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Get Even: Melasma Causes and Treatments

Embarrassing patches of dark colored skin on your face, lips, chest, or shoulders is not something you should have to be ashamed of or live with the rest of your life. Melasma, also known as Chloasma or the Mask of Pregnancy, is estimated to affect over six million men and women throughout the U.S. Melasma is a stimulation of melanocytes or pigment-producing cells in the skin when the skin is exposed to the sun.

Melasma may sound like a trivial, cosmetic concern since it does not cause any other symptoms or health problems other than skin discoloration, but to a person who has melasma it can be crippling and emotionally painful. The major observed causes of melasma are an increase in hormones (pregnancy, oral contraceptives, or hormone replacement therapy), genetics, and sun exposure. In rare cases, melasma has occurred through an allergic reaction to medications and cosmetics.

Estrogen and Progesterone levels are normally increased during the third trimester of pregnancy. This increase in hormones in some cases stimulates the melanin producing cells in the skin to increase and cause the brown patches. The discoloration usually disappears spontaneously over a period of several months after giving birth, stopping the oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.

A major factor in cases of melasma is genetic predisposition. More than 30% of patients with melasma have a family history of the condition. This common link relates to skin type and hormone levels linked through DNA. Those with the skin type on the Fitzpatrick scale of 3-5 are more likely to get melasma because of their genetic back ground. These skin types usually tan easily and have olive to dark skin tone. But even the lighter and darker skin tones can get melasma.

The most preventable and damaging factor related to melasma is exposure to sunlight. UVA and UVB rays cause the generation of free radicals, which can stimulate melanocytes to produce excess melanin. It is very important to always wear a form of sunscreen even if you don't have signs of melasma. Be sure to use at least an SPF 30 sunscreen over all exposed areas and reapply frequently.

No matter how your melasma has occurred, it can be treated. For tolerant medium-toned skin, Hydroquinone is a powerful bleaching agent to lighten melasma. Hydroquinone is great for the surface pigment but makes sure you have some of the following ingredients in your products as well to help stop the production of the melanin. PrecisionMD VIVATIA Brightening Complex contains 2% HQ but works as well as a 4% HQ. Mandelic Acid is gentle, non-irritating ingredient ideal for darker complexions. Kojic Acid, Azeilic Acid, Arbutin, Licorice, and Vitamin C are all proven ingredients to treat sensitive or reactive skin.

M2 Advanced High Potency Skin Refinish or Mama Lotion is great for sensitive skin but strong enough to lighten and brighten the skin. Meosestetic Cosmelan 2 Maintenance Depigmentation Cream will lightening the surface discoloration and will also inhibit further pigmentation from coming to the surface.


Now that you know the causes and how to treat and prevent melasma, there's no need to hide. While your skin is healing, it is important to only use healthy makeup. Pure mineral makeup is an ideal choice, since it blends smoothly over the skin and contains an SPF. Colorescience is a mineral makeup and has the protection you need. It also is in a powder form so you can keep apply as needed.

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