Melasma is a dark skin discoloration, which appears on cheeks, forehead, nose or upper lips, and is often symmetrical on both sides of the face. Since those patches often occur with pregnant woman, melasma is commonly called “Pregnancy Mask”. It is also common in women, who take birth control pills or hormones during menopause. Female hormones like estrogen and progesterone are known to be a factor in developing melasma.
Main Causes are Hormones and Sun-Exposure
The main cause of melasma is direct sun exposure. To prevent the appearance of discoloration, pregnant women and those who are taking hormones should be especially careful to protect their skin from too much sun. Use high-powered sun protection, wear a hat and take good care of your skin. Woman with brownish skin-types are at greatest risk. Genetic predisposition is also a major factor in the development of melasma.
Symptoms Fade after Giving Birth
When occurring with pregnant women, melasma often disappears a few months after the woman has given birth. Melasma also might become less visible when sun-exposure is reduced to a minimum and sun-protection is used on a daily basis. Simple face-peeling will help to remove the discoloration, since this helps to remove the dead skin cells and accelerates cell regeneration.
Diagnosis with Woods Lamp
If the discoloration does not fade and is of great cosmetic concern, it might be a good choice to see a dermatologist. With something called a Wood lamp the dermatologist can visually localize which part of the skin is affected, epidermis or dermis. Epidermal pigment seems to be darker under the Wood light, dermal pigment is not enhanced..
Treatment for Melasma
While epidermal melasma can easily be treated with chemical peels and creams containing a combination of tretinoin, kojic acid and azelaic acid, dermal melasma is harder to fade. Dermatologists might recommend laser treatment to remove dark spots or topical steroid creams. Be careful not to experiment with over-the-counter skin-lighteners, since those might make the skin look even blotchier. Ask the dermatologist if there are any concerns about ingredients of certain cosmetics.
When to Call a Doctor
Since many of the recommended creams and peelings are to be avoided during pregnancy, it is a good idea to wait with the treatment until the baby is born. With some luck, the skin discoloration will fade by itself when the skin is treated properly with gentle cleansers and good sun protection. If the skin darkening on the faces persists after the hormones are back in balance, do not hesitate to contact a doctor.