Spots on the face are most likely to be 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. It 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. However, the dark spots of Melasma can be found in other areas that are exposed to the sun. Other common areas include the neck and forearms.
Melasma typically results from sun exposure and hormonal changes in women due to progesterone and estrogen.
Melasma can fade on its own, particularly when the trigger causing it—such as pregnancy or oral contraceptive use—ends. But those who don’t just want to wait, there are several treatment options available.
- In-office procedures such as a chemical peel and microdermabrasion, which slough off the top layers of the skin, have been noticed to be highly effective in reducing the appearance of melasma.
- Laser treatments are also used to treat melasma. Multiple treatments are required in order to see dramatic results. Like any Melasma treatment, it is best to continue a daily sunscreen regimen prescribed by your dermatologist to ensure best results.
- Hydroquinone: Available in a cream, lotion, gel or liquid, this medication works by lightening the skin. Hydroquinone can be found in over-the-counter preparations, but higher strength versions can only be obtained through a doctor’s prescription.
- Tretinoin and corticosteroids: These medications enhance the skin lightening process when added to hydroquinone. Some contain three compounds—hydroquinone, tretinoin and a corticosteroid—which are then called a ” triple cream.”
- Other topical medications: Also applied to the skin, these may include the skin-lighteners azelaic acid or kojic acid.
Ways to prevent Melasma formation:
No melasma treatment offers permanent results, so it is recommended to opt for maintenance therapy that can prevent melasma from coming back.
Certain tactics can also help avoid melasma from developing in the first place.
- 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.
- Outdoor hats. Broad-brimmed hats help keep rays off vulnerable parts of the face. Seek shade whenever outdoors, as well.
- Gentle skin care. Since products that irritate the skin exacerbate melasma, use gentle products that don’t sting or burn.