Categories: Skin care

Understanding and Managing Melasma

With spring already fading (at least on this side of the Sahara) and the sounds (and heat) of summer slowly…

With spring already fading (at least on this side of the Sahara) and the sounds (and heat) of summer slowly but surely beckoning, it’s time to start thinking of ways to protect our skin as we enjoy our time in the sun. You see, the skin, if not well protected from the sun, has a way of attracting a myriad of skin issues like hyperpigmentation, sunburn and what not. So, in my continued search for answers to skin issues, a while back I had a chat with Olympia Carmen, a leading laser and skincare expert in Dubai, on issues surrounding Melasma as well as Melasma treatment.

What is Melasma?

Melasma (or chloasma) is a common disorder of hyperpigmented patches on the skin, mostly on sun-exposed areas like the face and neck. Although Melasma is seen in both men and women of all races and skin types, women are most commonly affected.

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Causes of Melasma

The main cause of chloasma is not fully understood but exposure to UV radiation, genetic factors, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, cosmetics, and photo-toxic drugs seem to play an important role in the appearance of this debilitating – from an aesthetic point of view – skin disorder.

How common is Melasma?

This patchy skin disorder can affect all types of skin but definitely, countries with stronger sun and UV radiation for most parts of the year like the Middle East have higher incidences of it compared to other areas where the sun shines less.

What are the signs and symptoms?

It is proven that UV exposure to the skin causes oxidative damage to its components causing the skin to have “rusty” colored patches of melanin deposits in the affected areas. But the affected areas include the malar area (upper cheeks), mandibular and centro-facial area. Histologically, increased pigmentation may be situated in the epidermis (surface) or deeper in the dermis, or in both.

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Options for Melasma Treatment

Current forms of Melasma treatment can be divided into two categories: Local or external treatment, and general or internal treatment.

How do these forms of Melasma treatment work?

Melasma Treatment: Ways of Managing and Treating Hyper Pigmented SkinExternal Melasma treatment includes the application of hypopigmentation agents like hydroquinone/tretinoin, with the effect of inhibiting new production of melanin and exfoliation of the damaged layer on the surface with the use of chemical peels and laser therapy.

The internal Melasma treatment when used is sustained by oral administration of vitamin C or/and vitamin E and intravenous injections with glutathione. The results are better and efficient although the side-effects must be considered. Also, not everyone suffering from this skin condition is a good candidate for this treatment.  In the choice of therapies, the specialist must establish the risk-benefit ratio for each therapeutic modality and the patient’s history and lifestyle.

On the other hand, some people go for skin whitening creams bought over the counter, as well as other bleaching products. If these products are used for a very long period of time they will have some side-effects which can lead to skin atrophy, a risk of depigmentation, allergic contact dermatitis, and ochronosis among other things.

How can one manage this?

Melasma caused by hormonal changes, medication and continuous exposure to the sun can be improved and with patient home care rules to follow, can be kept under control. By going this route, the condition will not become worse nor will it minimize.

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What can one do to protect him/herself from Melasma?

It is very important for people to understand that most forms of Melasma treatment are sometimes long and the attention given to apply SPF sunscreen should be taken seriously. Not to forget that sometimes by excluding some medications (e.g. contraceptive pills) or by regularly using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, the results would be amazing.

Have you ever suffered from this skin issue or any other skin pigmentation issue? If yes, what form of Melasma treatment did you use? Share in the comments below.

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