Patches of dark skin are common and have many different causes, including pigmentation disorders such as melasma, age spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. They often appear as brown or grey patches on certain areas of the skin, especially on the face.
Anyone can be affected by melasma, but it’s more prevalent in darker skin types than in lighter skin types, and more common in light brown skin types. Experts believe that melasma affects women nine times more than men.
Moreover, melasma is more common during the female’s reproductive years. About 15% to 50% of pregnant females are affected by melasma while the prevalence varies between 1.5% and 33% depending on the population.
This article explores the causes of dark skin patches such as hyperpigmentation and melasma while explaining ways to treat them, especially melasma.
What is hyperpigmentation?
You may already know that the skin contains melanin, which is the pigment that gives your skin its colour. However, when the skin produces too much melanin, it causes hyperpigmentation to occur. This can make spots or patches of skin appear darker than the surrounding areas.
Hyperpigmentation can occur anywhere on your skin. However, certain forms of hyperpigmentation such as sunspots and melasma can occur on areas that are often exposed to the sun – face, arms, and legs.
Meanwhile, another type of hyperpigmentation forms after an injury or inflammation to the skin. Known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the inflammation stimulates melanocytes to release excess melanosomes. This will then darken and discolour the wounded area, remaining there even after the wound has recovered.
What is melasma?
Similar to hyperpigmentation, melasma is a pigmentation disorder that causes brown or grey patches to appear on the skin, especially on the face. While there’s no telling why it occurs, it’s believed to be due to the malfunction of the melanocytes in the skin, causing them to produce excess pigment granules.
As mentioned earlier, melasma affects women more than men, especially pregnant females due to hormonal changes. Not only that but also those susceptible to prolonged sun exposure, including people with darker skin tones. There may also be a genetic component to melasma, which means if your parents or relatives have melasma, you’ll likely have it too.
How to treat melasma?
Treatment is not necessary for melasma because it can fade on its own after certain triggers like pregnancy or birth control pills end. But in some cases, people may have melasma for years or even throughout their lifetime.
If the melasma doesn’t fade, there are various ways to get rid of the dark patches. Some of which include topical treatments and medical procedures.
Many dermatologists incorporate topical treatments at the first stage of treating melasma. This includes the use of:
- Hydroquinone – A common first line of treatment for melasma. Available as a cream, lotion, or gel, hydroquinone is applied to dark patches of skin and works by lightening the skin. It’s typically available over the counter but your dermatologist can prescribe stronger creams based on your skin condition.
- Combined creams – To further enhance your skin lightening, your dermatologist may prescribe a combination of creams containing hydroquinone, corticosteroids and tretinoin. These are called triple creams.
- Other topical medication – Your dermatologist may prescribe additional topical medication such as azelaic acid or kojic acid to help lighten melasma.
If topical treatments don’t work in lightening the dark patches of skin, i.e. melasma, you can consider medical procedures such as laser treatment, microdermabrasion, or chemical peel.
Before you undergo any of the medical procedures, discuss the process and learn about the possible side effects with your dermatologist. Also, note that these procedures should only be performed by medically-certified skin specialists. This will ensure the efficacy and safety of the treatment.
If you’re considering a laser therapy to get rid of melasma, Eeva Medical Clinic offers several types of laser treatment such as the Targeted Pigment Removal Laser, Korean Curas M1064 Specific Melasma Targeting Laser, and Klarity Brilliant Gold Toning Laser.
With a collective experience of more than 40 years in the medical and aesthetic field along with personal experience on melasma and pigmentation, our doctors are always on the lookout for innovative, creative protocols in treating pigmentation.
Melasma may be skin deep but when there’s a will, there’s a way to get rid of it. You can consult our doctors at Eeva Medical Clinic to know more about the treatments available.