New Patient Appointments

Choose from one of our locations.

Existing Patient Appointments

Book through the Patient Portal to avoid reentering your information.

Unmasking Melasma

April 14, 2022

Do you have dark patches of skin that developed on your face or body during pregnancy? Have you noticed grayish-brown blotches on areas of your body that are exposed to the sun most often? 

It could be melasma, a relatively common skin condition that affects over 5 million Americans, 90% of which are women. 

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a specific type of skin condition that causes brown or gray patches to appear on a person’s body. Though melasma primarily presents on the face, it may also appear on the arms, neck, and shoulders, since these body parts are exposed to sunlight often. Though considered a type of skin hyperpigmentation, melasma is a bit different from other forms of hyperpigmentation mainly because its cause isn’t solely related to frequent sun exposure. Melasma is caused in part by hormone fluctuations which is why the condition is prevalent in  pregnant women and also how it got the nickname, “the mask of pregnancy”.  

What Causes Melasma? Am I at Risk?
Women with darker complexions seem to have the highest risk of developing melasma. Though men represent only 10% of diagnosed melasma cases in the U.S., they can certainly be susceptible to the condition, as well.

The specific causes of melasma are not fully understood, however, studies show the factors at play include: 

  • Fluctuations in hormones
  • Sun exposure
  • Family history
  • Certain types of medications including anitseizure medications, estrogen, and birth control

How is Melasma Diagnosed? 
If you suspect you have melasma, you should schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for a professional skin evaluation which may also include diagnostic imaging. 

To accurately diagnose the condition, board-certified dermatologists at Dermatology Consultants utilize the PEAR 3D Complexion Analysis, a facial imaging technology that captures 3D detail of a patient’s pores, wrinkles, sun damage, and skin texture, oil, bacteria, and skin tone. The PEAR 3D skin analysis takes multiple images of the face and layers of the skin simultaneously. The images produced include 3D detail of skin damage that cannot be seen with the naked eye. This technology provides your dermatologist with the information needed to make an accurate diagnosis, so they can recommend the best treatment plan for your unique situation.

Should You See a Dermatologist for Melasma?

Yes! While it may be possible for melasma to go away on its own, it can also be a stubborn condition that lingers for years. And, the longer melasma goes untreated, the more likely the condition is to intensify. Our board-certified dermatologists and physician assistants have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating melasma. We can create an individualized treatment plan tailored just for you.

What are the Best Treatments for Melasma?

Because every person is different–and our hormones are comprised of a personalized set of chemicals–there isn’t a one size fits all approach to effectively treating melasma. 

The goal of melasma treatment is to decrease the hyperpigmentation made by your body while evening out your skin tone so it returns to a more natural state. Common treatment plans for melasma may include a combination of the following options as prescribed for you or recommended by your dermatologist or physician assistant:

Prescription Medications
Your dermatologist or physician assistant may prescribe one or more of the following prescription creams intended as a treatment to lighten the skin:

  • Hydroquinone 
  • Retin-A

Nonprescription Medications, Products, and Oral Supplements
Medications and products that don’t require a prescription can also be beneficial in treating melasma. Your provider may recommend one or more of the following products:

Topical treatments aren’t the only option for treating melasma. Your dermatologist can perform several procedures to improve your skin condition, as well. We perform the following treatments at our Dermatology Consultants’ practices located in Atlanta and Covington:

Can You Prevent Melasma?

Unfortunately, melasma cannot be prevented. However, being proactive about sun protection can keep your melasma from getting worse.

If you have been diagnosed with melasma, ask your physician if you should avoid the following:

  • Hormone treatments, specifically those that involve estrogen
  • Birth control that involves estrogen and progesterone
  • LED light from your television, laptop, cell phone, or tablet
  • Certain medications that cause your condition or make the melasma worse
  • Certain skincare products or scented soaps

To prevent your melasma from intensifying, it’s always a good idea to:

  • Limit sun exposure and apply SPF
    The best way to prevent melasma is by staying out of the sun. Sunlight causes the skin to make more pigment, which could darken existing patches and create new ones. You should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher each day and reapply every two hours while in the sun. Also, consider a wide-brimmed hat or sun-protective clothing when spending extended time outdoors.

  • Avoid tanning beds
    You should avoid tanning beds for many reasons, but in this case, it’s because the ultraviolet light from a tanning bed mimics sun exposure which can create or worsen dark patches associated with melasma.

Love Your Skin Again!

At Dermatology Consultants, you’ll find medical professionals that care about you and want to help you regain your confidence. Our board-certified dermatologists have access to the latest diagnostic technology that will help us accurately diagnose your melasma and the latest treatment techniques that will help you get the results you need to feel confident in your skin.

Contact us to get started today!


Join Our Mailing List