Melasma is a skin condition that is associated with female hormones, and overexposure to sun rays. It is also known as chloasma, or the mask of pregnancy. Areas such as forehead, cheekbones and the upper lip are prone to developing melasma. However, it can also affect the chin, nose, sides of the neck and lower cheeks. It is an acquired condition, characterized by development of brown patches on the skin of the face and the neck. This condition is more common in women, than men. It generally occurs during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Young women with brownish skin tones are more susceptible to this disorder. Although it is not a hazardous disease, it affects the appearance of a person, particularly making women, overtly self-conscious.
What are the causes of Melasma?
- Melasma is caused by a combination of hormonal, genetic and sun-related factors. It is usually associated with the female hormones. Research indicates that melasma is caused due to the over-production of melanocytes. Melanocytes are skin cells that secrete melanin a pigment responsible for lending colour to our skin. It is more commonly seen in young women taking contraceptive pills and also during pregnancy.
- Melasma is also found to be associated with hormonal imbalance, menopause and ovarian disorders. It may be triggered by a medication known as phenytoin or tetracycline.
- A prolonged exposure to sun is also responsible for developing melasma.
- Another cause of melasma could be the use of certain beauty products that may further stimulate the production of melanocytes.
Melasma causes irregular, brown or greyish-brown patches on the skin of the face and the neck. The brown-coloured patches are seen on the forehead, nose, cheeks, and the upper lip. They result from the increased amounts of skin pigment, called melanin. In some rare cases, there may be skin discoloration on both arms. There may be epidermal melasma (increased pigment in the epidermis) or dermal melasma (increased pigment present deeply in the dermis), or a combination of both.
Melasma is generally related to pregnancy, and fades gradually after delivery. Similarly, the pigmentation gradually disappears when you discontinue the oral contraceptives. Darkening is likely to recur with reintroduction of contraceptive pills or subsequent pregnancy.
- As the exposure to sunrays is one of the most prominent causes of melasma, use of sunscreens or sunblocks is an important treatment option.
- You should avoid exposure to ultraviolet light of the sun or tanning booths as much as possible.
- Depigmenting agents, bleaching creams, or vitamin A derivatives are also prescribed to reduce the skin pigmentation.
- Hydroquinone is the most commonly used agent. It can also be combined with some other agents such as glycolic acid to enhance its effect. Its effect is quite slow and occurs after several months.
- Besides the creams, other techniques such as microdermabrasion, chemical peel and laser treatment are also used to treat melasma. A chemical peeling with tri-chloro-acetic (TCA) acid or glycolic acid could give rapid results.
Natural Remedies for MelasmaLemon juice is known to help treat melasma. It works well for the discoloured skin patches. All you need to do is to squeeze a few drops of lemon juice in a bowl, and apply the same to the affected area. Leave the smear for 15 to 20 minutes and rinse hereafter. You may also choose to add cucumber juice to the lemon drops and apply the concoction all over the face. Leave the application overnight and rinse it off next morning. The effectiveness is proven, only when you continue with this regimen 3 to 4 times a week.
Potato juice is also a resourceful agent used for lightening the pigmented skin patches. You may apply the juice and wash it off when you experience a skin stretch.
Considering the treatment options offered, you must bear in mind that the treatment for melasma is slow, and takes several months for the desired results. The effectiveness of treatment depends upon the depth of pigmentation and differs from person to person. A skin pigmentation lightening lotion may work very well for an acquaintance, however, may not prove to be as effective, in your case or vice versa.