Having melasma or brown spots can make just about anyone self-conscious. But you don't have to be. While melasma may be a cosmetic disturbance, fortunately it does not harm the body in any way. This is why treatment options are easy to come by. So we've put together a quick list of the best treatment options for you to consider.
But before we explore options, let's dive a bit into what melasma is and the cause of these brown spots.
Melasma is a skin condition in which dark brown patches develop on the face and chin. Mostly appearing in women, melasma is said to be caused by sensitivity to female hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Both of these hormones increase significantly in pregnant women causing the melasma to appear, which is why the condition is often referred to as the “pregnancy mask.” This also makes women on birth control or going through hormone therapy susceptible to developing the condition.
Excessive sun exposure may also be the cause of melasma. The ultraviolet radiation emitted from the sun has a negative effect on our cells, more specifically, the cells that control pigmentation called melanocytes. Too much of the radiation can disturb those cells, thus leading to spots of darker pigment.
When melasma is a result of fluctuating hormones, as seen in pregnant women or women on birth control, the condition usually disappears on its own as hormone levels begin to balance out. However, if it doesn't seem to fade or you simply don't want to live with brown spots, a dermatologist can provide you with one of the following options:
Either over-the-counter or with a prescription, you can use certain medicated creams to get rid of melasma. These creams, known as hydroquinone, work by minimizing the number of melanocytes in your skin. As the amount decreases, the darker spots will begin to once again blend in with the rest of the skin. In about a month, you will begin to see positive results; however, we suggest you continue use for maximum effect.
Also known as corticosteroids, topical steroids are typically creams, gels, or ointments that are applied directly to the skin. Corticosteroids are often used to cure autoimmune disorders, however, melanocytes seem to also be affected by this form of drug. We may not fully understand how or why this works, but it has been proven nonetheless that topical steroids can effectively lighten up dark spots.
Used for a variety of skin cosmetic conditions including acne and wrinkles, chemical peels are a good solution for melasma. This option requires a dermatologist (or you at home) to apply a chemical compound to the face. This chemical mixture will begin to blister the top layer of the skin until it eventually peels away. Once peeled off, a new and clear layer of skin is revealed. Those who developed melasma from sun exposure may find chemical peels to work best since UV rays typically only affect pigmentation on the top layer of skin.
Dermabrasion works with the same principle as chemical peels; get rid of the top layer of skin to reveal the pristine layer underneath. In this case, dermabrasion uses a tool to exfoliate and scrape away the outer layers. This procedure must be done in-office with a licensed dermatologist.