Melasma is a common skin condition associated with sun-exposure and hormonal changes. It is caused by excess melanin production which leads to patches of hyperpigmentation.
Melasma hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition. It is characterised by the appearance of brown or grey-brown patches, primarily on the face. While anyone can get melasma, it is more common in women, particularly during hormonal fluctuations such as pregnancy or menopause, and in individuals with darker skin tones.
What is Melasma and What Does it Look Like?
Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation where the skin produces too much pigment, resulting in dark, discoloured patches or spots. These areas of discolouration often develop gradually and are usually symmetrical, with matching marks on both sides of the face. The most common areas on the body affected by melasma are the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead, chin, and above the upper lip.
Melasma in Skin of Colour
Melasma is more common in individuals with darker skin tones, including those of Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African descent who are more prone to hyperpigmentation. This is pigment rich skin complexions have more active melanocytes than lighter skin tones. When these melanocytes are stimulated, they can produce more melanin, leading to the appearance of hyperpigmentation. The patches can be darker and more noticeable on skin of colour. Moreover, people with skin of colour are more likely to experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can sometimes be confused with or exacerbate the appearance of melasma.
Melasma in Men
Whilst melasma is much more common in women, men are also affected. Approximately 10% of melasma cases occur in men. Similar to women, in men, it appears as dark, discoloured patches on the skin, usually on the face. Factors like sun exposure and genetics play a significant role in developing hyperpigmentation in men. Men with darker skin tones are more prone to this condition. Since it is commonly associated with hormonal changes in women, particularly during pregnancy, the occurrence of melasma in men supports the theory that sun exposure is a significant factor in the development of this condition.
What Causes Melasma
While the exact cause of melasma is unknown, it’s widely believed that it occurs when the colour-making cells in the skin, known as melanocytes, produce too much pigment (melanin). Several factors can trigger this overproduction of melanin:
- Sun Exposure: Ultraviolet light from the sun can increase melanin production causing hyperpigmentation. This is why melasma often worsens in the summer and improves during the winter months.
- Hormonal Changes: Melasma is sometimes called is often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy” because it is common in pregnant women due to increased levels of progesterone, oestrogen and melanocyte-stimulating hormone during the second and third trimesters. Some women may also develop it while taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy during menopause.
- Genetics: If melasma runs in your family, you’re more likely to develop it too. It’s often seen in people with a family history of the condition.
While melasma primarily affects the face, it can also appear on other parts of the body exposed to the sun, like the neck and forearms. Rarely, it may appear on the back.
Melasma During Pregnancy and Menopause
Melasma is so common during pregnancy that it has its own name; chloasma. It affects up to 50% of pregnant women. Similarly, women going through menopause may also notice the appearance of these irregular patches due to hormonal changes.
Treating Melasma Hyperpigmentation
While melasma may fade over time, especially after pregnancy or after stopping hormonal contraception, many people require treatment to fully clear the condition. Treatment options usually require topical prescription creams. The most commonly used skincare products for melasma are hydroquinone and Tretinoin. When combined they offer an even more effective treatment for melasma. Other skin lightening agents such as Arbutin, Retinol and Kojic acid maybe used. Professional treatments like laser and chemical peels are also an option.
At City Skin Clinic, we focus on using prescription skincare to manage and treat melasma. We offer personalised skincare such as Obagi Tretinoin cream, either alone or alongside Hydroquinone, the Nu Derm system or Obagi-C system. Always remember that the best treatment for melasma begins with sun protection. Incorporating a high SPF sunscreen into your daily skincare routine is vital.
We are here to guide you on your journey to clearer and healthier skin. Schedule an online appointment with our doctors at City Skin Clinic, and let us help you manage and treat your melasma with personalised skincare.
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