Options for Treating Melasma
When you look in the mirror are you distressed by seemingly random patches of darkened skin that are trying to rob you of a clear, even-toned complexion? If you answered yes, then you’re not alone. What you’re suffering from is most likely a hyperpigmented skin condition called Melasma, and it’s one that affects more than 5 million people in the United States.
While Melasma is generally harmless, it can be concerning to the person who has it. The condition, which is characterized by light to dark patches of pigmentation on the forehead, upper lip, nose, cheeks and jawline is a multifactorial disorder is still not entirely understood.
What we do about Melasma is that it affects significantly more women than men, and that hormones play a role in many cases – for example, it’s quite common in pregnancy. We also know that it can be triggered by exposure to sun or heat, and that genetics may play a role. Then there are cases where Melasma seems to be an unlucky roll of the dice, with no real identifiable cause
If you have Melasma, you might not be as concerned about how it got there as you are about how to get rid of it. Melasma can be a chronic condition, that without treatment, can take an incredibly long time to clear on its own.
The question on the minds of most Melasma sufferers is how to get rid of it. To help you discover the safest, most effective means of clearing your skin, let’s talk about a few of the top Melasma treatments.
Melasma and IPL – Treating Melasma with Intense Pulsed Light
There has been a growing trend of clinics that suggest removing Melasma with light therapy – in this case IPL, which stands for intense pulse light. IPL is a form of light therapy that has been successfully used to treat light wrinkles, unwanted hair and the occasional age spot or broken blood vessel.
IPL is slightly different from traditional laser treatments that focus a single wavelength of light on the trouble spot. Instead, IPL releases multiple different wavelengths that scatter and penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin without harming the epidermis.
Sounds great, but is it really the best treatment for Melasma? Well, there’s a bit of debate and the jury is still out on this one. While IPL might initially provide some relief, the very mechanism by which is works can actually trigger the condition and make it worse.
During treatment IPL heats up the skin tissue. The problem with this is that heat can be a trigger for Melasma, especially for people who already have it. Plus, it may mildly burn the skin, and if you’re someone who has a fair complexion, the additional stimulation can only serve to make Melasma worse in the end.
Melasma – How to Remove
The debate about whether one of the leading skin care technologies is really effective at treating Melasma brings us to one important question – what actually does work to remove Melasma for good?
Well, depending on what’s triggered your Melasma, it might not be possible to erase it forever. This means that you need an approach to treatment that not only soothes and clears Melasma, but also works to help prevent recurrence.
But, before we start talking about top Melasma products, let’s backtrack for a minute and discuss the value of an ounce of prevention.
If you know the trigger for your Melasma, the best course of treatment is to eliminate or avoid that trigger as much as possible. This might be difficult in cases where hormones are the culprit – pregnancy, for example – but this just means that you need to be extra diligent about protecting your skin from sun and heat during these times.
Sun exposure, and medications that make your skin more susceptible to sun damage, are also common triggers. If you’re looking to treat your Melasma, protecting your skin from the sun and excess heat – meaning you should stay in the air conditioning on ninety degree days – are key to treatment success.
If medication - such as hormonal contraceptives - is to blame, then it’s wise to talk to your doctor about other options that will have less of an effect on your skin.
Topical Products – Do They Work on Melasma?
The answer to this question depends entirely on which topical products you use. There are plenty on the market that claim to treat Melasma, but don’t contain the active ingredients that really get the job done.
The top Melasma creams available almost all contain a powerful ingredient for treating hyperpigmentation called Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone works by penetrating the skin and working on a cellular level to alter the processes that stimulate pigment production. Less pigment is produced, and your trouble areas gradually fade until your skin has an even-toned appearance.
However, Hydroquinone needs a little help to do its best work. Look for high quality skin care products that contain effective complimentary ingredients like Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid and Vitamin C.
Follow up is also important to effective treatment. For example, a light peel or regular gentle exfoliation will help remove the darkened pigmented skin cells from the surface and a commitment to the religious use of sunscreen will help to prevent a future recurrence.
You don’t have to live with Melasma, but you shouldn’t have to waste time and money on ineffective, and sometimes dangerous, solutions. The truth is that Melasma generally takes a little time to fade, even with treatment. So, skip the products that make exaggerated claims of clearing it overnight. Instead, focus on quality products that treat your skin to reveal the true beauty behind the mask of Melasma.