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Treatment for Melasma
Melasma is a common skin problem. It typically affects women of 20-50 years of age, causing brownish to blue-grey patches on the face. Most people get it on the forehead, bridge of the nose, chin and above the upper lip. It is uncommon in men.
Why do I get it?
The exact cause is unknown. It is due to increased number of melanocytes and melanin, therefore the colour.
Sun exposure is a well known risk factor. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun stimulates melanocytes.
Hormonal changes also play a role in melasma formation. Women tend to get it when they are pregnant. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can also trigger melasma.
Skin care prodcuts that irritate the skin may also contribute to or worsen melasma.
Genetics seem to play a role too. 30% of people with melasma have family members who have the same problem.
Is it dangerous?
Melasma is harmless. It is not a skin cancer. It is more of a cosmetic concern because melasma can be unsightly especially if it affects a large portion of your face.
Sometimes, melasma can look like other skin conditions. If it looks suspicious, a skin biopsy may be required to make the diagnosis.
How do I get rid of it?
Melasma does not require treatment unless it is causing cosmetic concern.
If you want to get rid of it, see a doctor! The correct diagnosis has to be made before any treatment is initiated. It is a difficult condition to manage especially in Singapore where we get sunlight all year round.
Apply generous amount of an appropriate sunscreen whenever you are going to get sun exposure. This can prevent melasma formation, and worsening of melasma. Avoid unnecessary sun exposure!
Watch and wait
Mild cases of melasma may simple require reassurance. Sometimes, it may lighten spontaneously if there is no sun exposure (may not be possible in Singapore!)
Pregnancy associated melasma should resolve spontaneously within a few months.
Topical treatment means products you apply directly onto the skin. Lightening products are usually used to treat melasma.
Hydroquinon 4% is most commonly used but it can only be used for a short period of time due to its long term side effects. It is usually available by prescription only.
Other topical treatment include tretinoin and steroids.
Most of time, a combination of treatment is given to give the best results. Medicine that contains all 3 medicine in 1 cream is usually prescribed.
Lasers such as Nd:YAG laser can be used to treat melasma. More than 1 sessions is usually required and results may vary. It is important to get a proper assessment and consultation before initiating laser treatment.
Laser is usually used if topical treatment produces unsatisfactory results.
Other possible treatment for melasma include chemical peel (such as glycolic acid), microdermabrasion and dermabrasion. They are only suitable for certain skin types, and results are debatable.