What Is Melasma?
Melasma is the benign skin condition which is characterized by pigmentation deposit upon the skin. When there is an excessive deposit of skin pigment called melanin, the skin condition is called melasma. Hyperpigmentation, similar to melasma, causes skin discoloration on the forehead, cheeks and jawline. Both melasma and hyperpigmentation may result from hormonal imbalance, genetic factors and excessive exposure to the rays of the sun, skin inflammation. To treat such skin condition, one needs to take necessary steps to reduce any production of skin pigment, melanin, in the melanocytes. You may be wondering whether melasma and hyperpigmentation are same or different. Hyperpigmentation is the skin condition that may result from several factors. To know the difference between the two, you must know what is melasma, what causes it and what the symptoms are.
Important facts on melasma
Melasma and hyperpigmentation are almost same with a slight difference. Melasma, the skin condition, shows up in the form of skin discoloration and gets exacerbated when exposed to the rays of the sun. Certain factors have set it apart from hyperpigmentation. The following are the facts on melasma:
- Around 4-5 million Americans are affected by melasma and women are more likely to get it
- It is almost same like hyperpigmentation manifesting in the form of black and brown spots
- The skin condition is different from hyperpigmentation
- It occurs on the face
- It shows up in the form of brown patches on the skin with the characteristic pattern on the cheeks, forehead and upper lip
- As it is estrogen-driven, women are more likely to get it. Women who use birth control pills are more likely to have it. Any exposure to estrogen during pregnancy can also lead to this.
- It gets worsened with heat and exposure to the rays of the sun
You can treat hyperpigmentation with the use of intense pulsed light, chemical peels or Fraxel. Intense pulsed light is non-surgical and non-invasive treatment. There is the use of a specific wavelength of light in order to target the dark pigment. The pulse light heats pigment and then fragments such pigments. The pigment fragment moves to the surface. The pigmentation mark flakes off without leaving marks behind. The treatment improves redness and broken capillaries caused due to Rosacea.
The causes of melasma
So, what is melasma? Melasma is the skin condition resulting from hyperpigmentation. It is common among women. It is trigged by UV rays of the sun and hormonal imbalance. Hormonal imbalance is more common among women who are expecting. Traditional hyperpigmentation is tougher to handle. It shows up as a characteristic pattern upon the upper lip, cheeks, and forehead. There is a causal relationship which is often not understood. In fact, there may be a variety of factors like heat, sun exposure, and estrogen that can cause melasma. The main reason behind melasma is the activation of pigment cells known as melanocytes which causes an increase in the production of melanin. These cells cannot be deactivated as there is no such shut off valve.
The difference between hyperpigmentation and melasma
You need to know the difference between hyperpigmentation and melasma. It is difficult to treat melasma when compared to hyperpigmentation. We can say that melasma has, in fact, no cure. Melasma needs constant watch and care. You need to maintain the surface of the skin regularly. If there are parallel lines, scars, wrinkles, you may use treatment options like chemical peels, bleaching, and Fraxel. Fraxel is an effective cure for melasma and is FDA cleared.
Chemical peel: the treatment for melasma
The chemical peel is a procedure where one applies the solution to the facial skin to cause the topmost layer of the skin to peel off. After skin exfoliation, the pigment on the layer of the skin flakes off to reveal smooth and fair skin. Conservative treatment option for melasma is also available. Spot peel or Cosmelian are the bleaching systems used. Such bleaching systems or treatments work by blocking melanin production in the skin. It is essential to find a dermatologist when you have skin discoloration. He can see the causes of skin discoloration and what are the treatment modes.
Melasma: the mask of pregnancy
Although known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’, people who are not pregnant might also have melasma. Sun exposure, contraceptive pills and certain kinds of medications may cause Melasma. Hyperpigmentation occurs due to exposure to the rays of the sun. In this respect, melasma is similar to hyperpigmentation. There is genetic predisposition associated with melasma. If your family members suffer from melasma, you may also have it. The causes of melasma are more complicated than hyperpigmentation.
Melasma Vs Hyperpigmentation
Simply put, hyperpigmentation takes place when there is excessive production of melanin. It is associated with various skin conditions. Certain skin conditions also require medical intervention. Melasma is one type of hyperpigmentation skin condition whereas hyperpigmentation is much broader. There are many diseases associated with hyperpigmentation. Some of them are Acanthosis nigricans, Addison’s disease, Coeliac disease, Grave’s disease, Nelson’s syndrome and many such. Hyperpigmentation discoloration can result from any exposure to chemicals like bleomycin, salicylic acid, cisplatin. The skin discoloration may respond slowly to discoloration treatment. If the problem is there for a long time, it will take time to cure. De-pigmenting treatments are available to do away with the skin discoloration. Effective treatment for skin pigmentation is based upon topical products containing hydroquinone. After you apply hydroquinone on the skin, it gets absorbed by melanocytes or gets simply metabolized by melanocytes to produce quinone or toxic radical.
Where is the similarity?
Melasma is the type of hyperpigmentation appearing on the cheeks, face, and nose. Melasma can take place on three different levels, namely, epidermal, dermal and mixed. Any overproduction of melanin leads to hyperpigmentation. The reason for melasma is the same. But, it occurs among women. Melasma may disappear on its own just after the birth. Women taking hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills can have it.
Laser therapy removes hyperpigmentation or melasma. But, they are invasive, expensive and may also trigger post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. You should try out natural remedies for hyperpigmentation to treat it first. If nothing works out, you must adopt chemical treatments.