the skin, for example.
Another treatment option is Fraxel, a laser treatment that can help to clear up dark spots and melasma. Fraxel encourages old skin cells to flake away, making room for new, evenly-pigmented cells.
Will Melasma Go Away On Its Own?
In some cases, melasma will fade on its own. For example, if you develop the dark patches while you are pregnant, you might notice that they go away soon after you give birth and your hormones return to normal.
Usually, though, a combination of treatment and preventative measures are needed to get rid of melasma and to keep it from returning. Once you’ve succeeded in clearing up your dark spots, it’s essential that you keep up with sun protection to prevent the spots from returning. Be extra diligent about wearing sunscreen, even when it’s overcast or cloudy outside and even if you’ll only be outside for a few minutes.
Whether it’s melasma or another form of hyperpigmentation, developing dark spots on your skin can make you feel self-conscious. At Mirror Mirror Beauty Boutique in Houston, Texas, Dr. Paul Vitenas and his staff can help you determine what’s causing your dark spots and will recommend ways to treat them and keep new ones from forming. To schedule an appointment, call 281-810-9083 today.