The mask hiding your true face
Every year, mostly after summer, my face gets darker and darker. I don't mind the color but it is very uneven and blotchy. I am beginning to look like someone else. What is happening and what can I do about it?
The condition that you are talking about likely represents MELASMA. Melasma represents increased pigmentation of the facial regions that particularly affects women. It is one of the most common reasons that women seek the advice of dermatologists. Although it is one of the most frustrating conditions to treat as the "veil" of increased pigmentation descends over the face, there is a lot of good news in the fight against this rampant affliction raising hopes that truly effective remedies are just around the corner.
Melasma, localized to the face, is seen primarily in women. Irregular light to dark brown areas of pigmentation occur on the forehead, temples, upper lip, chin and cheeks. It is more common in patients with darker skin although patients with all skin types can be affected. Melasma mostly presents in 20s, 30s, and 40s although it is occasionally seen in other age groups. Melasma can be successfully treated in Edmonton at our Dermatologist lead clinic.
There are many causes of melasma:
- Ultraviolet radiation (sunshine and tanning beds) is the most important factor in causing this dreaded skin condition. This is collaborated by the findings of melasma starting and worsening in the summer.
- Hormonal influences such as pregnancy and the use of birth control pills.
- Genetic predisposition. Patients with the family history of melasma have higher chances of developing melasma themselves.
- Irritating or fragrant skin care products.
The most important factor in preventing the development as well as worsening of melasma is appropriate facial sun protection with broad-spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB) as well as avoidance of tanning beds. This point can not be overemphasized.
Once melasma develops, there are several treatments options:
- Ongoing ultraviolet radiation protection (sun and tanning beds) with appropriate clothing, shade and broad-spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB)
- Topical preparations containing Hydroquinone, vitamin A derivatives, azelaic acid, topical vitamin C, kojic acid as well as glycolic and salicylic acid. These are safe ingredients and their concentration has to be appropriate not to cause irritation. Excessive irritation, in persons predisposed to melasma, will cause more melasma to develop. Most of these preparations need a prescription and should be monitored by a dermatologist.
- Chemical peels. Chemical peel can be very successful in helping make melasma better. These include glycolic acid, salicylic acid, vitamin A derivative peels as well as modified superficial and medium-depth peels. Once again, if the peels are used incorrectly, they can actually make melasma worse.
- Light based technologies (IPL – Intense Pulsed Light and Laser). These are the most sophisticated methods of dealing with pigmentation and, as such, must be physician supervised.
The danger of inappropriate treatment is that melasma can get significantly worse – really complicating future therapies. It is also important to note that, at least some of the treatment for melasma, have to be continues for quite some time in an effort to keep melanocytes from becoming overactive.
Melasma is a common yet frustrating condition to treat. The good news is that with early therapy, appropriate facial sun protection, topical preparations, chemical peels as well as light-based technologies most patients can expect good results. It is critical to see an experienced skin expert such as a dermatologist for accurate diagnosis as well as optimal therapy. The objective is stopping melasma from casting shadow on your inner beauty.
If you have further questions or concerns, please call us at 780-424-4440 ext. 2 or email us.
The information provided on this website is for Canadian patients only and is meant for information and education that is based on experience and research.