Understanding Melasma: What can I do to Prevent It?

Melasma is easy to identify by the tan or dark brown patches that develop on both sides of your face. Although these areas of hyperpigmentation do not become cancerous, they are hard to treat, and we haven’t found a cure.

Our team at Health and Beauty Associates works closely with patients who have melasma, creating customized treatment plans to help restore their skin and improve their appearance. But we encourage everyone to take steps to prevent melasma from developing.

The scoop on melasma

Melasma is a chronic skin condition that causes blotchy, brownish areas of skin. These discolored skin areas, called hyperpigmentation, often appear on your cheeks, forehead, upper lip, and chin, but they can develop in any area of your body that’s exposed to sunlight.

Women are at a higher risk for developing melasma. In fact, 90% of all cases are women. It’s also a very common problem during pregnancy, where it’s called the mask of pregnancy or chloasma. People who tan well or have naturally brown skin are more likely to develop melasma.

How melasma develops

Your skin consists of three primary layers, including the outermost layer called the epidermis and the layer just below that called the dermis. In the epidermis, cells called melanocytes produce melanin.

Melanin is a brown pigment that adds color to your skin. It’s also what makes you tan, which is your body’s way of protecting your skin from burning.

Melasma most often originates in the epidermis when melanocytes are stimulated to produce excess melanin. As a result, a tan to dark brown patch appears on your skin.

This condition can also arise due to excess melanin in the dermis. When that happens, your areas of melasma may have a bluish-black appearance.

Tips for preventing melasma

Preventing melasma is an important step to take because once it occurs, it’s hard to treat, and it turns into a chronic problem that keeps recurring. You’re at a higher risk for melasma if you have a family history of the skin condition; otherwise, there’s no way to predict your chance of developing the problem.

These are the top tips we give our patients for avoiding unsightly skin discolorations due to melasma:

Sun protection

Sun protection is at the top of the list because it’s essential. Ultraviolet (UV) light triggers and worsens melasma. Being zealous about protecting your skin is the only way to prevent the problem. Sun protection is also the most important component of melasma treatment. Even if you receive topical medication for hyperpigmented skin, the treatment is doomed to fail if you don’t shield your skin from UV light.

Sunscreen should be applied every day, even if it’s a cloudy day. You’ll need a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection (blocks UVA and UVB light) and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

When you plan to spend time outside, a physical block such as zinc oxide provides optimal UV protection. It’s also important to reapply sunscreen every two hours when you’re out in the sun.

You can further protect your skin by wearing a hat with a wide brim to shield your face and protective clothing for the rest of your body.

Avoid hormonal triggers

Estrogen and progesterone cause melasma, as you can tell from being at a higher risk for the skin condition during pregnancy and when you take oral contraceptives or other hormone therapies.

Wearing sunscreen can lower your risk of melasma during pregnancy. If you’re at a high risk for the condition or if you’ve already developed melasma, you can help prevent future outbreaks by choosing nonhormonal birth control.

Use gentle skin care products

Harsh skin care products may aggravate melasma. Using cleansers and moisturizers that are formulated for sensitive skin can help prevent or avoid melasma flare-ups.

Melasma may not cause health problems, but it has a devastating impact on your appearance and self-esteem. Here at Health and Beauty Associates, we’re dedicated to restoring your natural beauty by treating and preventing melasma. Call or go online to book your appointment now.

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