How Do You Deal With Melasma?

January 27, 2011

Melasma, also usually called chloasma, is a hyperpigmentation of the skin making the skin’s color unbalanced. The term chloasma is most used when pointing out melasma acquired throughout the length of pregnancy. A melasma is a brownish spot characterized by flatness and having uneven borders. It is typically located on the facial area particularly the cheeks, chin, forehead, nose and lips. However, other than the unsightly appearance, there is no pain, itching or other accompanying symptoms. Melasma affects mainly women – including women that are pregnant, using contraception or using medications that are part of a hormonal replacement therapy – than men.

Melasma develops gradually. Several studies state that they still cannot give the stringent cause of melasma but can only give its most likely causes based on the occurrences. The most well-known is the overproduction of melanin when there is overexposure to the sun. Another is the overproduction of melanin caused by the hormones estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy or when one is using contraceptives or hormonal replacement drugs containing these hormones. Another influential cause is the history of acquiring melasma in the family. Another cause worth mentioning is a thyroid gland abnormality resulting to overproduction of the hormones and the impending activation of the cells responsible for the existence of melanin.

In today’s time, anyone can pick from various treatment methods to aid in the removal of melasma. Utilizing topical creams comprised of hydroquinone, tretinoin, or azelaic acid is one of the currently available treatments for melasma. Hydroquinone’s popularity rests on its capacity to stop tyrosinase functioning which then stops the yield of melanin. Hydroquinone can be bought in two percent, four percent or greater concentrations. Both effectiveness and negative effects increase as the concentration increases.


Tretinoin reduces skin discoloration by stimulating production of collagen and removing keratinocytes or removing the skin’s outermost layer. But tretinoin cannot overcome the power of hydroquinone. The combination of tretinoin with hydroquinone is therefore more preferred than topical creams containing tretinoin alone.

Azelaic acid, a stronger skin lightener than two percent hydroquinone, works by hindering the melanocytes from functioning properly and therefore, decreasing melaning. But they all identically cause minor skin changes such as irritation, itching and redness.

Chemical peels are now accessible to help remove the appearance of melasma by softly exfoliating the skin. Here, the type of peel depends on the doctor’s assessment of the individual. Much like the method used in chemical peels is the treatment option using dermabrasion – another form of exfoliation.

Laser therapy is also available but most do not recommend this for it has not really been successful in removing the skin discoloration. However, most of these treatments, especially the use of chemicals or laser, can possibly lead to complications such as scars, tissue death and further skin pigmentation if not properly used. They are also pricey. Therefore, doctors still prefer topical creams containing hydroquinone despite few reported side effects.

But whichever of the aforementioned treatment options you choose, do not forget that effects are achieved slowly for melasma’s coming into existence is also a gradual process. Since these treatments limit melanin, you are more prone to the sun’s damaging effects necessitating the need for complete sun avoidance while the treatment is ongoing.

MelasmaMelasma Further Reading:

Melasma What Can I do?

Melasma Treatment Options

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