If you’ve noticed an appearance of dark patches on your skin, you may have a skin condition called melasma. Your New York dermatologist can diagnose your condition and recommend treatments. There’s nothing to worry about, as melasma is a common condition — it’s not a serious health risk.
Melasma is also called chloasma, although some refer to the condition as the “mask of pregnancy.” While it typically affects women who are pregnant, it can also appear on women who are 20 to 50 years old. In the United States, experts estimate that six million women have melasma. Around the world, approximately 45 to 50 million women have the skin condition. Melasma may also occur on men, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 90 percent of cases involving melasma are women.
All symptoms and skin findings should always evaluated with a thorough consultation and physical examination for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan in order to exclude any underlying serious condition.
The Causes of Melasma
The tan or dark skin coloration of melasma has no known cause, but it is most often linked to:
- People who experience frequent and prolonged exposure to the sun
- Pregnant women
- Women taking birth control pills
Researchers and scientists believe that melasma occurs when melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment, become stimulated by estrogen and progesterone (female hormones). This stimulation of pigments produces more melanin when the skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
If you believe you have melasma, you may be experiencing conditions that are elevating hormone levels, which would be considered a trigger for you. The condition isn’t permanent. If melasma appears on your face or parts of your body, it may last for several months past when the trigger is no longer activating it.
Visit a NYC dermatologist who’s familiar with melasma. A good dermatology doctor knows how to diagnose and treat this condition. With the proper treatment, your symptoms slowly diminish and go away completely. Once it’s gone, your doctor may suggest wearing sun block on a regular basis to prevent future outbreaks.
Symptoms to Expect with Melasma
If you find odd skin discoloration, the key symptom that informs you that it’s melasma is a symmetrical appearance of brown or gray splotches. The symmetrical splotches appear evenly on both sides of your face, although they can appear on other areas of your body as well. They should be the same size and shape on both sides.
These are the signs your New York dermatologist looks for when determining if your condition is melasma. It’s much less common, but the skin discoloration may also appear on your neck and forearms. More commonly, it appears on these areas of your face:
- On your forehead
- On both cheeks
- Between your upper lip and your nose
- On the bridge of your nose
- On your chin
Diagnosis for Developing Melasma
If you discover facial discoloration, visit your dermatologist in Manhattan. During your appointment, you have to go through a thorough physical examination. Your doctor also asks you about your general medical history, including a family history, to rule out other skin issues. If you’re a woman, among the questions are those regarding the possibility that you’re pregnant or whether you’ve experienced a spike in hormonal activity. Both of these are triggers for melasma.
Sometimes, to correctly diagnose your condition, a dermatology doctor may use a Wood’s light. It’s a lamp that produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation to shine on your skin. It more easily shows the melasma and the depth of the condition. It’s rare, but in some cases, the dermatologist performs a biopsy — taking a tissue sample — to rule out more serious issues.
Your NY dermatologist may also inquire about the following factors, as they can put you at greater risk for developing melasma:
- Your ethnicity: People with darker skin — such as Eastern Indian, Middle Eastern, African, African American and Hispanic — are more prone to develop melasma. Even those with olive-colored skin, such as people of Mediterranean descent, can also get melasma more often than Caucasians.
- Hormone replacement therapy: If you’ve taken any type of medications or therapy that affects your hormone levels, it may trigger an instance of melasma.
- Birth control pills: If you’re taking birth control pills, you should know that these can cause a hormone spike, which is often a trigger for melasma.
- Certain cosmetics: The makeup and skin care products you use may cause a skin irritation that aggravates melasma. It’s best to use these sparingly until your dermatologist approves their use, especially if they’re causing your melasma to worsen.
- Sun exposure: Being in direct sunlight for extended periods of time exposes you to dangerous UV light that causes melanocytes to produce more pigment. While it’s common knowledge that UV light causes your skin to darken, you may not know that even a slight amount of sunlight can cause melasma to return after it has faded.
- Specific medications: Certain drugs, such as anti-seizure prescriptions, can make your skin more sensitive to darkening after you’ve been exposed to sunlight. Ask your New York dermatologist if any of the medications you’re currently taking put you at risk for melasma.
How to Treat Melasma
Your NYC dermatologist can recommend treatment options for many skin conditions, including melasma. In most cases, good dermatologists treat melasma without invasive medical treatments like surgery. If your melasma is chronic, however, you have some choices among the treatments dermatologists recommend:
- Corticosteroids: Drugs like tretinoin promote lightening of the skin. You apply them topically in the form of a cream directly to your skin.
- Hydroquinone: The most common treatment of melasma, hydroquinone also works by lightening the skin color. It’s an over-the-counter product, but if your condition is more severe, you can get a prescription-level version of hydroquinone.
- Kojic or azelaic acid: The creams that contain these ingredients also provide positive results in lightening the effect of melasma on your skin.
If you’ve tried all of these treatments and none have been effective at diminishing your melasma, then your top dermatologist in NYC may recommend:
- Microdermabrasion: This technique involves an instrument that exfoliates your face, removing the top layer of skin cells that are already dead.
- Chemical peel: Similar to a home mask peel you may have applied to rejuvenate your skin, a chemical peel uses a stronger chemical solution that causes the dead skin to separate from your face and allows for easy peeling so fresh new skin can grow back.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult dermatologist NYC about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified dermatology doctor or pediatric dermatologist can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have any questions about Melasma? Would like to schedule an appointment with an internationally recognized, top dermatologist in NYC, Dr. James Taft of Manhattan Dermatology Specialists, please contact our Midtown NYC office for consultation with cosmetic and laser dermatologist.
Dr. James Taft (Laser Cosmetic Dermatology of NY)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 889-2402