What is Melasma?
Melasma is a skin condition that affects over 6 million women in the United States alone. It is a condition in which gray-brownish spots appear on the skin. The patches usually appear on the face and most commonly appear across the bridge of the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin.
What does Melasma look like?
Melasma is usually characterized and identified by brow-ish or gray-ish blotches across your face, forehead, upper lip or cheekbones. You can find a picture of what my melasma looks like here!
What causes Melasma?
Melasma occurs so often during pregnancy that it is often referred to as the pregnancy mask. The reason the condition occurs during pregnancy is because of a significant increase in estrogen. The increase in estrogen causes an increase in melanin which changes the pigment of the skin. While any woman can experience this change in their skin, it is more common among women with darker skin. The good news is that after pregnancy, the patches will usually fade on their own as estrogen levels return to normal.
Birth Control Use
As mentioned above, hormones can cause melasma. If you’re on birth control that is high in estrogen, you may experience the conditions. The easiest thing you can do is stop taking the birth control and wait for your body to readjust to normal hormone levels. If you need to remain on the birth control, you may want to visit a dermatologist for treatment options.
It’s important to point out that melasma can also affect men. While the condition is often caused by hormonal changes, sun exposure can also cause melasma. Spending years in the sun can result in melasma that is harder to treat. The easiest thing you can do is protect yourself from the sun. If you’re going to be in the sun for long periods, apply sunscreen every two hours.
While pregnancy, birth control, and sun exposure are the most common causes of melasma, there are other causes that should be considered. Cosmetics, certain medications, hypothyroidism, and even scented soaps and deodorants can cause melasma. Ceasing use of these products or medications can reverse the effects. You can also speak to your doctor about how treating hypothyroidism can improve your skin.
5 Things you need to Avoid when you have Melasma
1. Being out in the sun without protection
Gone are the days where you can lather yourself up with some suntanning oil and achieve a nice golden brown tan. Now that you have melasma, using sun protection is your only option at keeping melasma at bay. You’ll want to be sure to use a zinc-based sunscreen or wide brimmed hat (preferably one with built in SPF) to cover your face at all times. You’ll also want to make sure to reapply your sunscreen at least every 2 two hours and more if you are participating in water activities.
2. Wax Treatments
Wax treatments can severely worsen your upper lip melasma so while it might be tempting to wax your skin, it is strongly recommended that you avoid any wax treatments on your face while you have melasma. Waxing can cause skin inflammation which can irritate the sensitive melasma prone skin and can cause it to become darker.
3. Beauty Products that contain hormone disruptors
There are a handful of hormone disrupting ingredients found in beauty products that you should absolutely avoid at all costs if you have melasma. Some of the ingredients are oxybenzone, parabens, & siloxanes. You can see a full list here. Because melasma is likely caused by an imbalance in hormones you want to avoid any synthetic estrogenic ingredients which can artificially enhance your estrogen levels.
4. Skin Irritants
For the same reason, people with melasma are advised against waxing, you should also make it a point not to use beauty products that irritate your face like exfoliators, toners, and serums. With that said, there are some exfoliators, toners and serums that do not irritate your face and those are the products you will want to use. Irritation causes inflammation which makes your melasma worse.
5. Birth Control Pills
Because hormone imbalance is thought to be the leading cause of melasma, you’ll want to be sure to stay away from any birth control pills with estrogen in them. Many women have cited birth control as the primary cause of their melasma, so while it may not be ideal to go off birth control when you have melasma, it really is the best thing to do to prevent your melasma from spreading.