Melasma: A Reason for Brown Facial Discoloration

Overview | Treatment | Before and After Pictures

Are you suffering with brown patches on the cheeks, upper lip or forehead? If you have brownish discoloration that seems to wax and wane, but never disappears, then you very likely have melasma. It is a frustrating and common pigmentation problem that affects many women and a few men as well. Typically, melasma occurs in a woman with a certain skin type or ethnic background, but our experience is that virtually anyone can develop it.

There is no one test that we use to diagnose melasma. It is a diagnosis that is based on your symptoms, medical history and the appearance of your skin. The typical melasma patient has very symmetric, darkened or brownish patches on the forehead, cheeks and/or upper lip. The history is usually that the pigmentation began quickly, usually over the course of a few days and gradually worsened. Although it most commonly occurs on the face, any skin that’s repeatedly exposed to the sun can be affected.

Melasma is a disorder of the melanocytes. These are the skin cells that produce melanin, which is the skin’s pigmentation. It is a poorly understood process, but we do know that certain hormonal factors such as oral contraceptives, pregnancy or perimenopause, seem to influence its development. Recent research has shown that melasma exacerbations can be triggered with exposure to heat, humidity or UV radiation. You are right if you’re thinking that it sounds like melasma is a tough, difficult skin problem. It can be extremely challenging for both those suffering with it and the treating practitioner. Unfortunately, it is incurable. However, it is possible to control it and make it much more livable for those affected, but it takes a strict regimen and careful guidance by an experienced practitioner.

Some practices treat melasma with microdermabrasion, chemical peels, lasers and topical skin care products, or some combination of all these. The problem with this approach is that many of these treatments have not been shown to be helpful in improving melasma based on the current research. We will even go a step further and say that in our experience, many patients who’ve had laser and/or light-based treatments for their melasma report that while it may initially improved, it typically returns to baseline in about six months. More concerning, many of these patients got worse instead of better after these types of treatments. And this seems to be in line with what we currently understand about melasma and its relationship to heat and light.

At Celibre Medical Corporation, we base our treatment approach on the most current, up-to-date research. We take this knowledge and tailor a plan this fits your needs, expectations, budget and lifestyle. Our melasma program features science-based, tried and true treatments that have passed our own in-house trials demonstrating safety and success. We understand that melasma is a difficult and frustrating condition. We also understand that the key to your treatment success lies in your understanding of the condition and our ability to explain the benefits and limitations of treatment. You must understand the importance of adherence to a regimen that keeps melasma in check, since it is incurable.

Here are a few of our recommendations for managing Melasma:

  • If you take oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, discuss your concerns with your physician and ask about tapering down to the lowest, effective dose appropriate for you.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection with a minimum SPF of 30. Do not rely on the sunscreens in your makeup or moisturizer.
  • Use your sunscreen even on cloudy or rainy days, as you’re still exposed to UV rays! Always reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours while outdoors for extended periods of time and try wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to further cut down your exposure to UV radiation.

If you’d like to talk to us more about how we can help you treat or manage your melasma, please give us a call today. Your consultation is free and we would love to talk to you more about what we can do to help you beat this frustrating condition once and for all.

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