What you need to know about melasma

womans face before and after melasma treatment
Victorian Dermal Group
Victorian Dermal Group
April 17, 2020
minute read

Find out how melasma treatments can reduce pigmentation

Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that can appear on the face, but can also affect other regions of the body such as the neck or forearms. It may make you feel self-conscious, and melasma can be exacerbated by the UV rays that are so hard to avoid in Australia.

While you can cover melasma using makeup, you might want a more permanent solution if it doesn't fade naturally in time.

Laser treatment at the Victorian Dermal Institute can reduce melasma pigmentation when over-the-counter options aren't effective.

What are the causes of melasma?

While the root cause of melasma isn't fully understood, melasma appears to be influenced by hormonal changes in the body. It has been linked to estrogen and progesterone sensitivity and is more likely to occur to women with darker skin tones.

  • Melasma can be triggered by birth control medication, pregnancy or hormone therapy.
  • Stress and thyroid disease may also contribute to melasma pigmentation.
  • Sun exposure also plays a role in melasma by acting on the melanocytes, the skin cells that control pigment.
women face with melasma

What are the symptoms of melasma?

If you are experiencing melsama, you may notice signs and symptoms such as brownish discolouration on your:

  • Cheeks
  • Forehead
  • Bridge of the nose
  • Chin

Having said that, melasma can appear on your neck and forearms. It's important to note that melasma does not cause physical harm to your body, but may affect the way you feel about how you appear.

Covering up melasma: how to do it

Using basic colour theory, you can successfully cover up melasma if it is causing you concern about the way you look. Melasma is brownish in colour, and brown is made up of red, yellow, and blue. Peach and orange sit directly opposite blue in the colour wheel, and when you apply opposite colours you can neutralise the appearance of brown pigmentation.

To effectively cover the appearance of melasma, apply a peach or orange toned concealer to the affected areas. Then apply your usual foundation, preferably with a beauty blender.

How to prevent melasma from developing

Melasma is most likely to develop when hormonal changes occur, and the skin is exposed to UV. The best way to reduce the likelihood of developing melasma is to avoid exposure to heat, infrared light and UV light. During your early 20s, and later, we recommend wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen and covering up where possible.

Make sure that when you are in the sun, you reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours, even if you are not outside but sitting near a window and exposed to the sun. It can also help to avoid hot environments like a sauna if you are susceptible to hyperpigmentation.

How can I treat melasma?

In some cases, melasma will clear up without treatment. If this doesn't happen, there are options to reduce the appearance of the pigmentation.

A professional skin clinic will assess your skin using the appropriate filters. Here, at Victorian Dermal Group, we use our specialised Clinical Imaging Solution to take photos of your skin. We then apply different filters to establish if you have differing levels of pigmentation. Your clinician can see the extent and how many layers of the skin are affected by melasma, and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

While melasma can be more challenging to treat than other types of hyperpigmentation, there are both at-home and in-clinic options for reducing its appearance. Treatment will depend on the severity of the melasma and on your skin type.

Don't despair if a treatment that has worked for someone you know hasn't been effective on your skin — you can speak to a skin specialist about the options that will work best for you.

Melasma treatments over the counter

For anyone experiencing melasma, the first product to include in your daily skin care routine is a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Remember to reapply it throughout the day when you're exposed to the sun to reduce the amount of UV light reaching your skin.

A vitamin C or serum or cream may help to reduce pigmentation. Your skin specialist may recommend a retinol product or azelaic acid for superficial melasma.

Other treatments which may help include:

  • Hydroquinone
  • Kojic acid
  • Niacinamide
women applying cream on her face

Salon treatments for melasma

If over-the-counter treatments haven't been effective and your melasma isn't fading naturally, there are in-salon treatments that can clear your skin.

Cosmelan treatment

This is a topical brightening treatment that helps to restore radiance and clarity to your skin. It acts to reduce blemishes caused by increased melanin production by fading the pigment and suppressing its production.

The mask is applied in the clinic and remains on the skin for 8-12 hours. You'll wash it off at home. Usually, one application will cause a noticeable improvement in your skin tone.  After the treatment, you'll need to follow up with a specific cream at home to maintain the results.

You should only have this done if you are able to avoid excessive sun exposure afterwards.

Laser treatment for melasma

Laser treatment can be effective in treating hyperpigmentation that is resistant to other types of treatment. It consists of extremely short pulses of high power that break up the pigmentation particles in the skin cells, which are then removed by the body's immune system.

It may take more than one treatment to achieve the clear skin that you want. Follow-up treatments are spaced around four weeks apart, to allow the immune system to process the dissolved pigment particles. You'll need to wear sunscreen throughout your laser treatment to prevent re-pigmentation of the treated area.

A trained skin clinician can help you to find the most effective treatment to reduce melasma. Book an appointment to find out how you can achieve clear skin.

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