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.
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. 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.
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.
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