Melasma

What is it?

Melasma, also known as chloasma, appears as a blotchy, brownish pigmentation on the face that develops slowly and fades with time. The pigmentation is due to overproduction of melanin by the pigment cells, melanocytes. Melasma is most commonly triggered by ovarian disorders and can be related to menopause or pregnancy, although it is infrequently seen in men. The exact size and tone of the spots vary from person to person, but melasma generally manifests in larger, erratic patches a few shades darker than the skin, much like a birth mark or freckles.

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What are the causes melasma?

There is a genetic predisposition to melasma. Triggers include:

  • Sun exposure.
  • Pregnancy – the pigment often fades a few months after delivery.
  • Scented or deodorant soaps, toiletries and cosmetics – a phototoxic reaction.
  • Unknown factors, when it arises in apparently healthy, normal, non-pregnant women.
  • Hormonal contraceptives, including oral contraceptive pills and injected progesterone.

How can it be prevented?

  • Discontinuing hormonal contraception (if proven to be the cause).
  • Use of a mild cleanser and if the skin is dry, a light moisturizer. This may not be suitable for those with acne.
  • Year-round sun protection. Use a broad-spectrum very high protection factor sunscreen with reflectant and apply it to the whole face. Alternatively, use a make-up containing sunscreen.

What are the treatments?

In order to successfully treat melasma, great discipline with regards to continuous use of sun protection is required. Based upon the severity of the condition a variety of treatments are available such as: bleaching and topical creams, chemical peels and lasers. These treatments can inhibit or remove the formation of melanin by the melanocytes. Our physicians will determine which product or procedure will best suit your needs.

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