Uneven complexion can really affect your self-esteem. I know this because I’ve suffered from it before myself. After my son was born I was dealing with a combination of sun damage and melasma, and my skin looked horrible. I was determined to find a solution to the problem, which is actually what inspired me to be where I am today.
I am so excited to introduce to you one of our amazing team members, Denise Wilson, who is going to fill us in on all things Melasma! Denise is a Licensed Esthetician, Laser Specialist and CMA. Her natural talent as an Esthetician is enhanced by 20 years of experience working side by side with some of the top dermatologists and plastic surgeons in St. Louis. Here she is…
Are those dark spots on your face indicating something beyond sun damage?
I’m Denise, a laser Specialist here at Racquel Aesthetics and in my 20 years career as an esthetician, like clockwork, as soon as summer hits people come flooding into the office for help with their pigment. In most cases, it’s just sun damage which requires only a few laser treatments. But are things so easy when the cause behind the pigmentation is melasma?
What is Melasma?
Melasma/Chloasma is a skin disorder which causes irregular black or greyish brown patchy hyperpigmentation in the sun-exposed areas of your body. The term melasma is coined from the Greek word “Melas” which means black or dark. Since it affects a lot of women during their pregnancy, it is also popularly known as “The Mask of Pregnancy”.
Symptoms of Melasma
Melasma is characterized by:
- Patchy hyperpigmentation in the affected areas, always darker than your natural skin tone.
- These patches are flat and often black or greyish brown.
- The affected areas are neither itchy nor painful.
- The patches often look symmetrical, which means these are equally distributed on both sides of the face.
What Areas Can Be Affected By Melasma?
Melasma predominantly affects the face. It commonly involves the cheeks, nose, forehead, chin, jawline and upper lips. It can also be seen in the neck, forearm and sometimes other sun-exposed areas.
Who is At Risk?
- Women in their reproductive age group, i.e, 20-50 years of age are more likely to get melasma.
- Almost 90% of melasma cases are females
- People with darker skin tones are found to be more vulnerable.
- People who have a melasma patient in their family are 50% more prone to get the disorder.
- Pregnant women are likely to be more at risk for melasma.
- People undergoing regular sun exposure are a common target for melasma.
What Triggers Melasma?
Melasma occurs due to the increased activity of the melanocyte cells that produce the melanin pigment. Common Melasma Triggers are:
- Exposure to Sunlight and heat: The UV rays of sunlight cause a significant increase in melanin synthesis in our skin, leading to hyperpigmentation in melasma. Studies have shown that heat increases pigment production by dilating underlying blood vessels.
- Pregnancy: The surge in the production of the hormones Estrogen and Progesterone is thought to be responsible for triggering melasma in pregnant women.
- Artificial Tanning: The potent UV rays used in a tanning bed can lead to more melanin production in the skin, causing Melasma.
- Medications: Some medications are notorious for triggering melasma by making the skin more photosensitive. Oral contraceptive pills, antiepileptic medications, some blood pressure medications, retinoids etc. are some of these medications.
- Thyroid disorders: Disorders to the thyroid gland are capable of triggering melasma on our skin.
- LED screens: The blue wavelength light emitted by these screens is a possible trigger for the increase in melanin synthesis.
- Stress: Stress causes a rise in the hormone Cortisol in our body. Cortisol boosts the production of melanin in our body and thus can trigger melasma.
- HRT during menopause: Hormone replacement therapy during menopause is another common trigger for melasma.
Melasma is certainly not a fatal skin condition. But the appearance can negatively impact the self-confidence of an individual, hence treatment becomes necessary in most cases.
Treatment of melasma varies from person to person. Depending on the skin type, race, areas involved, associated factors and the stubbornness of the lesions, the treatment plan is determined.
Topical Options at Home
Lightening products: Used solely or in combination for reducing hyperpigmentation in melasma. Besides interfering with the melanocytic activity, these agents cause a faster shedding of the damaged cells and replacement by fresh new cells at the epidermal level. As a result, you get smooth, baby-soft skin post-treatment. Azelaic acid, Kojic acid, L-Ascorbic acid, Mandelic Acid, Retinoids, Arbutin, Niacinamide, Hydroquinone, Licorice etc. are the commonly used topical ingredients to treat melasma.
We are here to help you with a range of topical applications to get rid of pigmentation at the convenience of your home. KOJI-C pads, Radiant Vitamin C Serum, Forever Young Retinol 50/100, Lumify pads, Lux Cream, mandelic serum and pads etc. are some of my personal favorites.
Sun Protection: As melasma tends to worsen with sun exposure, it is necessary to use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF30 or more during daylight. A mineral sunscreen is a preferred choice as it physically blocks both UVA and UVB rays before damaging the skin. Sunscreens containing Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide or Iron oxide are the best options in this regard.
In Office Treatments
Laser Resurfacing: Laser therapy is preserved for the most persistent lesions of melasma, not affected by the chemical treatments. At Racquel Aesthetics, we offer the Moxi laser, the latest non-ablative fractionated laser to get rid of the toughest melasma patches. The non-invasive treatment not only ensures the removal of hyperpigmented spots but also delivers flawless, glowing and rejuvenated skin that you always longed for.
Chemical Peels: The chemical peels exfoliate the topmost layer of skin to reveal the fresh, youthful skin underneath. Besides, these peels also dissolve the glue holding the dead skin debris and cause an increase in collagen production. This results in brighter, more even tone and glowing skin. The peel strength and number of treatments vary from person to person to ensure an optimum outcome. I suggest you try the Lumify or Lux peel, our most popular peels, to correct melasma. Both of these peels address the hyperpigmented and reveal radiant, even-toned skin at the end.
Microneedling with PRP: Microneedling (collagen induction therapy) treatment creates Micro-Punctures in the skin using microneedles which produce a controlled skin injury without actually damaging the epidermis. PRP is added at the end of the treatment for optimal results. When the skin begins to heal, there is a significant reduction in hyperpigmented patches.
Can I Prevent Melasma From ReOccuring?
Even after a successful clearance, melasma may recur at some point, much to your dismay. To maintain the clearance, you have to follow some guidelines :
- Using a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher during the daytime and reapply every few hours.
- Avoid possible triggers such as sun, heat, saunas, hot yoga, and it is recommended to use an alternative to birth control pills or avoid medications that cause the skin to be more photosensitive.
- Consistency with Medical Grade skin care at home and in office procedures will help to maintain your results.
With the help of the right skincare and treatment plan melasma is very much treatable and manageable. Please reach out if you are struggling with Melasma and I will get you set up with a treatment plan.