What is melasma?
Melasma is a skin condition which consists of dark patches on the face, mainly on the cheeks, forehead, nose, and above the mouth, but also occurring on the neck, chest and forearms. It occurs more commonly in women, but men can develop it as well. People with darker complexions develop melasma more often than those with fair complexions. Melasma can be light to dark brown, and pigmentation can be superficial or deep. The deeper the pigment, the more difficult it is to treat.
What causes melasma? Melasma is caused by an increased production of melanin. There is often a family history of melasma. This pigmentation gradually darkens and is caused by prolonged sun exposure over many years. A change in hormones may trigger melasma and it can develop during pregnancy (called chloasma, or the mask of pregnancy), and with the use of oral contraceptive pills.
What is the treatment for melasma? Sun protection is the most important part of treatment for melasma, since the pigment will continue to darken with sun exposure. Sunscreens must be worn daily. Combinations of bleaching and fading creams with tretinoin and cortisone creams, together with chemical peels, and certain types of laser treatment for pigmentation, such as Fraxel® laser treatments, can be used to fade the pigment. It usually takes many months and maintenance treatment is often required. In some cases, melasma will not completely fade away and it may recur with sun exposure. If there is a history of cold sores (herpes simplex), oral antiviral medication will be prescribed with chemical peels or Fraxel® laser treatments.
Why is Fraxel® Laser Treatment more advantageous over other laser treatments for pigmentation?
- It improves all types of melasma pigmentation.
- It can be used on all skin types, including darker complexions, but it must be used at a low setting and multiple treatments are required.
- Lightening of the pigment can be seen within a few weeks.
- It improves the texture and radiance of the skin.
- It improves sun damage, brown spots, and wrinkles which usually occur with melasma.