Melasma is the sort of medical condition you never hear about, despite how common it is. Thanks to how it presents, most people suffering with it may never even have it diagnosed.
Melasma is a skin condition that appears as dark blotches on a person’s cheeks, forehead, and jawline. The hyperpigmentation, as it’s called, is thanks to the melanocytes in a person’s skin going into overdrive and producing excess melanin. Though there are other triggering factors like a genetic predisposition and prolonged exposure to intense sunlight, it seems to most often be triggered by hormonal changes.
This is why melasma, called the “mask of pregnancy”, is most common in pregnant women, specifically those of Asian, African, and Hispanic descent. It also tends to reoccur later in life, with few treatment options aside from symptom management.
One common way to treat Melasma is using depigmenting agents like hydroquinone. These are available over the counter, and work by inhibiting the production of melanin. However, there’s no guarantee creams with this ingredient will eliminate your melasma, or even fully reduce it.
Another option dermatologists recommend is using chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or laser treatment. All of these use different methods to do essentially the same thing, which is to scrape off a thin layer of your epidermis, the top of your skin. However, this only works with epidermal melasma, which involves a melanin buildup in the top layer of your skin, and not dermal melasma. It's also not a foolproof treatment and doesn’t account for reoccurrence. It’s also considered dangerous for pregnant women to undergo because there’s not enough data to say whether this sort of treatment can harm a fetus.
So, are you stuck with trying to live with this condition? Far from it.
You see, scientists have recently come to realise the benefit of treating melasma with oral medication and dietary supplements. Most of these act by directly attacking the enzymes involved in the production of melanin.
For instance, studies so far, have shown procyanidin is both an effective anti-melasma medication and safe to consume long term, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. More recently, other studies including ingredients like Tranexamic acid, Polypodiumleucotomos (extract from a fern native to central and south America), as well as the hormone Melatonin, have all shown incredible promise. All three of these have so far been observed to be as effective as the current gold standard, with none of the side effects.
So if you’re dealing with Melasma of your own, talk to your dermatologist about oral medication treatments you can opt for.