"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Dark spots on the face could be melasma.

You could have heard that melasma is named the “mask of pregnancy” since it is typically triggered by a rise in hormones in pregnant women. But while the condition could be common amongst pregnant women, you don't must be pregnant to experience melasma.

Melasma could be difficult to treat.

Although melasma is just not painful and poses no health risk, it could cause significant emotional distress. Dr. Kurosh says the condition could be difficult to treat, and there's a variety of misinformation about its causes.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you're more prone to have melasma if you might have a darker skin tone, probably because your skin naturally has more energetic pigment-producing cells. Melasma appears when these cells turn out to be overactive and produce an excessive amount of pigment in certain areas of the skin. Melasma is more common in women, but it could affect men as well. It could have a genetic component, because it often runs in families.

Causes of Melasma

Dr. Korosh says there are lots of different causes of melasma. Two specifically stand out:

  • Hormones (including hormonal drugs). Fluctuations in certain hormones may cause melasma, which is why it often occurs while pregnant. Dr. Gilchrist says melasma may occur while you either start or stop hormonal contraception, including contraception pills, or while you take hormone alternative therapy.
  • Sun exposure. The sun is the largest offender in triggering melasma. “Underlying factors such as hormonal changes may not show up until a person goes on vacation to a southern location like Florida, or during the summer when they spend more time in the sun,” says Dr. Korosh. “The sun is a major increasing factor, whatever the underlying cause.” Melasma could be caused or worsened not only by the sun's rays, but in addition by heat and visual light. This signifies that even sunscreens that protect against skin cancer aren't enough to stop melasma, Dr. Korosh says. This makes treating melasma a challenge, especially throughout the summer months.

Finding the Cause of Melasma

The first step is to verify that the dark spots are indeed melasma and take a look at to discover the cause. Melasma treatment is unlikely to be effective if the underlying cause is just not addressed, says Dr. Korosh. “Even the oral treatments that are now available for severe cases of melasma are really pointless to do, if there's still a trigger,” she says. “We take a thorough medical history to find out what's causing the melasma,” says Dr. Korosh. Then adjustments are made. If hormonal contraception is causing the issue, a lady may consider switching to a non-hormonal option, corresponding to a copper intrauterine device.

Medications and treatment of conditions

Some commonly used options are topical retinols and retinoid treatments, that are applied to the skin to assist speed up your body's natural cell turnover process. This can assist the dark spots clear up faster on their very own. In addition, some doctors may prescribe bleaching agents, corresponding to hydroquinone, which work by blocking melanin production. But while hydroquinone products could be purchased over-the-counter, they need to only be used under a physician's supervision and only on dark areas of skin. “High doses of hydroquinone can cause white patches on the skin,” says Dr. Gilchrist. The drug may additionally cause skin darkening in some cases. Other topical lightening agents (corresponding to kojic acid or azelaic acid) could also be advisable. Other treatment options may include chemical peels, laser treatments, and microneedling of the skin. But in the mean time they're not reliably effective, says Dr. Gilchrist.

An essential a part of treatment: protect the skin from the sun.

Avoiding the sun from worsening the condition could be very essential. This may require extreme diligence. “The sun is more powerful than any medicine I can give you,” says Dr. Korosh. The most significant solution to clear up melasma is to make use of a robust sunscreen. But be mindful that not all sunscreens are created equal. To prevent melasma, you wish a sunscreen that not only blocks the sun's rays, but in addition its light and warmth, corresponding to zinc or titanium dioxide. Chemical sunscreens don't offer the identical protection for melasma, and in some cases, they will even trigger allergic reactions that could make melasma worse, she says.