A skin problem characterised by the formation of brown patches especially on the face is known as melasma. Melasma is also referred as chloasma or the ‘pregnancy mask’. Melasma patches are usually darker in colour in comparison to the normal skin colour. The patches are generally symmetrical with complementary marks on either side of the face. Melasma can occur in other parts of the body exposed to the sun as well.
Melasma’s exact causes are not known. However, melasma is triggered by the use of contraceptive pills, pregnancy, sun exposure, cosmetics, etc.
Apart from the cosmetic concerns, the presence of discolouration on the face can be very distressing to the individual and impact their quality of life.
When melasma is caused by the use of birth control pills or due to pregnancy, it often disappears on its own when the pills are stopped or after the baby is delivered.
Sometimes, melasma cases do not improve even with treatment. However, you can take measures to ensure the condition does not worsen and reduce the appearance of discolouration.
The following tips can be helpful in achieving an even tone of skin:
- Wear sunscreen every day: Sun protection is a widely recommended treatment for melasma. Wearing sunscreen daily including on cloudy days and after sweating or swimming is an essential approach for protection against melasma triggered by sunlight. Apply a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Check the UVA stars (4 or 5) or the UVA circle logo for protection against UVA. Apply adequate sunscreen 15- 30 minutes before venturing out in the sun. One must reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours.
Keep in mind; sunscreens are not alternatives to shade and clothing. None of the sunscreens will offer 100% protection instead they provide additional protection.
- Use clothing to protect your skin: Use appropriate clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat when stepping out to protect your neck, face and ears. Wear a proper pair of UV protective sunglasses.
- Prefer shade: Especially between 11 am to 3 pm on sunny days. Go out ensuring not to redden or burn your skin.
- Choose skin care products of gentle nature: Ensure to buy skin care products which do not burn, sting or irritate your skin. Harsher products could worsen your melasma.
- Avoid waxing: Inflammation can result from waxing areas affected with melasma. Consult your dermatologist regarding other hair removal options suitable for your condition.
- Cosmetic camouflage: Use makeup to cover discoloured areas on your face.
- Seek support: Reach out to groups, speak to your physician about counsellors and local support groups if you are very much bothered by your melasma. You will feel better by reaching to others and talking about the condition to people who share the same condition.
Contact your dermatologist if your melasma doesn’t go away with these tips. Discuss the new treatment options and procedures available to help in the management of your melasma.
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- Dermnetnz.org. http://www.dermnetnz.org/colour/melasma.html. Accessed 6 Jun. 16.
- American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/color-problems/melasma. Accessed 6 Jun. 16.
- British Association of Dermatologists. http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/patient-information-leaflets/melasma/?showmore=1&returnlink=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bad.org.uk%2Ffor-the-public%2Fpatient-information-leaflets#.V1U4p5N95sM. Accessed 6 Jun. 16.