Do you have an uneven complexion? Are there patches of dark spots on your skin? Did a recent pregnancy unleash a brown ‘mask’ on your face? All these signs sound like you might be suffering from a skin condition called melasma or hyper-pigmentation. For pregnant women, the condition is also referred to as the dreaded mask of pregnancy!
Studies show that 90% of the people suffering from melasma are women. This might be because the discoloration is linked with hormonal imbalance.
What are the signs of melasma?
You can diagnose melasma by the uneven complexion and discoloration on your face. These patches are brownish in color and darker than your natural skin tone. Unlike other blemishes, they appear asymmetrically on both sides of your face.
The patches are found on the:
In rare cases, they might appear on your forearms and neck and various parts of the skin that regularly get exposed to the sun.
What causes melasma?
There isn’t a clear-cut answer to this question since dermatologists and researchers haven’t been able to identify one variable that has the biggest impact on skin damage. Instead, they have gathered a list of things that might cause the dark patches on your skin.
The causes include:
- The harmful UV light emitted by the sun as it controls skin pigmentation
- Sexual hormone sensitivity (estrogen and progesterone), an imbalance usually induced by the use of contraception pills, pregnancy, and chemotherapy that uses hormones
- Thyroid diseases
- Genetic deficiency
Furthermore, people who are dark skinned have more tendencies to acquire this skin problem than those who are fair-skinned.
Is it harmful?
Melasma is not harmful to the skin. However, like other skin blemishes, they do make one self-conscious and a center of unwanted attention.
How can you treat it?
Fortunately for some women, melasma vanishes on its own. This is because the factor that caused the melasma may have disappeared too. It is most likely the case for pregnant women as their melasma was a side effect of hormonal imbalance in their bodies.
What about the rest of us? Other women may have to live with this skin condition for a long time.
The treatment will depend on the kind of melasma you have.
- It could be treated by applying 2% hydroquinone (HQ) creams that neutralize the pigmentation
- Topical steroids may be used to adjust hormone
- Chemical peels to anti-oxidize the effects of sun exposure
- Dermabrasion to modify the dermal layers under the external surface of the skin
Other than that women suffering from melasma are advised to:
- Religiously apply sunscreen
- Wear large brimmed hats when they go out
- Use foundation to lighten the dark patches
In short, sun protection is a must to prevent or dilute the signs of melasma.
Be sure to seek advice from a skin care specialist if the problem persists.