Melasma

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a common skin condition that can be identified by brown, blue-gray or freckle-like spots on the body. It is known as a pigment disorder and typically appears on the face, primarily targeting those with light brown to darker skin tones.

Melasma occurs when there is an overproduction of melanocytes, causing them to produce an abundance of color in certain spots. Melanocytes are the cells that give color.

Women are more prone to developing melasma, especially during pregnancy. Approximately 15% to 50% of women develop melasma during their pregnancy. Only 10% of all melasma cases occur in males.

What causes melasma?

Studies aren’t sure what exactly causes melasma, but they have noticed a correlation with hormones and radiation. The most common cause is sunlight and pregnancy.

Sunlight: When skin is exposed to the sun, our body produces more melanin causing melasma.

Pregnancy: Pregnancy increases the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which then increase the production of melanocytes.

The Three Types of Melasma

There are primarily three types of melasma that develops. Each depends on the depth of the pigment. Dr. Chacon would use a Wood’s lamp that emits black light to determine which type of melasma has occurred, as well as a dermatoscope for higher magnification.

  1. Epidermal: The most common kind of melasma. It has a dark brown color and a well-defined border. Epidermal melasma responds more quickly to treatment.
  2. Dermal: Dermal melasma is light brown or blue. It has a blurry border and does not respond well to treatment
  3. Mixed melasma: Mixed melasma occurs when both layers of the skin are affected – epidermal and dermal. The patient will have both blue and brown patches and will show some response to treatment.

Where does melasma appear?

Most common areas for melasma to appear:

  • The chin
  • The upper lip
  • The bridge of the nose
  • The forehead
  • The cheeks
  • The forearms
  • The neck
  • The shoulders

How is melasma diagnosed?

Melasma can look like other severe skin conditions, so it is essential to seek medical advice if a spot is bothering you. If needed, Dr. Chacon can safely and quickly perform a skin biopsy during your office visit with a local anesthetic. This biopsy is then sent to the lab and reviewed by a specialized pathologist. If anything unusual were to appear, Dr. Chacon would contact you.

How to treat melasma?

While melasma may go away on its own, it is not guaranteed. It is best to see Dr. Chacon so she can personalize a routine to help with your melasma. Some of the treatments include:

  • Hydroquinone
  • Tretinoin
  • Chemical peels
  • Vitamin C
  • Corticosteroids
  • To learn more, please feel free to schedule a consultation with our practice.
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