Melasma - what it is caused by and what you can do about it

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General health (2)      Womens health (2)     
Melasma is the brown patches of pigmentation on the cheeks, upper lip and forehead formed on the skin as a result of hormonal changes. Ninety percent of cases are found in women, with nearly 50% experiencing it when they are pregnant which is why it is also called the pregnancy mask. It is also common in those who have an early menopause and those taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.

Melasma can be faint to extremely visible, making it look like the person has a beard or moustache. The skin can take several months to go back to its unpigmented state if the hormones go back to normal. While not permanent it can greatly effect a individual’s self esteem. In these instances effective treatment is recommended.

Melasma on forehead
Melasma can be found on the forehead

What is it caused by?
The patches of brown pigmentation found on the skin is caused by large amounts of melanin which is produced as a result in the estrogenic hormones, sun exposure and occasionally can be triggered by certain creams.

People with naturally pigmented skin are more prone to melasma including those with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Hispanic or Asian descent.

What are the effects?
The brown pigmentation itself does not have an effect on the skin, however it does have a huge impact on the persons self esteem and confidence. Initially the person may not even notice the subtle changes in the skin as they appear almost light brown or dirty-like and the person doesn’t notice it. The skin then darkens and it becomes more noticeable.

To those effected it can be surprising and can can cause a decrease in self esteem, confidence and may trigger anxiety, depression and social avoidance. Personally I didn’t notice the changes in my skin at first, my doctor noticed it. I gradually felt more embarrassed once they became darker, even though it was not something I could control.

If you are not sure how this would feel imagine you are a female and you have smooth hairless skin. Over time you start to develop brown patches on the skin and now it looks like you have a beard. What would people do in the supermarket or at your child’s school when they see you? Would they stare? How would that make you feel?

Melasma on forehead
Melasma can effect self confidence

Can you prevent it?
Melasma can be largely reduced by the use of a broad spectrum sunscreen with a UVA and UVB blocker and practicing sun safe practices daily, irrespective of the weather conditions. This includes wearing a large broad brimmed hat.

What can you do about it?
Pigment fading treatment in the form of hydroquinone is effective. It is usually recommended by a dermatologist and can be delayed until after pregnancy if necessary.

There are a number of products on the market that can help to brighten the skin without the need of a dermatologist. Choosing a brand that is safe, high quality and clinically tested safe, high quality and clinically tested is essential for a good result.

Melasma on forehead
Before and after photos using Rodan Fields REVERSE Regimen

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