Now that the short days of winter are here, you may have noticed your summer tan has faded, but patches of brown skin discoloration have been left behind.
Hyperpigmentation is a very common and usually harmless condition in which areas of skin become darker. The darkening we see is caused by excess melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin color. This increase in melanin can be triggered by a number of factors including sun exposure, hormonal changes, advanced age, and skin injuries. Hyperpigmentation can appear in many forms, such as freckles, “liver” spots, sunspots, and/or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (such as acne scars).
One form of hyperpigmentation is called melasma. Melasma is similar in appearance to sunspots, but typically presents as larger patches that can appear on the cheeks, bridge of nose, forehead, and above the upper lip. It also can appear on other sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the neck and forearms. Melasma can be quite distressing for many, as the pigmented patches are larger, more noticeable, and difficult to disguise.
Though melasma is a common condition, it is differentiated from other hyperpigmentation due to it having an underlying cause that is believed to be related to hormones. This is why melasma is more common in women and is sometimes referred to as the “mask of pregnancy”, as it can first appear during pregnancy or when starting birth control or hormone therapy. Additionally, those who have darker skin types are also more likely to develop melasma, as their skin has more active melanocytes, which are the cells the product pigment. Though it is most commonly seen in women, men can also be affected, as there is thought to be a genetic component as well.
Though melasma’s underlying cause is thought to be related to hormone changes, it also has triggers that exacerbate the development of pigment such as sun, heat, and other visible light. With sun and heat being major exacerbating factors, it is very common for a person who lives in Florida to develop this condition.
Melasma is also unique because it is notoriously difficult to treat. Where other types of hyperpigmentation can be treated easily with topical creams and light/heat based therapies, melasma is more difficult due to the underlying cause. As each person’s hormones are unique to them, each person’s melasma responds differently to treatment!
Believe it or not, the best treatment for melasma is being diligent about proper sunscreen use. It is important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that stops all the different wavelengths of light from breaking through. Chemical sunscreens unfortunately don’t offer the needed protection for melasma, so sunscreen choice is very important! Look for sunscreens that contain only zinc and/or titanium dioxide and be sure to wear it all year round. Our favorite broad spectrum sunscreen is Image’s daily hydrating moisturizer SPF 30+.
Once a good sun protection routine is established, other treatment options may be explored to help lighten the pigment. Some treatment options that we offer here at White Orchid Spa for all types of hyperpigmentation, including melasma include:
- Home Care
- Skin Medica Retinol Complex
- VI derm HQ 4% (by prescription)
- Skin Medica Lytera 2.0
- Image Iluma Brightening Serum
- Custom Blended White Orchid Spa Prescriptives – Coming Early 2021
- VI Precision
- This peel is a medium depth peel that helps lightening pigment and stimulate collagen production for smoother brighter appearing skin. The VI peel has very minimal downtime with results being seen within 7 days of treatment.
- Complexion Correction Peel MD
- This peel is a more intense treatment that is specific for stubborn hyperpigmentation, such as melasma. It includes a peel that is applied in office that delivers amazing depigmentation action as well as an at-home treatment to amplify the results.
- Halo Laser
- The first hybrid fractional laser, Halo delivers non-ablative and ablative wavelengths to the same treatment zone resulting in a better treatment experience. This treatment is more comfortable than traditional fractional resurfacing and has faster healing. It helps address wrinkles, fine lines, sun damage, pigmented lesions, and enlarged pores. As it is a light/heat based treatment, it is not our first choice for those who suffer from melasma, but it can work well for others who are concerned with hyperpigmentation and other signs of aging.
- The latest technology in IPL (Intense pulsed light), BBL uses cutting edge technology to improve the overall appearance of your skin. BBL uses light energy to heat the upper layers of your skin to target pigmented lesions and stimulate collagen production. BBL is also a light/heat based treatment, so much like Halo, it is not our first choice for those who suffer from melasma, but it can work well for others who are concerned with hyperpigmentation and other signs of aging.
If you suffer from hyperpigmentation or melasma, please don’t hesitate to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss treatment options that would be best for you.