Is Melasma Hyperpigmentation?

Is Melasma Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation and melasma often terms used interchangeably. There are many types of hyperpigmentation, and melasma is one that impacts over five million Americans—and can be improved at RefinedMD. This pigmentary condition mostly affects women, and like “general hyperpigmentation” it can appear anywhere on the skin as gray or dark patches. It worsens with sun exposure, but that’s where the similarities end.

The term “hyperpigmentation” means any darkening of the skin. It can include acne scarring, freckles that become sunspots, or side effects of psoriasis or eczema. The definition is in the name: Hyper (excessive) pigmentation (skin coloring). Many factors, from sunlight to rashes, can kick-start melanocytes–the cells that make pigment in the skin. The deeper the pigment is in the skin, the more difficult it is to treat. This is why hyperpigmentation from years of sun exposure will be more challenging to treat than darkening from an acne breakout.

A Hyperpigmentation Subset

Melasma is considered a type of hyperpigmentation because of its severity and how difficult it is to treat. Both UV exposure and hormones exacerbate melasma. The hormone factor is why it is much more common in women, and what makes it more difficult to treat. Using oral contraceptives, pregnancy, and medications for various hormonal therapies can all trigger melasma.

Melasma can often be identified by a dermatologist solely on appearance. It is a blotchy patch most found on the face. Technically, melasma can also occur on other parts of the body, but it’s rare. Since UV exposure triggers melasma, it is not surprising that most outbreaks occur in the summer and on areas of the body exposed to the sun. Hormonal influences also make this ailment common during and post-pregnancy or after changing hormonal or birth control medications.

Sometimes exposure to visible light and heat can also trigger melasma. Those with a history of melasma should avoid infrared heat and hot environments like saunas. Treatment for melasma varies, and what works for one patient may not work for another. Brightening products, laser treatments, chemical peels, and starting a sunscreen regimen are usually the first steps.

Melasma Can Happen to Men

Melasma can also occur in men; according to Dermatology Times, one of the reasons melasma may occur in male patients is because they tend to not follow best practices for sunscreen application compared to women—and protecting the skin from harmful UV rays is an essential part of preventing any type of hyperpigmentation.

Melasma can happen to any gender or race. However, an article in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology warns that there are different considerations for male patients when treating melasma. Researchers undertook a literature review using Cochrane Library and PubMed from the last 20 years. The researchers found that there’s no conclusive figures on the global prevalence of melasma, but skin type, ethnicity, and sun exposure analyses all confirmed that melasma occurs most often in those with a Fitzpatrick skin type of IV to VI. Those with Hispanic, Africa, and Asian heritage were also more prone to melasma.

Of particular interest is that researchers found that men with more melanin and of African or Asian origin actually suffered from melasma more so than what has been previously thought. The presentation of melasma is similar for men and women, but men seem to be more susceptible to the malar clinical pattern whereas women more often has a centrofacial pattern. Malar pattern refers to the cheeks and nasal bridge.

Treating Melasma

There is no cure for melasma. In some cases, it’s tied to hormonal fluctuations, which is why pregnant women are particularly prone to it. It oftentimes disappears on its own. However, there are options to treat the severity of melasma, including medical-grade topical creams as well as laser skin rejuvenation. In terms of topical creams, a triple combination from a dermatologist is most often recommended for men.

Chemical peels are another option for melasma patients. However, the use of chemical peels to treat any condition should be carefully assessed. Chemical peels are available in light, medium, and deep depths, and work by chemically removing layers of skin. This means a chemical peel at the right depth can potentially remove the melasma (though melasma penetrates into deeper layers than other types of hyperpigmentation). Chemical peels can also permanently lighten the skin of patients with more melanin and is often only recommended to those with fairer skin.

Getting Your Melasma Under Control

One of the most effective melasma treatments has proven to be the use of lasers and light therapy. There are various technologies available, and the exact laser for you and your melasma presentation will depend on many factors including your skin tone and the severity of the melasma. A few sessions are often required to achieve optimal results. A combination therapy that might include medical-grade creams, a chemical peel, and laser skin rejuvenation might work best for you and can be discussed during your consultation.

While it’s surprising to some that melasma is more prevalent in men than previously thought, unfortunately what’s not so surprising is that men aren’t as strict with their skin care regimens. A lot of men may not seek help for their melasma, and that is a perfectly safe option. However, men who do see their dermatologist for treatment are great candidates for adopting a better and healthier at-home skin routine. The melasma study showed that 49 percent of men reported sun exposure without protection compared to just 24 percent of women.

Protecting your skin from the UV rays is an essential part not only of preventing melasma and other forms of hyperpigmentation but also skin cancer. Melasma treatment can be a steppingstone in helping patients adopt a more efficient and dermatologist-approved sun protection program. If you have melasma or questions about designing a skin care regimen, contact RefinedMD by calling the office or filling out the online form.