Hyperpigmentation. Probably the most hyped about skin condition. A by-product of acne scarring, sun damage, eczema or any inflammation flaring up. Simply put, hyperpigmentation is a broad term, it refers to a skin condition where skin is discolored, darkened and unevenly toned.
One of the types of hyperpigmentation is melasma. A pigmentary condition that affects mostly women. Much like general hyperpigmentation, melasma appears in the form of discoloration on the skin and is exacerbated by exposure to the sun. However, there are actually quite a few differences that set it apart from hyperpigmentation.
Differences that call for individual treatments.
Refers to skin going darker. Whether you have post-blemish scarring from a stubborn breakout, freckles that expanded into full-blown sun spots from excess exposure, or discoloration caused by a condition like eczema or psoriasis, the discoloration usually all falls under the umbrella of hyperpigmentation.
This is because acne, sunlight, skin rashes, and the like have the potential to stimulate melanocytes, the pigment-making cells in the skin, to make a surplus of pigment. The deeper the pigment, the tougher it is to treat. Put it this way: A section of skin that’s been consistently exposed to harmful UV rays without the proper protection will be harder to diminish than say, a dark spot leftover from a pimple that you’ve been careful to shield from the sun. In other words, the level of severity varies, but if you spot discoloration on your skin that wasn’t there before, it’s safe to assume it’s hyperpigmentation. But always consult your doctor to be sure, of course.
Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation that’s more commonly seen in women. What distinguishes it from hyperpigmentation is that it’s triggered by hormonal influences (pregnancy, oral contraceptive use, and other hormonal therapies). Melasma is tougher to treat. The problem is preventing its worsening, especially from the hormonal angle, as it can be hard to remove the instigating factors.
What does melasma look like?
You can usually tell if you have melasma based on its appearance alone. It typically appears as symmetric blotchy hyperpigmented gray-brown patches on the face, usually the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead, chin, and upper lip. Less common melasma can appear on other parts of the body like the neck and forearms. Melasma tends to worsen in the summer and improve in the winter.
What are the factors that contribute to the spreading of melasma?
Primarily visible light and heat. Unfortunately, steering clear of infrared heat is difficult, as it can be generated just by being in hot environments such as a sauna, a steamy kitchen, or even the gym.
Hyperpigmentation is easier to treat and results can be witnessed clearly, as the variety of over-the-counter products containing brightening agents is available. Agents like vitamin C, kojic acid, niacinamide, hydroquinone, and azelaic acid. Chemical peels fall under the umbrella of brightening agents as well.
Melasma hasn’t seen the same rate of success or consistency in treatment. Usually what works for one person doesn’t work for another, therefore, it is hard to pinpoint one treatment that is most effective for melasma. However, a combination of sunscreen, brightening ingredients, and laser treatments (in low energy) are the recipe to at least inhibit or decrease its worsening level. Multiple treatments -at least three- will be needed on a monthly basis, and then every six months after that, to help maintain results.
The importance of sunscreen in preventing general pigmentation and speeding up recovery.
For any sun-induced ailment, sunscreen is by far your best determent. Melasma is also triggered by hormonal factors, but that does not mean you should slack off on the SPF, as UV rays are still responsible for magnifying the condition. Applying a minimum of SPF 30 every couple of hours will do you great backing.