Melasma: Causes and Treatment Options

By Kaitlyn, MedSpa NP, and Alison, Licensed Esthetician & Cosmetologist

With the high heat and humidity these days, we’re seeing a lot of clients coming into our MedSpa struggling with Melasma. Another related condition we’re seeing is hyperpigmentation, which can oftentimes be confused with Melasma. Today, we’re going to walk you through just what Melasma is, why it happens, and what treatment options there are!

Melasma vs. Hyperpigmentation

Alison: “So let’s start with- what’s the difference between hyperpigmentation and Melasma?”

Kaitlyn: “Absolutely! Hyperpigmentation is really just a form of sun damage. Typically it’s freckles, or just sun spots, whereas Melasma appears very patchy. It’s almost as if all the freckles on your face combine and form a patch. Today, we’re just going to focus on Melasma. 

The most common areas for Melasma are the forehead, around the eyes (almost as if you had tan lines from wearing sunglasses), and you can also get it on your upper lip. Some people actually even get it on their neck, chest, back, or even arms. 

90% of people who have Melasma are females. Some men can get it, but it is not very common. The reason why mostly females get it is because hormones play a large role in the cause. A lot of women will notice it when they’re pregnant, starting birth control pills, or when they’re breastfeeding. Since thyroid is also a hormone in the body, imbalances with the thyroid gland have also been found to cause melasma.

When looking into treatments, it is important to consider the pros and cons of staying on birth control because your melasma will never fully go away while still on birth control.”

Skincare Products that Help

Alison: “There are treatment options for Melsama, though?”

Kaitlyn: “Yes, absolutely! So I would encourage you to first determine what is causing it and whether you can remove that factor or not. Obviously if you’re pregnant, you have to wait until you’re done being pregnant before your skin’s going to get better.

First, let’s talk about skincare products! They can play a large part in calming your Melasma. You definitely want to have products in your skincare regimen that contain Vitamin C, and even some lightening or brightening agents like Hydroquinone if appropriate for your skin. 

Two of my favorite lines for Melasma are SkinBetter and ZO- they have wonderful products. It’s good to start using these products to get your Melasma to lighten up. The lighter your pigment is, the better results you’re going to have when you start doing actual skincare treatments.”

Skincare Treatments for Melasma

Alison: “Aside from skincare products, what treatments help most with Melasma?”

Kaitlyn: “Something important to note is that heat will flare Melasma. You need to be very, very careful what treatments you’re doing because a lot of treatments like lasers involve heat. 

Our favorite treatment for Melasma is called Halo, which is in fact a laser, but there is a fine-tuned setting with the device where you get enough heat to destroy the pigment without causing it to flare up.” 

Click here to learn more about Halo!

“You can do peels, but typically with Melasma, you have that pigment superficially and also really, really deep in your skin. Peels can only go so far into your skin- they’re not going to be able to reach that deep pigment that you have there.”

Alison: “Right! So you have to go down with a laser to really target that pigment.”

Kaitlyn: “Absolutely. And then sunscreen plays the biggest role. Like I said, heat is going to flare up your Melasma, but also just any exposure to UV rays. You want to make sure you have sunscreen on every single day (even cloudy days).

Look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is the main ingredient in most physical and mineral sunscreens. Mineral and physical sunscreens create a physical blockade on the skin which prevents UV rays from entering.  When UV rays enter the skin, excess heat is added which will flare melasma.  Therefore, it’s really important to make sure you have a high-quality, chemical-free sunscreen on your face. We highly recommend EltaMD UV Pure and UV Elements or Revision Skincare Intellishade TruPhysical.”

To learn more about the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens (along with why you should be avoiding chemical ones at all costs), click here to check out our blog!

Alison: “So clearly there are some options to treat your Melasma- skincare products and actual treatments!”

Kaitlyn: “Yes definitely!”

First Step for Treating?

Alison: “It sounds the best first step is to schedule a free skincare consultation with us before starting any new product or treatment?”

Kaitlyn: “Of course. All skin types are different and melasma can be different for everyone. If you’re struggling with Melasma or Hyperpigmentation we can assess your individual skin conditions or needs, and decide on what treatment plan would be best for you! All you have to do is call us at (513)-791-9474 to schedule yours with us today!”

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