More than six million people in the United States live with melasma – patches of tan, blue-gray, or brown skin. About 90 percent of those cases are women, 20 to 50 years of age. It is not physically uncomfortable, nor a medical hazard. However, melasma typically appears on the upper cheeks, forehead, upper lip, and chin; sometimes on the neck and forearms as well. Since those areas are quite visible, this discoloration impacts your appearance and emotional well-being.
Women (and men to a much lesser degree) of Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian, Latin, Mediterranean, and North African heritage are most prone to hyperpigmentation. Their naturally darker skin tone contains more active melanocytes, color producing skin cells, than lighter skin. These active cells already produce extra pigment, and that action increases when cells are stimulated by sun exposure or fluctuating hormones.
Although research hasn’t yet uncovered the exact cause of melasma (why some people get it and others do not), we know that exposure to ultra violet light is commonly a trigger. Other factors in the development of melasma and hyperpigmentation include:
- Pregnancy. This is so common that melasma is also called chloasma-“the mask of pregnancy.”
- Oral contraceptives.
- Hormone replacement therapy.
- Phototoxic drugs, which make skin more sensitive to sunlight.
- Anti-seizure medications.
- Cosmetics or products that irritate the skin.
- Family history of hyperpigmentation.
In some cases, melasma may clear spontaneously, usually when it is caused by oral contraceptives or pregnancy and those conditions change. When the dark spots do not fade naturally, you need specialized treatment.
Dr. Vivian Bucay puts extensive experience and state of the art technology to work refining discoloration, but only after thoughtful evaluation of your skin condition and type. She takes into consideration your level of concern, the degree to which melasma has affected the appearance of your skin, and the total area requiring treatment. Then she will recommend a plan tailored to your needs. It will begin with daily sunscreen – a must. She may prescribe topical treatment with professional strength creams containing hydroquinone, azelaic acid, retinoids, kolic acid, corticosteroids, or glycolic acid to bleach the dark spots. Dr. Bucay may even recommend Heliocare, an oral supplement with antioxidant activity that can reduce the effects of ultraviolet rays on the skin and aid in skin repair. Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, intense pulsed light therapy, and fractional skin resurfacing may also be effective in restoring natural skin tone.
In addition to administering precise treatment to eliminate discoloration, our experienced staff provides guidance on protecting your skin from further occurrences. For example, those prone to melasma should use high quality mineral-based makeup, and wear sunscreen every day. UV rays reach the skin even through clouds, so daily protection is necessary for a beautiful, glowing complexion.
Our goal is to provide relief from melasma and hyperigmentation through an ideal treatment plan, so you may regain confidence in your appearance, knowing that you have radiant skin. Schedule a compassionate, personalized consultation with Dr. Bucay today.