Melasma is a common skin problem – especially among women, however men can get it as well. Although the exact cause isn’t totally clear, Melasma is believed to be more estrogen responsive, which is why far more women get it than men. The ratio sits around 1-in-4 women to 1-in-20 men and generally starts from early 20’s to 40’s.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 90 percent of people who develop melasma are women.
Melasma causes patches of discoloration that are usually visible on the face. The patches will be symmetrical – so both sides of the face will present with similar patches.
Triggers associated with melasma may include race, genetics, skin types, age, sun exposure, internal disease or inflammation, pregnancy and hormone dysfunction/imbalance. Birth control pills, hormone therapy, stress and thyroid disease are also thought to be causes of melasma.
When melasma occurs during pregnancy, it is referred to as “Chloasma” or the “mask of pregnancy” and it occurs in 10-15% of pregnant women.
Why? During pregnancy, hormones including estrogen, progesterone and the melanocyte stimulating hormone MSH increase, and it is this increase of progesterone that creates chloasma.
Is melasma treatable?
It is treatable, but it’s important that a thorough consultation be performed by a skin expert. It can be difficult to treat and usually takes time and patience. For some, melasma disappears on its own and this typically occurs when it’s caused by pregnancy or birth control pills.
Professional treatments can help lighten it but more importantly, we need to identify the cause. If we can’t identify the cause then we can never truly treat it – all we’ll be doing is suppressing the symptoms (what’s visible).
We strongly recommend avoiding quick-fixes like chemical peels, microdermabrasion, Epidermal levelling and ablative laser treatments. These only treat symptoms which is not a professional or responsible treatment path.
Minimising sun exposure and more importantly, ensuring SPF is applied everyday and regularly is paramount.