25 Feb Why Melasma Became a Household Name in 2020
Before 2020, a lot of people didn’t know what melasma was unless they or someone they knew struggled with it. It’s actually a very common skin condition and some treatments available at RefinedMD are perfect to lessen the skin irregularities left by this disease. Melasma is a medical condition that requires aesthetic treatments, and presents as a particularly stubborn type of hyperpigmentation. It can be gray in color, as well as a variety of other colors such as brown, and can appear across the eyes and bridge of the nose as a type of “mask.” In other words, that mask you’ve been wearing on a regular basis since last year isn’t the only mask that could be giving you trouble.
Melasma can happen to anyone, but it’s especially common in pregnant people due to their hormone changes (which is why it’s sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy”). However, it turns out that wearing an actual mask can also cause melasma. Melasma must be “triggered” and a mask traps heat against the skin’s surface, which can cause a temperature-induced melasma. Melasma is often a chronic condition, but there are methods to reduce its appearance. It is also very common for it to go away on its own, so it can often be a waiting game.
Melasma and Masks
On any given day, around six million people in the U.S. are struggling with melasma. This includes people of all ethnicities, genders, and skin types. In fact, it’s one of the most common complaints dermatologists hear. Melasma occurs when the melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells in the body, get triggered to produce more pigment. Everybody has the same number of melanocytes when they are born, but they tend to be more active if you have more melanin. They’re also not necessarily evenly distributed, so when they get triggered the pigment in the skin appears uneven.
The key to stopping hyperactivity in melanocytes is to minimize or eliminate the triggers. If you’re being triggered by wearing a mask, there are still things you can do. Experiment with different types of masks, as various materials and fits might provide better temperature regulation. Take off your mask whenever it is safe to do so, such as when you are driving alone or with those in your household, or when walking outside and it’s feasible to stay six feet away from other people.
There are three known major factors that trigger melasma including hormones, UV rays, and heat. Numerous studies have shown that heat will increase the pigment production because it dilates blood vessels. If you get melasma, it is critical to avoid UV light and heat whenever possible. If you’ve just started experiencing melasma in the past year, it’s possible you’ve always been prone to heat-related melasma but have simply lucked out until now. When you do get overheated, cooling the skin’s surface as soon as possible can help to avoid melasma flare-ups.
For those with heat-related triggers, avoiding saunas, hot showers, and even cooking over a stove might not be enough. That could indicate you have hidden stimulants, such as blue light from a laptop or smartphone. Certain skin care products might irritate melasma and make it worse—including some sunscreens. Some sunscreens turn UV radiation into heat so that you don’t burn, but this can be problematic if you’re prone to melasma. We regularly work with patients to help identify their triggers and create customized skin care regimens using only medical-grade products to help keep melasma in check.
Treating melasma requires a long-term approach, since it’s a chronic condition. You might be a candidate for a prescription medication from your dermatologist, such as hydroquinone or Retin-A. Changing your skin care regimen can also be helpful. Reducing the appearance of melasma may be helped with lasers or light energy devices. You can also help even the skin tone with treatments like microneedling. Ultimately, working with your dermatologist is going to be the key to both preventing melasma and reducing its appearance during a flare-up.
Try to keep in mind that all melasma flare-ups are temporary, so there is an end in sight. We’re also crossing our fingers that this will be the year we can safely get back to some sense of normal, which means masks will hopefully stop causing your flare-ups in the near future. However, to treat your melasma now, contact RefinedMD online to book a consultation.