It is often said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. With a phrase like this so commonly used, people often try their utmost best to be beautiful in today’s society. Despite the many products that are readily available to consumers these days, there are still many persons who have various types of skin conditions and challenges that they see as a hindrance to being beautiful. One of the more popular of these is a condition normally referred to as Melasma.

The American Academy of Dermatology (n.d.) defined Melasma as a common skin problem that causes brown to gray-brown patches usually seen on the face. They stated that most people get it on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin, and above their upper lip and it also can appear on other parts of the body that get lots of sun, such as the forearms and neck. They went further to say that women are far more likely than men to get melisma (90 percent of people who develop Melasma are women). It is so common during pregnancy that Melasma is sometimes called “the mask of pregnancy.”

What causes Melasma?

The true reason for which person experience this condition is still very unclear to many. However there are many factors which medical professionals have listed as triggers for this condition. Cole wrote that “experts believe that the dark patches in melasma could be triggered by several factors, including pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy (HRT and progesterone), family history of melasma, race, and anti-seizure medications”. He also said that sunlight is considered one of the most important factors in the production of melasma.

The American Academy of Dermatology (n.d.) states that common triggers of Melasma include: excess sun exposure, changes in hormone and some skin care products. As it relates to skin care products and other drugs, Irimia & Gottschling wrote a journal article which stated “Drugs containing phototoxic agents, phenothiazines, and anticonvulsants have been particularly linked to melasma. However, cosmetics have been rarely considered in the list of causes of Melasma”.

Treating Melasma

Scientists have many theories about what causes Melasma, likewise there are many theories as what is used to treat the condition. Even though there are numerous treatment methods, the most common method of treatment is through the use of Hydroquinone (HQ). Hydroquinone may be in the forms of a cream, lotion, gel, or liquid. It can obtained over the counter and normally of a 2% concentration. Concentration may vary (as prescribed by a dermatologist) based on the severity of condition the patient is facing. Cole wrote that “Clinical studies show that creams containing 2% HQ can be effective in lightening the skin and are less irritating than higher concentrations of HQ for Melasma”.

There are numerous other ways or products used to treat Melasma, namely through the use of Tretinoin and corticosteroids, medical procedures and other topical medicines (azelaic acid or kojic acid). However there are drawbacks to some of these treatments, as there are possible side effects. These side effects include but not limited to: temporary skin irritation and exogenous ochronosis (he skin actually darkens while the bleaching agent is used). On a less frightening note, it is seen where Melasma may clear spontaneously without treatment. Other times, it may clear with sunscreen usage and sun avoidance. For some people, the discoloration with Melasma may disappear following pregnancy or if birth control pills and hormone therapy are discontinued.

As a recommendation, seek assistance from a dermatologists when treating melasma. The inappropriate use of over the counter products may worsen the issue. Wearing sunscreen and makeup such as YTS Mineral Foundation and Mineral Loose powder which have sun protection can help to prevent melasma from worsening.

American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Melasma. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/color-problems/melasma

Cole, G. W. (2018, April 11). Melasma Treatment, Causes & Home Remedies. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/melasma/article.htm#what_causes_melasma

Irimia, R., & Gottschling, M. (2016). Figure 2f from: Taxonomic revision of Rochefortia Sw. (Ehretiaceae, Boraginales). Biodiversity Data, 4(E7720). doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f