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Melasma (“pregnancy mask”) is a common skin condition characterized by gray-brown or brown patches on the face. It is much more common in women, especially in pregnant women. Birth control pills may also trigger the condition. After childbirth or after discontinuing taking birth control pills, the condition may fade. However, some people have melasma for years or even throughout their life.
What is Melasma?
Melasma is a skin problem that causes brown to gray-brown patches on the face with sun exposure or hormonal changes. It is most common in women and can affect the skin of the cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin. It also can appear on other parts of the body that get lots of sun, such as the forearms and neck.
The precise cause of melasma is not known, but there are several factors that may contribute to its development. The main cause of melasma may be too much exposure to sunlight for long periods, especially during the summer when the sun is most penetrating. People with a genetic predisposition or a known family history are more at risk as well.
How is Melasma Treated?
There are a number of topical treatments available for this condition. To begin the treatment, we may use prescription bleaching cream, hydroquinone or Cosmeceutical bleaching products (arbutin, kojic acid, mulberry). Other medications Dr. Chernoff may recommend include retinoic acid and/or corticosteroids.
If none of these medicines are effective in treating your melasma, Dr. Chernoff may recommend laser therapy in combination with other non-surgical procedures as follows:
- Topical retinol
- Topical antioxidant products
- Chemical Peels UVA/UVB Sunblock of SPF 30 or higher (preferably zinc)
Today, the most successful medicine for treating melasma has been the combination of hydroquinone along with the use of other topical products. This combination has shown improvement in many of those treated.
It may take some time to get a good result from the treatments. For some patients, the pigmentation may reappear because of hormonal factors or exposure to the sun.
Prior to any treatment or procedure, Dr. Chernoff or one of our trained and certified Health Care Providers determine if you are a candidate, review the risks and benefits, and provide all possible treatment alternatives.