What is Melasma and how is it treated?

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Melasma is a life-long condition that causes your skin to create patches of too much pigment.  It is more common in women, especially those with medium skin tones including Hispanic, Asian, or Mediterranean heritage. Melasma can be triggered or worsened by sun exposure, heat, and changes in hormones, such as pregnancy, puberty, menopause, or birth control.

The most important thing for melasma is staying out of the sun as much as possible. If you are going to be outside, it is important that you are wearing the right formulation sunscreen every day to prevent the sun from triggering more pigment. The best sunscreen for someone with melasma is one with only physical (also known as mineral) sunscreen active ingredients, not chemical sunscreen ingredients.  The two most common physical sunscreen active ingredients are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.  Common chemical sunscreen active ingredients include Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone, and Octinoxate. The science behind this is simple. Chemical sunscreens work to stop the effects of the sun's rays by converting the sun's UV energy into heat energy. As we just mentioned, heat can trigger melasma! On the other hand, physical sunscreens do just that - physically block the sun's UV energy from penetrating your skin. There is no heat triggered by this process, so your skin is not only protected from the sun's damaging rays but it also is not exposed to additional heat.

The pigment that has already developed can be improved with in-office treatments and a proper skincare regimen. One of the best in-office treatments for melasma is a series of VI Peels with the Precision Plus booster.  This unique chemical peel is specifically formulated with hydroquinone and kojic acid to treat stubborn melasma and other forms of hyperpigmentation.  The number of treatments needed will vary based on the severity of your melasma.

Your at-home skincare regimen is essential to improving your melasma. As we already discussed, the right sunscreen is essential.  In addition, there are multiple products used to stop the pigment production in its tracks and help reverse the pigment that has developed. The products include hydroquinone, also known as "bleaching cream," in addition to non-hydroquinone alternatives. We may also recommend retinol to help the penetration of the pigment product while also causing newer, healthier cells to come to the surface of your skin more quickly.

Some treatment providers mistake melasma for regular sun damage and try to treat it with IPL or lasers.  In most cases, we do not recommend IPL or lasers as a treatment for melasma.  There is a very fine line between improving the pigment associated with the melasma and risking the heat and light of the laser actually making the melasma worse.  We have seen amazing changes just with the use of the proper chemical peels and home care products to manage this chronic condition.

If you think you may have melasma and want to learn more, please schedule a consultation so we can evaluate your skin and discuss possible treatment options.

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