Spots on the face are most likely caused by a skin condition known as melasma. Melasma is a common, patchy brown, tan or blue-gray skin discoloration due to overproduction of pigment on the skin.
Melasma typically results from sun exposure and hormonal changes in women due to progesterone and estrogen; about 9 out of 10 people with melasma are women ages 20 to 50.
Melasma is often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy” because its dark patches—which usually crop up on the nose, cheekbones and jaw—are even more prevalent while women are expecting. But that doesn’t mean women greet the development of these embarrassing spots with the same type of glee as they do their babies-to-be.
While hormonal changes and sunshine are the two biggest triggers, those with a genetic predisposition and darker skin are more prone to the condition. People who work around heat for example, such as cooks, may also be prone because of heat’s ability to irritate the skin and induce overproduction of pigment.
Melasma, while not dangerous, does not have a permanent cure. However, it can be effectively treated.
Melasma can fade on its own, particularly when the trigger causing it—such as pregnancy or oral contraceptive use—ends. But for those who don’t want to wait and hope have several options:
Hydroquinone works by lightening the skin. Hydroquinone in its most effective form can be obtained through a doctor’s prescription.
Tretinoin will enhance the skin lightening process when added to hydroquinone.
Other topical medications may include the skin-lighteners azelaic acid or kojic acid.
In-office treatments. When topical medications don’t do the trick, dermatologists and estheticians may use in-office procedures such as a chemical peel that slough off the top layers of the skin.
Melasma can be stubborn; the topical treatments will take time to work. No melasma treatment offers permanent results, but maintenance therapy can prevent melasma from coming back. Certain common-sense tactics can also help avoid melasma from developing in the first place. One example is daily sunscreen use. Since sunlight is one of the biggest triggers for melasma, daily sunscreen use is non-negotiable to keep it at bay. Choose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection with an SPF of 30 or higher.
If you’re dealing with melasma and are unsatisfied with the results from treatment options so far, contact Skin Deep to find out how we can help.