How to Treat Melasma

August 14, 2010

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Alternatively called chloasma, or the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma refers to a discoloration of the skin that generally appears as irregularly shaped dark, tan patches which generally affects a great number of pregnant ladies as well as women who make use of oral or patch contraceptives. Others who are also at risk to chloasma are women who are pregnant or are undergoing (HRT) hormone replacement therapy. There has also been research which has given evidence that both men and women of Russian, German, and Jewish descent are also commonly troubled by melasma which manifests as facial pigmentation that looks like discoloration.

The frequently affected skin areas of melasma include the nose, forehead, lips, upper lip, or upper cheeks and can progressively increase as time passes by. In the medical world, melasma is explained as a kind of skin discoloration caused by the stimulation of pigment-producing cells that are called melanocytes by female sex hormones (e.g., estrogen and progesterone) to produce large unusual amounts of melanin when the skin exposed to too much sunlight.

Melasma treatment is sought after by many to remove the unsightly patches of tan skin which can mar one’s looks considerably. Fortunately for pregnant and contraceptive-taking women, melasma typically goes away of its own accord, once the mother gives birth or the woman stops her intake of contraceptives. HRT patients also have the same tendency in this aspect.

Melasma treatment can be done through various ways, mainly to help quicken the process of making the discolored areas fade away or become lighter. Application of hydroquinone (HQ) as a topical depigmenting agent to reduce the making of tyrosinase within the body is one process of melasma treatment. This treatment works since tyrosinase is a necessary enzyme in the making of melanin. By using tretinoin as another method, this helps cure melasma by increasing the production of skin cells. However, this treatment using tretinoin is forbidden for women who are pregnant. Azelaic acid, when used, is another alternative way and works by hindering the activity of the melanocytes; chemical peels with glycolic acid and facial peels with alpha hydroxyacids can also serve as a means to eliminate melasma. For others, the Fraxel laser treatment is a more comfortable method for removing their melasma.

The type of treatment one must have for their melasma will vary on a case to case basis, seeing that one treatment way may not be as effective on one person as it may be for another. But regardless of which type of melasma treatment the patient chooses, he or she must definitely avoid the sun after being treated for melasma. Results of the treatment are slow to appear so one must patiently stay out of the sunlight all the time. The use of sunscreen is highly suggested if you want the treatment to fully succeed.

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