In our effort to bring to light the truth about melasma, we enlisted the help of world-renowned, board-certified dermatologist, Marta Rendon, MD. Dr. Rendon has accumulated more than 25 years of healthcare experience, founding the Rendon Center for Dermatology & Aesthetic Medicine. She spent more than 20 years as a clinical associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and currently is a clinical associate professor at Florida Atlantic University Department of Biomedical Sciences.
Highly regarded as an expert in the field of dermatology, Dr. Rendon specializes in the development of treatment options for pigmentary and dermatological conditions (also known as melasma). She was gracious enough to share some insight into the world of melasma and what you can do to help treat this common condition.
What is melasma?
Melasma is a very common patchy brown, tan, or blue-gray facial skin discoloration, almost exclusively seen in women, commonly in the reproductive years but can occur at any time. Melasma typically appears on the upper cheeks, upper lip, forehead, and chin. In rare cases, it may also appear on the forearms or neck.
What causes melasma?
The exact cause is unknown. Hormones, ultraviolet light, and genetics are predisposing factors. Melasma is thought to be caused by stimulation of melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells. Women with light brown skin type who are living in regions with intense sun exposure are particularly susceptible to developing this condition as are patients with darker skin types.
Does melasma disappear after pregnancy?
Most women who develop melasma during pregnancy find that the areas of darkened skin will fade over time and return to normal color a few months after delivery. In some women, the pregnancy mask lasts until they stop breastfeeding, and in an unlucky few it never goes away completely. In this group of patients, it becomes a chronic recurrent condition.
How can I treat melasma?
Treatment of melasma can be challenging. The most common and most effective compound is hydroquinone. Hydroquinone has been the leading compound to treat this condition for many years. Other compounds that have shown skin lightening properties are tretinoin, kojic acid and azelaic acid. In recent years, formulations containing a combination of more than one active ingredient have entered the market. These include combinations of hydroquinone with either glycolic acid, tretinoin, or mild steroids. Chemical peels can be used as adjuvant therapy as well, especially in recalcitrant cases.
In severe cases, laser treatments can be used to remove the dark pigment, but this is NOT recommended in patients with darker skin as it may worsen the melasma. Avoiding the sun and using sunscreen are key to preventing melasma and indispensable to treatment. Patients with darker skin may have sensitive skin and be prone to irritation, which could lead to postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
As Dr. Rendon pointed out, melasma may be treated with prescription-strength topical agents and chemical peels. Ask your doctor about the #1 physician-dispensed skin care system, Obagi Nu-Derm®, which contains a prescription-strength 4% hydroquinoine formula to help correct and reduce the signs of skin aging resulting from hyperpigmentation and reveal younger, healthier-looking skin.
You may also want to consult your skin care provider to see if the Obagi-C® Rx System is right for you. Obagi-C Rx combines both the benefits of prescription-strength hydroquinone and the power of Vitamin C to address early signs of skin damage.
Need help finding a doctor? Our Physician Finder can help you locate an approved Obagi physician close to you.