Melasma usually affects women, appearing as a brown patch that’s very visible on your face. If you think you have melasma, please contact Dr. Robert Topham at Holladay Dermatology & Aesthetics before you use over-the-counter products because they may worsen the problem. If you have any skin concerns, call his office in Holladay, Salt Lake City, Utah, or book an appointment for a melasma evaluation and expert treatment.
Melasma is a disorder in which melanin, the pigment that gives your skin color, causes dark brown to gray-brown patches on your skin. It commonly occurs on the face, but melasma discolorations can develop on your arms, hands, neck, and other places where your skin is exposed to sunlight.
Ultraviolet light from natural sunlight or a tanning bed is the most common trigger. Hormone fluctuations, birth control pills, and hormone replacement therapy also cause melasma. When dark patches appear due to hormone changes during pregnancy, they’re called chloasma, or the mask of pregnancy. You can also develop melasma by using skin care products that irritate your skin.
Melasma can clear up on its own, especially if it was caused by hormones or sunlight that are eliminated. Many people, however, have melasma for years. When your melasma persists, Dr. Topham may recommend one of the following topical medications that affect the biochemical process responsible for melasma patches:
When you use hydroquinone regularly, it reverses melasma spots. You’ll also need to use sunscreen to maintain your results because sunlight makes the same area darken again.
While topical tretinoin reduces the appearance of melasma, it takes about 24 weeks to see improvement. Other types of retinoids that may work for your skin include adapalene, tazarotene and topical isotretinoin.
All three substances lighten dark patches of melasma. Azelaic may be as effective as hydroquinone, but it has a better impact when mixed with tretinoin or glycolic acid.
The PICO Genesis uses lasers to safely remove patches of melasma. The laser operates at a wavelength that only affects the discolorations, so the surrounding skin isn’t harmed. The high power of the laser can destroy pigments, breaking them into such small pieces that they’re absorbed and eliminated by your body.