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Melasma is a type of skin hyperpigmentation that usually occurs on the cheeks, forehead, chin and upper lip. It may appear as a cluster of brown (light to dark) patches, or as a larger area with irregular contours.
A real skin imperfection, but without health consequences, it affects mainly women and to a lesser extent men. This skin disorder, also known as “chloasma”, occurs mainly in expectant mothers and, for this reason, it’s called “pregnancy mask“.
The causes of Melasma
The spots are due to hyperpigmentation, i.e. an excessive production of melanin, which is produced by our cells (melanocytes) to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. Although it’s not impossible to find this blemish in very fair-skinned people, the people most affected are phototypes III and IV, i.e. the darker ones, as they produce more melanin.
The causes of Melasma are not yet known in detail, but a number of factors have been identified that contribute to its appearance:
- sun exposure: UV rays stimulate the production of melanin, which is why Melasma tends to appear in spring and summer and then fades in autumn and winter;
- hormonal imbalances: this is why it occurs more often in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The use of a contraceptive pill with a high dose of estrogen can also contribute to the appearance of this blemish;
- genetic predisposition: some studies have identified a propensity for the appearance of Melasma spots in people who have family members with this problem;
- use of poor quality cosmetics or cosmetics containing perfume;
- use of trigger drugs such as certain antibiotics and cortisone, photosensitising substances that can hyperstimulate melanocytes following sun exposure. For this reason, it’s advisable to read the leaflets and, if the side effects include hyperpigmentation or the appearance of skin spots, avoid sun exposure while taking them;
- traumatic treatments such as waxing or laser hair removal, particularly in the area of the moustache and eyebrows (it is advisable to use a moisturising cream and protect the area for several weeks with an SPF 50+ sunscreen).
Treatment of Melasma
Melasma has no health consequences and is mainly an aesthetic problem. Unfortunately, no effective treatment has yet been found to resolve the problem definitively, so we can only talk about treatments that prevent or reduce the appearance of melasma or reduce the dark spots.
Melasma of the gravidarum type tends to disappear on its own within two to three months of giving birth. If the blemish is persistent, even for years, the dermatologist may prescribe specific treatments with depigmenting products containing, for example, retinoic acid and zelaic acid. Or treatments such as chemical peelings, laser therapy and microdermabrasion (procedures to be carried out only by qualified dermatologists).
There are also a number of cosmetic products that help even out the complexion and reduce dark spots on the face, such as chemical peelings and whitening creams with low percentages of acids (e.g. Glycolic Acid) that can be carried out at home, and sunscreens with colour pigments that perfect the complexion.
But the best treatment for Melasma is prevention, so it is important to protect the skin from UV rays all year round with sunscreens with a high SPF, which reduces the risk of its appearance, photoaging and skin precancerosis.