Melasma Unmasked!

Article By Karen Ruiz

The first time I heard of melasma was a few years ago, after returning from vacation I had been laying out by the pool (with sunscreen!) and returned to my room at the end of the day with a brown, patchy spot right above my lip! My “sunstache” eventually faded with time, but I was perplexed at the whole experience. I now know that about 6 million other women in the US alone suffer from this “mask” of marks as well. If you’re seeing spots, read on to find out about melasma.

Don’t hide behind a mask!  Treat melasma so you can put your best face forward.

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a condition that happens when melanocytes (the cells that give skin its color) become overactive. This process is started by either a surge in hormones (such as during pregnancy or from using the Pill), or from too much exposure to UV light. It occurs much more frequently in women than in men, especially those with more brown in their skin tones (Hispanics,Indian Asian, Mediterranean backgrounds). Although it can be hereditary, there is no specific indicator that a person will develop melasma. The spots generally form patches along the skin, typically over the bridge of the nose, on the forehead, above the lip, and over the cheeks. They tend to be brown, but gray, bluish, and black undertones may be present as well.

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Prevent.
Whether you have melasma now or you are at higher predisposition to getting it (due to pregnancy, sun exposure), the number one way to prevent any more spots is to totally avoid the sun. Unless you are a character in Twilight or True Blood, this is probably not an option, so do not leave your house without protecting your skin! Applying broad spectrum sunscreen to your whole body and face will protect you from melasma, sunburn, skin cancer, and  wrinkles as well! Look for shade whenever you are out and about, or create your own with a sun hat or umbrella.

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Treat.

Melasma may happen no matter what you try to do to avoid it. If you are taking a hormone replacement medication, you might consider stopping it if the spots bother you too much. Likewise, if you develop melasma with pregnancy, the spots may fade after you deliver your baby. Time is the magic eraser here, but even that may not work completely.

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Creams You can “treat” your spots with by using lightening creams. You’ll have to apply your chosen product religiously every day for at least 8 weeks before you notice good results. The most recommended ingredient to treat melasma is hydroquinone (2-4%). Other effective key ingredients include tretinoin, azelaic acid, and kojic acid. A few product suggestions are Tri Luma Cream (ask your dermatologist for a prescription), Meladerm Cream ($79.99, civantskincare.com), and DERMAdoctor’s Immaculate Correction skin brightener ($62, dermadoctor.com).

Light Treatments. According to NYC plastic surgeon, Dr. Anthony LaBruna , laser treatments such as KTP, are another alternative to banish the brown spots. These are popular for treating several types of hyper-pigmentation. In general, the laser is used three or four times to achieve optimal results. “At first the darker skin areas will get darker as if you were in the sun. Then, usually over four weeks, they lighten up. After three to four treatments they  typically improve markedly,” says Dr. LaBruna. While it may be a pricier way to clear up your skin, they do work, especially for stubborn areas that have not responded to other methods.


We hope you find this info spot on to help you unmask a clearer complexion. Keep using your sunscreen and seek some shade from that hot summer sun to keep your skin healthy with spots or not!

Do you have a favorite product that helped you banish the brown?


About Karin Ruiz

Karin Ruiz is an editor/blogger for http://FightFineLines.com

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