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How Many of These Facts About Melasma Do You Know?

Aug 17, 2007
Melasma is another name for hyperpigmentation. If you have dark patches of skin on your face or nody, you are probably dealing with this condition; you may know it as the mask of pregnancy or Chloasma.

Another term that you nay have heard is old age, or liver, spots. The face is usually the part of the body most affected by melasma, but it can appear on any part of the body that is regularly exposed to the sun.
Both scientific terms, chloasma and melasma, are derived from Greek words. Chloasma comes from a Greek word which means to be green, and melasma comes from a word that means black.

The condition is actually neither color, but black probably comes closer to describing it. It is too bad that it was not named after a word that meant to be brown! Whatever the case, people who are affected by it tend to be very uncomfortable with the condition.
Melasma is affected by hormone levels, which is why it happens so much in pregnancy. The use of birth control pills (or other hormonal birth control) can also cause melasma because they make your body mimic pregnancy.

Genetics is another factor that has to be taken into consideration, as is sun exposure. Freckles are a form of melasma that it genetically traced. When freckles are combined with another trigger (such as sun exposure), they increase in size and intensity. When the extra factor is removed, they return to their normal size and color.

Scarring due to abrasion, burns, acne, and other things can result in hyperpigmentation as well. Surgeries may also cause it. Keep in mind that not every injury to the skin or surgery is going to cause hyperpigmentation.

Melasma can affect anyone. The condition is known to all races and both genders but is more common in light brown the skin, like that of Hispanics (even though it is more obvious on lighter skin). Women are affected much more than men and youth seems to keep melasma at bay. The majority of women who experience melasma experience it during child bearing years. Geographic location also plays a part in determining who will be affected. People who live in the tropics, where the sun shines more year round and is intense, tend to have more trouble with melasma.

There are products designed to rid you of melasma. Many work, although it takes a long time. These have a bleaching agent in them which is called hydroquinone and are available for the general public to purchase without a prescription which is a 2% concentration. Prescription medicines that contain twice as much hydroquinone are available also. With any proven medication, it will take time for the melasma to be controlled.

This is due to two factors: the medication has to balance the melanin production and the affected skin has to grow off through its natural renewal process.

Your doctor may suggest an alternative treatment if you have a severe case. The most commonly prescribed treatment for these cases is a cream which is a tretinoin and cortisone combination. There is also a laser treatment which may or may not help. Because this can actually make the melasma worse in some people, it must be tested in a discrete area before full treatment is performed.

The first thing to do if you have melasma is to look for obvious sources in your life; this is most often sun exposure or hormonal imbalance. In either case, there are things that can be done. By always using a good, full spectrum sunscreen, you can avoid the effect of the suns rays. Hormones caused by pregnancy usually regulate themselves after birth and those caused by hormonal birth control methods can be regulated by stopping the birth control, opting for a form that does not involve hormones.

You will not see an immediate difference once you remove the trigger; it can take as long as 6 months or more, so give it plenty of time before you resort to medicinal forms of removal. Keep in mind that, no matter the method used, you will always need to use a good full spectrum sunscreen to protect yourself from recurrence. If hormones are a trigger you will have to avoid hormonal birth control methods.
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