Melasma or “mask of pregnancy”, is a common type of skin discoloration marked by brown patches on the face. Typically, melasma appears on the cheeks, forehead, chin and upper lip of women anywhere from 20–50 years old. Men rarely experience this type of hyperpigmentation of the skin. In fact, because it’s primarily experienced by women in their reproductive years, it gained the nickname, “mask of pregnancy”.
Most women with this skin discolouration either have a history of regular sun exposure, are pregnant and/or have darker tones of skin, such as Latin, Asian and Middle Eastern ethnicities. While it will often disappear or fade over time, in some cases melasma can become so severe it cannot be covered by make-up, causing the sufferer to become quite self-conscious of her appearance.
What Causes Melasma?
The exact cause of melasma is unknown, but uncontrolled exposure to sunlight is considered the leading factor, especially in people with a genetic predisposition for hyperpigmentation. Melasma typically develops in the summer months, when the ultraviolet rays from the sun cause melanin production in the skin cells. This skin discolouration usually fades and becomes less visible in the winter. In the true case of the “mask of pregnancy”, it is thought that melasma may be caused by increased levels of progesterone. In many cases the hyperpigmentation gradually disappears after giving birth.
Treatment of Melasma
If your skin discolouration does not fade, there are a few options to consider for treatment of your melasma. The most common treatments for hypergimentation of the skin include creams with 2% and 4% hydroquinone, a medicine used to lighten the dark patches. We recommend that our patients try Skin Tx or Obagi skin care products.
The Fraxel® Laser is another treatment option. Unlike creams, this skin rejuvenation laser treats the hyperpigmentation deep below the skin’s surface. Depending on the severity of the skin discolouration, we may combine a cream with the Fraxel laser to provide you with better, longer-lasting results.
All treatments for melasma must be combined with sunscreen application to decrease the skin’s exposure to the sun.
If you would like to have even-toned skin again, please contact us to book a consultation with Dr. Marcia Fleming. We will help determine if you are experiencing melasma and discuss possible treatments for your melasma.