Melasma - if you have it, you probably have been frustrated by it at some point. Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that is notoriously stubborn to treat and fade.
Melasma is a skin pigmentation condition that is characterized by darker pigmented skin patches with irregular borders and it typically appears as brownish or grey toned patches across the skin like on the face, and sometimes the upper arms.
Melasma patches are usually larger and widespread compared to your typical hyperpigmentation dark spots.
Others may even refer to melasma as the "mask of pregnancy" due to the hormonal changes that cause melasma, fortunately if your melasma is due to hormone changes due to pregnancy, it usually goes away on it's own once your hormones return to normal.
What Causes Melasma?
- Sun Exposure
- Hormonal Changes ( Pregnancy, Birth Control )
- Excess Skin Inflammation
Melasma can have many causes and it's triggered when your melanocytes go on overdrive and produce way too much melanin.
Currently, what we know is that too much sun exposure and sun damage is one of the main causes.
Second, would be due to hormonal changes like hormonal oral birth control and pregnancy.
Too much skin inflammation can possibly cause melasma too like an overly abrasive skincare routine or too much heat to the skin, so summer may cause a flare up. Certain laser or heat based treatments could cause melasma too.
Who Gets Melasma?
Melasma is most common among women, although about 10% of men can have melasma too. It occurs beginning from your 20s onwards so it can affect almost any adult. If you have a darker skin tone, you may be more likely to have melasma.
Ways To Fade & Treat Melasma
While melasma is quite difficult to fade, if you're persistent and patient and you'll see results with these proven ingredients to look for.
The best method is to use a combination of different ingredients that can inhibit pigmentation and brighten at the same time.
Word of caution: don't overdo it with the treatments because excess skin inflammation is one of the reasons why melasma can be caused. Using too many strong products and acids at a time without giving your skin a break can cause more inflammation in the skin.
Generally, look for brightening products that contain ingredients like Vitamin C, azelaic acid, and tranexamic acid which all have studies backing them for fading melasma effectively and are all highly safe to use for most skin types. When treating melasma, make sure to use sunscreen during the day too.
Generally, we like incorporating a vitamin c serum in a routine because not only can it brighten melasma, it inhibits excess melanin production, has antioxidant properties, and can also increase the UV protection of your sunscreen when applied under your sunscreen.
You may combine with prescription strength products with your doctor too if you have very stubborn melasma for an extra boost along your home treatment products.
Sunscreen as Prevention
While you are treating your melasma with brightening products like Vitamin C serums, it's very important to wear sunscreen. Sunscreen prevents UV damage which is one of the main causes of melasma.
In addition, many melasma treatments cause skin to be more prone to sun damage too so its even more important to wear sunscreen each day if you are treating your melasma.
There are a lot of sunscreen formulas, but if your skin is sensitive to heat or sensitive in general, a mineral base sunscreen is recommended over chemical ones. Chemical sunscreens have the benefit of not leaving a white cast, but the chemical reaction to convert the UV rays, turns the UV into heat on the skin so your skin may feel hotter than usual if out in the sun with a chemical sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreens also have ingredients that tend to be more irritating to sensitive skin too.
A good mineral sunscreen that is SPF 50 and lightweight with a relatively minimal white cast is the Defender
Topical Tranexamic acid as a promising treatment for melasma https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4235096/
Melasma an up to date comprehensive review: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574745/