This is a common condition faced by women where dark patches of blue-grey or brown skin manifest around the face. Termed the ‘mask of pregnancy’, it affects many pregnant women but is not isolated to them.
Individuals with darker skin are also more prone to this condition and it is thought that this condition is triggered by exposure to harmful UV rays and hormonal changes.
Our skin contains a cell known as Melanocyte. It is tasked with the production of the pigment Melanin which determines the colour of our eyes, hair and skin.
Most of the time Melanocytes produce a roughly equal amount of melanin across the skin which results in an even skin tone.
However, there are instances that internal (hormonal changes) or extrernal factors (sun exposure) can lead to the stimulation of particular Melanocytes to over-produce Melanin. This increased concentration of melanin in certain areas of the skin causes the dark, patchy spots characteristic of melasma.
The ease of treatment of melasma is dependent on whether the pigment is produced in the dermis or the epidermis.
The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin where dead skin is shed and melanin (the pigment that determines our skin colour) is found.
The dermis is beneath the epidermis, the dermis consists of a thick layer of connective tissue, blood vessels, nerves.
There are three types of melasma categorised by how deep within the skin the melanin is produced:
luctuations in certain hormones can cause melasma. This is the reason pregnant women or those taking hormonal medications such as birth control pills may begin to develop melasma.
Those with underlying melasma conditions may find that it truly begins to flare up after a long period in the sun. This is because the combinatorial effect of UV rays, light and heat accelerate the development of pigmentations.
There are some compounds in cosmetics that your skin may not be taking well too. Some of us may take to skin lightening creams in hopes to lighten the pigmentation. Many doctors warn against these skin products as they are at best ineffective and at worst harmful as it may potentially lead to oral and kidney conditions. These products may not be FDA approved as well.
At first glance, the conditions may seem the same. However, hyperpigmentation refers to the darkening of areas of the skin. This can correspond to pigmentation issues such as freckles, age spots and liver spots. Melasma is a sub-category of hyperpigmentation.
As one of the main causes of melasma is hormonal changes, it makes it much more difficult to treat as compared to other hyperpigmentation issues as it is difficult to alter the body’s hormonal composition.
As mentioned above, Melasma is difficult to treat and has a high chance of relapse. There is currently no permanent cure for it but there are certain measures that can be taken to lighten the spots.
A combination of various cream and medication may help to reduce the intensity of the dark spots. Hydroquinone is a popular option and can be used in combination with other drugs such as tretinoin and steroids. These products help to inhibit melanocytes from overproducing melanin.
Oral tranexamic acid can also be used to inhibit melanin production. However, this must be prescribed by a doctor.
Professional chemical peels usually contain a cocktail of chemical compounds used to make the surface layer of the skin blister and eventually peel off to reveal the newer more supple layer underneath.
Lasers such as the Pico Laser are effective in lightening stubborn pigmentation caused by melasma.
Sylfirm is a cutting-edge technology developed in Silicon Valley, USA. It uses RP (repeated ultra-short pulses) that reacts only to abnormal blood vessels and tissue membrane. This effectively treats melasma, brightening skin and rejuvenating the skin as a whole.
Tiny electrodes generate a powerful electromagnetic field of energy that safely and effectively penetrates the dermal layer. SMART technology selectively treats abnormal skin vessels such as Melasma improved skin tone, clearer and more radiant-looking skin.
Pain is minimal and depends on the patient’s skin condition. Majority of patients find the treatment entirely pain-free.
Results can be seen from a single treatment of Sylfirm. For better results, a program of 5 or more may be suggested, this depends on each individual’s needs.