At Refined Dermatology in Los Gatos, we understand that Melasma, also known as chloasma, is one of the most common skin conditions among adults. So why don’t we hear more about it? Melasma causes brown or greyish pigmentation to develop, mostly on the face. You might spot it on the forehead, cheeks, bridge of the nose, or upper lip. It’s exacerbated by sun exposure, and oftentimes people simply accept it as how their skin is changing with age and sun damage.
It’s most noticeable in the summertime, which leads some to believe that it’s connected to summer allergies—that isn’t true. Melasma isn’t contagious, cancerous, pre-cancerous, and it’s not an infection. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t bothersome and getting in the way of your beauty game. There’s no cure for melasma, but there are ways to drastically reduce its appearance. Protection against the sun is key for both melasma and avoiding skin cancer. Wear sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses when you’ll be outdoors for extended periods of time. If you want to take it to the next level, it’s time to consider advanced laser technology treatments.
Melasma, or abnormal pigmentation process, is sometimes called dyschromia on parts of the body besides the face. It’s most commonly seen in those with Mediterranean, Asian, and Central/South American heritage—but melasma can happen to anyone. Women suffer from it more often than men, making them scramble for foundation and their favorite BB-cream. Nobody knows what actually causes melasma, but we do know it’s a dynamic process involving increased pigment production and the deposit of melanin granules in skin cells. In other words, there’s no quick fix because the process is constantly shifting.
Tackling melasma usually involves a variety of skin treatments to reduce the pigment production while also removing excess pigmentation. This is a BOGO deal. You can’t do one without the other. Not following a customized melasma plan is the number one cause of minimal or no improvement.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melasma is a pigmentation disease comparable to diabetes or any other chronic condition. It demands continual control. You’ll still have good periods and bad periods, but can prolong the good times with the right strategy. Melasma is like a light switch. Once it’s turned on (or you “got it”), there’s no turning it off. However, we can add a dimmer switch to tone it down and give you more control.
The first rule of fighting melasma is understanding light and heat are your enemies. Avoid the sun, bleaching or lightening products for the skin, and exfoliators. Any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen, but ideally you should be using one with zinc oxide, iron oxide, or titanium dioxide, and reapplying every two hours. UV-A causes pigmentation (along with a host of other nasty condition like premature aging), but new research shows that VL (visible light) can also increase pigmentation, especially in darker skin tones. Iron oxide-rich sunscreen is the only sunscreen that can block VL. All Refined Dermatology patients type IV and above must use iron oxide products as part of their treatment. Not sure what type you are? No worries, we’ll tell you during your consultation.
So, what treatments are there to slow down and reverse the signs of melasma? OBAGI skin care programs are a favorite for many patients. Key skin lightening systems such as Revision, Epionce, and Lumixyl can be effective for some patients, but don’t confuse these for over the counter alternatives. If you go over-the-counter with skin lightening treatments, the melasma might become more noticeable. Chemical peels can remove the uppermost layer of skin to reveal less pigmented skin below, while microdermabrasion offers similar results but at a much less severe degree. Popular chemical peels include The Perfect Peel, VI Peel, and Replenix Perfect Peel. Microneedling is often included with many treatments as a way to complement the procedures with a boost of collagen formation.
However, laser skin rejuvenation is by far the preferred method for the most dramatic results. The 1064nm Cutera skin resurfacing laser has yielded great results. Thulium’s 1927nm rays in the Clear and Brilliant laser, as well as the latest LaseMD system, are also highly effective. Certain patients may also be candidates for Tranexamic Acid treatments, and it may be offered in both services for men and women depending on skin type. Slow down melasma and reduce its appearance today by calling Refined Dermatology at (408) 688-2082.