Melasma: What Are Your Options?

Melasma is a skin pigmentation problem wherein an area on the skin becomes darker than its surrounding skin and is alternately called chloasma. The term chloasma is most used when indicating melasma obtained throughout the span of pregnancy. A melasma is a brownish area characterized by flatness and having irregular borders. The frequent places where melasma forms include the cheeks, chin, forehead, nose and lips. But this is the only problem in having melasma – the bothersome patch – and not tenderness, itching or tendency to develop into cancer. Melasma affects more women – including women that are pregnant, using contraception or using medications that are part of a hormonal replacement therapy – than men.

It takes a while before melasma forms. Just like many other diseases, the elusive reason for the development of melasma has ever since evaded the specialists’ grip. Of the probable causes of melasma, the most critical and the most well-known is the extra manufacture of the pigment melanin caused by the skin’s prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Another is the overproduction of melanin caused by the hormones estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy or when one is using contraceptives or hormonal replacement drugs containing these hormones. Another influential cause is the history of developing melasma in the family. Another cause is having a disorder involving the thyroid glands which leads to an excess production of the hormone that stimulates the melanocytes – the cells that produce melanin.

If you have melasma, you can now decide to undergo any of the following recommended treatment options. One is through the use of topical creams containing chemical compounds such as hydroquinone, tretinoin, or azelaic acid. Hydroquinone’s popularity rests on its ability to stop tyrosinase functioning which then stops the turnout of melanin. The available concentrations of hydroquinone in topical creams are two percent, four percent and higher than four percent. When you opt to use higher concentrations of hydroquinone, be informed that this not only intensifies its effectiveness but it also increases your risks of experiencing the adverse effects. Tretinoin’s mode of action, on the other hand, is through the increased manufacture of collagen and the removal of keratin on the skin’s epidermis – the topmost layer. But tretinoin used alone is not as effective as hydroquinone. It is therefore combined with hydroquinone. Azelaic acid, a stronger skin lightener than two percent hydroquinone, works by preventing the melanocytes from functioning properly and therefore, decreasing melaning. Their common ground: appearance of skin irritation, itching and redness as their side effects. Another treatment option is the use of chemical peels to gently exfoliate the skin and therefore remove the discoloration. Here, the type of peel depends on the doctor’s assessment of the individual. Another type of exfoliating the skin is the dermabrasion which uses a vacuum and a handheld scraper instead of chemicals. Another treatment regimen is laser therapy but which does not generate successful outcomes and at the same time, increases your risks for acquiring possible complications. But these treatments do not come without a cost – most result to the development of scars, death of tissues and even the recurrence of the hyperpigmented skin. Moreover, they are much more expensive. Therefore, doctors still recommend topical creams containing hydroquinone despite few reported side effects.

But no matter what treatment you choose, always remember that effects are not achieved overnight. Since these treatments limit melanin, you are more prone to the sun’s damaging effects necessitating the need for complete sun avoidance while the treatment is ongoing.

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