For years, the focus of anti-aging treatments and creams has been on addressing wrinkles and fine lines, once considered the #1 sign of aging. Studies now show that most of us visually interpret “even skin coloration” as a true mark of a youthful complexion, far surpassing the presence of wrinkles. Therefore, the consumer has seen an explosion in the availability of products and procedures to lighten dark spots and restore clear skin. When making decisions about treatment, it is important for the consumer to understand the source of discoloration to treat it successfully.
Melasma is the scientific term for dark patches of discoloration on the skin. A combination of genetic propensity and hormone levels, Melasma most commonly manifests after direct sun exposure. Although men can experience Melasma, it is much more prevalent in the female population. Many women first encounter Melasma as a dark patch on their upper lip as a result of using oral contraceptives in the summer months without a SPF. Others experience what has come to be known as “the mask of pregnancy,” a dark patch of pigment that spans across the cheeks and nose during pregnancy. In these cases, the discoloration is a direct result of increased hormone levels that ‘turn on’ melanin in the skin, especially when exposed to the sun. Although it does not harm the skin, Melasma can have a detrimental impact on self-esteem.
As we cannot turn off the Melasma gene or hormone influence, the first step in treating the dark patches is to stop new formation by blocking its catalyst, sun exposure. This is as simple as wearing a hat in the summer and meeting with a licensed esthetician who can recommend a Physical SPF product, which suits your skin and lifestyle. Physical sunscreens reflect the sun’s rays, while Chemical Sunscreens scatter the rays and trap heat against the skin. As heat can also trigger Melasma, patients should avoid these blends of sunscreens.
Your next step is topically treating the existing pigment with Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone in concentrations of 2% and above has been clinically shown to not only stop the formation of new melanin, but also lighten the existing pigment. It can come in several formulations such as liquid, pads and creams, making it easy to find a product that matches your lifestyle and skin condition.
Although commonly called a ‘bleaching cream,’ Hydroquinone is nothing like what we may use at home in the laundry room! It does not ‘whiten’ the skin; it merely targets the rogue melanocytes (pigment cells), which are causing patches of undesirable pigment. The effectiveness of Hydroquinone can also be boosted with the use of Retin-A, which enhances it delivery into the skin. Many patients also work with their esthetician to design an in office treatment plan of chemical peels or other means of professional exfoliation.
Once you are diagnosed with Melasma, you will always be susceptible to its formation in the future, no matter how much clarity you achieve with products or treatments. One long day in the sun without protection can bring back the pigment in one day. It is important to design a sophisticated home care regime with products that protect and treat your skin.
The licensed Estheticians” at FACE Cosmetic Skincare, are trained in an entire portfolio of products and treatments to assist you in your journey to your most clear and even skin ever!