Melasma is a common skin condition that creates patches of darker skin due to over production of melanin. Melanin is the pigment that provides colour to our hair, skin, and eyes; the more the melanin, the darker the skin.
While melasma, a patchy or generalized dark pigmentation of the skin is rarely seen in men; it is particularly common in women, especially those who are pregnant. It is for this reason that it is also commonly called 'the mask of pregnancy' or chloasma. Melasma in pregnancy is generally caused on account of increased levels of progesterone.
Asian, Hispanic, Arab, and African women are more prone to get affected by melasma. It generally appears as dark patches in the face and on the fore arms. On the face it is usually around the upper lips, upper cheeks and forehead.
Causes of melasma:
Though the exact cause of melasma is unknown, researchers believe it is triggered by pregnancy, family history, exposure to the sun, or use of oral contraceptives and prescription drugs. People suffering from thyroid disorder are also most likely to be affected by melasma. In some cases products or treatments that irritate the skin may also trigger an increase in melanin production and hence lead to melasma.
Melasma is usually diagnosed visually by a dermatologist. The practitioner may also use a Wood lampin diagnosing melasma. The dark brownish to bluish looking marks on the face or sun exposed areas are usually similar on both sides. They are painless and show no other side effects.
Cures for melasma:
There is no definite cure for melasma. However, one can take a few pro active steps to prevent its occurrence and severity; like avoiding direct sunlight, wearing protective clothing when out in the sun and regularly applying sun block (preferably of SPF 30 or more).
Skin consultants generally prescribe creams containing hydroquinones, retinoids, azaelic acid, hydroxyacids, or kojic acid for such conditions. Consistent use of such creams for months helps de-pigment such areas a little. Sometimes the doctor may also recommend chemical peels or topical steroid such as progesterone, adrenocortical and gonadal hormones, bile acids, sterols, toad poisons, and some carcinogenic hydrocarbonsantibiotic creams and in some severe cases, laser treatment is also recommended.
Apart from cosmetic concerns there is no other damage that melasma causes to the human body. Yet if one suffers from persistent darkening of skin, they must consult their health care provider or consider alternative treatments and natural cures to see what works best for them.