Melasma, a common skin problem that affect an estimated 6 million people in the US, causes brown to gray-brown patches on areas of the body more exposed to the sun (e.g. cheeks, nose, forehead, chin, neck, arms). According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 90% of those affected are women. Although it is often associated with sun exposure, it is also very common in pregnant women, and those taking estrogen supplements or birth control pills.

While melasma does not cause any physical discomfort, it rarely fades on its own without treatment. To achieve a more even skin tone and lessen the appearance of melasma, dermatologists recommend several treatment options:

  1. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily to help prevent further discoloration. In addition to sunscreen use, seek shade whenever possible and wear clothing/hats to help cover up. Apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before sun exposure, even on cloudy days.
  1. Topical medicines to lighten skin (over-the-counter or prescription) may be a successful treatment option, such as a hydroquinone cream, lotion, or gel, tretinoin, corticosteroids, azelaic acid, or kojic acid.
  1. Clinical procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, Fraxel Dual 1550/1927, Q-switched Nd-YAG, and Ruby Lasers are implemented to lessen the appearance of melasma.
    At our Aesthetics’ student clinic, affordable and effective peels and microderm services are offered by appointment.
  1. In cases where the melasma does not respond to the above options, a combination of treatments may be necessary to completely remove stubborn patches.

The good news – many, if not all, of the above treatment options are non-invasive, require little to no recovery time, and have long-lasting effects against the appearance of melasma. Be cautious of at-home remedies and certain over-the-counter medications, as many that involve scrubbing or chemicals can irritate and worsen the condition. It is important to seek the advice of an expert before beginning treatment.