The skin reflects how we take care of our body inside and out. However, we cannot deny that some skin conditions can appear inevitably and can cause long-term issues.
One of the women's most common skin issues is melasma, a skin pigmentation disorder that causes patches and spots, usually on the face. The parts of the skin most commonly exposed to the sun are prone to this skin condition.
A multitude of factors can make a woman more likely to get these brown patches, including hormonal changes, prolonged sun exposure, and the use of cosmetics.
In this blog, we'll tackle a common question about skin pigmentation, 'Does makeup cause melasma?', and what ingredients in cosmetics can trigger skin pigmentation.
How common is melasma?
The global prevalence of melasma is about 1 percent, although higher rates have been reported in Latin American, Southeast Asian, and South Asian ethnicity with darker Fitzpatrick skin types (III–V).
Commonly, women are more likely to develop melasma than men, with an average onset of 20 to 40 years old.
In the Philippines, there is no accurate data on the prevalence of melasma. However, a recent study estimated that of over 12,000 dermatology patients seen at selected hospitals and private clinics, 153 or 1.26 percent were diagnosed with melasma. Most of these patients were women between the ages of 41 to 50.
What happens in the skin in melasma?
The skin comprises three layers – the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutis. The skin works by protecting the internal structures from external elements like germs, cold, heat, moisture, sunshine, injury, toxic substances, and more.
In the outermost layer, called the epidermis, some melanocytes produce and store a dark color pigment called melanin. The melanocytes react to heat, light, ultraviolet radiation, chemicals, and hormonal changes. As a result, they produce more melanin, making the skin darker.
Does makeup cause melasma?
Did you know that skin pigmentation related to drugs accounts for 10 to 20 percent of cases? Though genetics and high ultraviolet exposure are the most common culprits in melasma formation, some medications and chemicals may result in melasma due to a phototoxic drug reaction.
Some people with sensitive skin may develop skin pigmentation when exposed to harmful chemicals from skincare products. In some cases, these chemicals, designed to be safe, can cause hypersensitivity reactions and inflammation in other people.
Unlike medicines and drugs, skincare products and cosmetics lack diagnostic and therapeutic properties, as they are used to beautify, cleanse, and promote attractiveness, among other uses.
In addition, in people with allergies, cosmetic allergens may come in contact with the skin used by other people, accidental transfer by hands, and airborne vapors. As a result, they can still become exposed to these chemicals.
Further, some cosmetic products, when exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, can trigger allergic reactions and even photosensitivity. Chemicals found in cosmetics are also triggers for skin darkening and pigmentation.
Myroxylon pereirae (Balsam of Peru)
Though not commonly used today, Balsam of Peru may still be found in flavoring agents, fragrances, and some cosmetic products. In addition, it has been known to treat burns and wounds, but there were numerous reports of allergic reactions among its users.
This ingredient has antimicrobial properties and can promote skin cell growth, but for those who are allergic to it, it may cause skin irritation and inflammation. Eventually, it can lead to skin pigmentation.
Also, some sunscreen chemicals and other ingredients in cosmetics may cause irritation or allergic contact dermatitis when they interact with Myroxylon pereirae (balsam of Peru).
Fragrance additives like cinnamic aldehyde, cinnamon oils, and cinnamic acid can trigger photoallergic reactions, which happen when a skin allergen is activated by light.
Additionally, benzophenones can stimulate photoallergic reactions, leading to skin pigmentation.
It's important to remember that cosmetics or makeup have been rarely tied to cause melasma. Meanwhile, dermatologists recommend using mild skincare products when you have melasma. When your makeup or skincare products contain irritants, it can worsen your melasma.
What to do?
Melasma worsens over time; if it's not addressed promptly, it can become chronic or long-lasting. In a nutshell, melasma is hard to treat. However, to determine a treatment plan, your dermatologist will need to know the root cause of the problem. Then, several tests will determine the extent and severity of the affected skin.
Melasma treatment involves the use of creams containing hydroquinone, which works by lightening the color of the skin patches. Another ingredient that is excellent in reducing melasma is procyanidin. Pynocare, for instance, contains procyanidin and antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E.
Remember, treating melasma will not occur overnight. You will work with your dermatologist to lighten the skin and avoid potential triggers. Consult your doctor for a tailored treatment regimen that will work on your skin type.
Doolan, B. et. al (2021). Melasma: https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2021/december/melasma
Gener-Pangilinan, MD. et al. Prevalence, epidemiology, and clinical characteristics of melasma in Philippine dermatology patients: a multicenter, cross sectional study: https://journal.pds.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Page-15-23.-Observational_Melasma__Gener-Pangilinan-FINAL.pdf
Prabha, et al. (2014) Cosmetic Contact Sensitivity in Patients with Melasma: Results of a Pilot Study: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2014/316219/