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Melasma is also known as chloasma. The word melasma actually means “The mask of pregnancy”. It is the discoloration of skin on the face or on another part of the body in both the sexes. Melasma is a darkening of the facial skin, often affecting the outer cheeks and areas above the mouth. The pigment producing cells in our body called melanocytes, are stimulated to produce extra pigment leading to this discoloration. Factors that influence this production include estrogen supplements, birth control pills, pregnancy, cell hypersensitivity to normal estrogen levels and sun exposure.
Treatment of Melasma
Treatment involves lightening the discoloration through bleaching and protection from the sun. Hydroquinone is the active agent in skin bleaches. Bleaches don’t know the difference between normal and abnormal skin tone, so you need to apply the bleach only to the abnormal skin. Bleaches are usually applied twice daily. Some bleaches contain their own sunscreens.
Depending upon how dark the area is compared to the normal skin tone, it can take as along as one year or sometimes longer. If there seems to be some darkening after the application of bleaches, discontinue use of that agent and check with a dermatologist. Glycolic acid is a wonderful base to apply prior to the bleach as it helps draw the bleach into the skin better. Glycolic acid peels can be helpful as well. A series of approximately 6 weekly peels can help expedite the bleaching process. Some patients have turned to laser therapy for treatment. When you have achieved your desired results, stop your bleach but continue your sun protection. You may even want to continue your glycolic acid and Vitamin A creams. The other important issue is protection from the sun. You absolutely must wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 45 with UVA and UVB protection, wear a hat etc, and minimize your sun exposure.