Melasma is a pigment disorder that affects mainly women. It causes dark skin discoloration most often on the face, but also sometimes on the neck, chest or arms. Melasma can occur in any ethnic group, with darker skinned individuals often having more apparent pigment irregularities. Although the etiology of melasma isn’t totally clear, hormone sensitivity often plays a large role. As a matter of fact, melasma, or chloasma, is also known as the mask of pregnancy. Birth control pills, stress, and thyroid abnormalities can also lead to this painless but cosmetically concerning condition. Sun exposure is a definite contributing factor, since sunlight stimulates the pigment forming cells, the melanocyte, to produce more melanin or pigment.
Preventing melasma from worsening requires rigorous sunscreen use, protective clothing, manipulation of medication that may have caused the condition, and proper topical care products. Although melasma can spontaneously reverse, usually after conclusion of a pregnancy or stopping hormonal birth control, in many it is a lifelong struggle.
At Wisconsin Vein Center and MediSpa, we recognize that melasma is one of the most difficult pigment problems to treat. Many of our treatments, which are light or heat based therapies, can actually worsen the problem. Certain chemical peels are very helpful, but it is necessary to also use skin products that help to block melanin production. Skin Medica Lytera, Epionce Melanolyte, retinoids and antioxidants are some of the products that may be helpful. These must always be combined with a sunscreen!
We are pleased to announce that we are offering an exciting new treatment, the Spectra Q-switched laser, which has been able to help a number of melasma sufferers. The Spectra is able to deliver laser light that is targeting the melanin or pigment, with such short microbursts of energy, that it does not heat the tissue excessively. It doesn’t stimulate the melanin producing cells to work harder! By using this gentle and very rapid treatment technique weekly for about 10 sessions, the appearance of melasma can be greatly reduced.