How to treat the common skin disorder melasma
Melasma is a common skin condition, which affects around six million people in the US – according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 90 per cent of those afflicted are women. It is often associated with sun exposure but it's also common in pregnant women, which is why it has earned the nickname the “mask of pregnancy”. Other common triggers include oestrogen supplements and birth control pills.The condition is characterised by skin discoloration typically located on areas of the body more exposed to the sun, such as the cheeks, nose, forehead and chin and to a lesser extent, the neck and arms. Dr Joshua Fox, MD, a dermatologist based in Roslyn Heights, New York, warns against trying any at-home remedies for melasma. “Some household remedies and over-the-counter treatments involve scrubbing and/or chemicals that can aggravate the skin and make the condition worse,” he says. “Melasma can rarely fade on its own but most women prefer to treat it because it's not only unsightly but it also causes some degree of embarrassment. Appropriate treatment can significantly improve quality of life and restore self-confidence.” Technologies, like Isolaz, are evolving to better treat melasma – especially in severe cases and in cases where it doesn’t respond to other treatments. “The benefit of Isolaz is that it can safely destroy the cells producing pigment yet it protects the outer layer of skin at the same time,” says Fox. Treatment for melasma is usually as follows:
- The first line of defence is a broad spectrum sunscreen, which will help prevent further skin discoloration.
- One of the first-line treatments is often a hydroquinone (HQ) cream, lotion or gel to lighten skin, which is available over-the-counter and in prescription doses.
- A dermatologist may also prescribe other topical medicines to lighten skin – such as those by Obagi containing tretinoin, available at The Harley Medical Group.
- Procedures for melasma then include skin peels and Medical Microdermabrasion.
- A final option is a combination of several aforementioned therapies.