Melasma: What Are Your Alternatives?

September 10, 2010

Melasma, also ordinarily called chloasma, is a hyperpigmentation of the skin making the skin’s color uneven. The term chloasma is most used when indicating melasma obtained throughout the length of pregnancy. A melasma is a brownish patch characterized by flatness and having uneven borders. The common places where melasma develops include the cheeks, chin, forehead, nose and lips. But this is the only problem in having melasma – the unsightly patch – and not tenderness, itching or tendency to develop into cancer. Melasma affects more 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 researches state that they still cannot give the stringent cause of melasma but can only give its most probable causes based on the cases. Of the plausible causes of melasma, the most crucial and the most well-known is the extra manufacture of the pigment melanin elicited by the skin’s extended exposure to ultraviolet radiation. 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. Various experiments also showed that the genes is an important factor in the development of melasma. Another cause worth mentioning is a thyroid gland abnormality leading to overproduction of the hormones and the imminent stirring up of the cells responsible for the manufacture of melanin.

In today’s time, anyone can select from various treatment choices to bolt the “removal” of a melasma. Using topical creams comprised of hydroquinone, tretinoin, or azelaic acid is one of the currently available treatments for melasma. The mechanism of hydroquinone involves hindering tyrosinase from performing its assigned functions most specifically, to create melanin. Hydroquinone comes in two percent, four percent or greater concentrations. Both effectiveness and negative effects increase as the concentration increases. Tretinoin helps remove the discoloration caused by melasma by creating more collagen and by increasing the rate at which keratinocytes are removed. But tretinoin cannot beat the strength of hydroquinone. It is therefore combined with hydroquinone. Azelaic acid’s mode of action is the decrease in the normal functioning of the melanocytes and this is viewed as to be more effective than the two percent concentration of hydroquinone. Their mutuality: presence of skin irritation, itching and redness as their side effects. Chemical peels are now attainable to help remove the appearance of a melasma by tenderly exfoliating the skin. An important aspect that will help determine the depth of the peel that should be used is the doctor’s assessment of the client. Having the same mode of action as chemical peels, dermabrasion exfoliates the skin but with the use of a vacuum and a scraper – a manual process. Another treatment modality is laser therapy but which does not yield successful outcomes and at the same time, increases your risks for developing possible complications. But these treatments do not come without a cost – most lead to the development of scars, death of tissues and even the recurrence of the hyperpigmented skin. You must be ready to spend a generous amount of money to be able to have these treatments. Therefore, doctors still prefer topical creams containing hydroquinone despite few reported side effects.

But whatever treatment suits you best, do not expect to notice its effectiveness in a day or in a week. Since these treatments minimize melanin, you are more prone to the sun’s damaging effects necessitating the need for complete sun aversion while the treatment is ongoing.

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