Probably one of the most stubborn skin conditions to deal with happens to be melasma.. Whatever you call it; pregnancy mask, mustache, brown/ grey patches, discoloration or uneven skin tone, identifying melasma can be extremely tricky, enduring it is pure agony, add to that it’s very challenging to treat.. How well can you differentiate between melasma and other skin pigmentation issues? How can you best inhibit it or hopefully even treat it once and for all. Read along..
Melasma is a condition where there’s an overproduction of melanin which means pigment. Melanocytes are cells that live in the deepest layer of the skin, the dermis.. As melanin is bundled up in melanosomes, the result is their dispersion up to the surface of the skin. The end result -which usually takes more time than you might think – shows up as color on the skin. This is a pigmentation disorder, initially seen as brown or grey-brown patches on the skin. Melasma can appear anywhere on the skin, however, the forehead, the outer perimeters of the face and cheeks and above the upper lip are usually the places where it manifests most..
Your Typical Reaction
You know you’ve got a case of melasma when initially you have hopes of it fading away, when you aim for natural bleaching agents such as lemon and apple cider vinegar, followed by your disappointment. Which automatically leads you to visit your dermatologist, who will most commonly prescribe anything with hydroquinone within its ingredients, that’s when you know it’s already reached to a point of no return. You panic, you become a melasma-google-expert, lastly you become an experienced makeup artist with all the knowledge in the world about all types of concealers and correctors.. Pretty overwhelming isn’t it?
The number one trigger for melasma would be hormones, but other possibilities include continued unprotected UV exposure and skin irritation. Sad but true, once melasma kicks in at a certain age -usually mid 30’s- there’s no easy way back to pre-melasma skin condition.. Women are more prone than men, its hormone related as I mentioned. Women on birth control pills that mimic the state of pregnancy is another culprit. Pregnancy is a strong trigger as well, that’s where the term pregnancy mask comes from.. People with darker skin tones are easier victims, the extra melanocytes presence gives more way for over-stimulation… Last but not least, your genes. If your mom has it there’s a huge chance you will too..
A DIY Guide For Identifying Melasma
There are other types of pigmentation, that often confuses us upon determining whether it’s melasma or hyperpigmentation, sun spots or freckles. However, there is a way where you can find out on your own..
- In a well-lit room, after cleansing your hands and face, gently stretch the area of the face that appears discolored.
- If the skin appears lighter when stretched than when at rest, the pigmentation is close to the surface and mostly superficial. This means it’s likely not melasma, rather one of the other three types of hyperpigmentation.
- If the skin appears darker when stretched than when at rest, the pigmentation lies in the deepest layers of the skin and will be more challenging to treat. If it is truly melasma, it will more than likely be in the deeper layers.
*courtsey of Renee Rouleau*
There are a few changes that one can incorporate into their lifestyle that can at least inhibit if not totally treat melasma.. In my case, and after years of suffering from melasma especially in the summer, I have found out that no matter what I do in terms of protecting my skin during winter, melasma seems irreversible. The minute summer kicks in and hot weather skyrockets, those deep colored patches re-emerge like there’s no tomorrow, and like I have not been tackling them at all during the previous months.. Enough proof melasma can be inhibited yet never fades away..
How To Put The Monster To Sleep
Avoid Sun Exposure
If you’re a victim of melasma then you seriously have to end your affair with the sun. Simply put. It is hands down the most important thing for keeping pigment cells calm. Generously applied and re-applied sunscreen, hats the size of China, protective clothes and the shade are all types of effective defense.. Welcome self tanners into your life and just for get about your religiously tanning sessions.. Nothing but troubles comes out of them..
Reduce Your Exposure to Heat
Melanocytes go wild with the heat.. Any form of heat, be it extremely hot showers, saunas and steam rooms, vigorous exercise and even heat produced by hats.. Almost anything that increases the temperature of the body should be avoided. It makes a huge difference when you get accustomed to the element of cool. Cool toners, creams and masks. Cool jade/ ice rollers. Ice cubes applied directly to the skin, cool towels, cool surroundings general inhibit melanocytes..
Look For Those Active Ingredients
Products with ingredients that will block tyrosinase are your best bet.. Those will help interrupt signals being sent to melanocytes. These ingredients include hydroquinone, azelaic acid, kojic acid, arbutin, licorice extract, and vitamin C. *Consult with your dermatologist..
Physical and chemical scrubs and exfoliants are another way of helping those stubborn pigments of melasma to come closer to the skin surface.. For acids, go for glycolic or salicylic. Fruit enzymes, such as papaya or pineapple, are also great options and are gentler than acids. Retinol is also great for pigmentation because it increases cell turnover.
Non-heat laser treatments can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin where melasma is formed. You’ll want to consult with a skin professional about which one is best suited for your skin.
A final thought to recap our melasma issue would be the understanding that for melasma to finally appear, its journey to the surface of the skin was quite long. Meaning, melasma was in-the-making a long time before you were even introduced to sunblock and skin care.. This should be your lesson that you can teach to your younger kids. Optimal skin care habits actually do -at a later stage in life- pay off…