Melasma, more commonly known as “the mask of pregnancy,” is brown pigmentation on the cheeks, around the eyes and sometimes on the forehead or above the lip, made worse by sun-exposure. Melasma is most often caused by hormonal changes brought on by pregnancy, birth control pills or other causes, although it can simply occur with no apparent cause. Although melasma is more common in women, it also occurs with frequency in men. People with darker skin are more susceptible to melasma, due to the propensity of people who are darker or who tan easily to manufacture melanin pigment in their skin in response to sunlight. Waxing of facial hair (especially above the lip), allergic reactions to skincare products, or other causes of inflammation can add to the pigmentation already present in people with melasma. Above all, sun exposure is the worst thing for melasma, and always makes the pigmentation worse.
The best way to avoid or minimize melasma is to wear sunscreen-EVERY morning, every day, year-round, with at least an SPF of 30. You may not feel that you spend a lot of time outside, but even incidental UV exposure, through your car window for example, can make melasma worse. UVA rays in particular contribute to darkening of the skin and can even permeate windows. Having window film professionally applied to the windows in your care to block out the UVA rays can be a big help. Llumar film is clear and doesn’t hinder night vision, while blocking 99% of UVA.
Generally, lasers don’t help in treating melasma. Although some improvement can be seen following a variety of laser treatments in the very short term, I believe lasers can actually make melasma worse or offer no help most of the time. A rigorous sun-protection approach consisting of SPF 30 or above sunscreen, window film and a consistent topical treatment regimen including alpha-hydroxy acids (like glycolic acid) and retinoinds (Retin-A and its ‘cousins’) are the best ways to treat melasma.
To answer your specific questions or schedule a consultation, call Dr. Bernstein today at 610-645-5551.