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Skin Discoloration on My Face: What Causes Melasma?

by Emily Linehan on March 18, 2020

If you’re experiencing skin discoloration on your face, you may have a skin condition called melasma. 

But… what is melasma? Also known as “pregnancy mask”, melasma is one of the most frustrating and misunderstood skin conditions.

What causes melasma? 

A form of hyperpigmentation, melasma is an inherited condition that is induced or exacerbated by hormones. 

While we can lighten melasma until it is hardly visible, there is no treatment to “cure” the skin of this pigmentation formation. 

How can I treat it? 

The key is to be consistent and compliant with avoiding melasma triggers. 

  1. Wear sunscreen

Sunscreen is an absolute must at all times. 

Even short exposures to UV light can darken melasma, so it is essential that you wear your sunscreen every day (whether it is sunny, cloudy or stormy out.) 

This is also true even if you are staying indoors since UV light still enters through windows and even fluorescent lights give off small doses of UV light (a good reason to switch to LED lights in your house and workplace). 

It is important to make sure you are wearing a physical sunscreen (such as a zinc oxide/titanium dioxide sunscreen) with a minimum of 30 SPf for daily use. 

What do I recommend? All of Emme Diane sunscreens are physical sunscreens. 

Don’t forget to reapply during the day if you are outside for an extended period of time or have been sweating or swimming!

  1. Avoid hormonal medications

Hormones intensify melasma, so your best chance of fading the pigmentation is by avoiding all hormonal medications if possible. Always check with your doctor before discontinuing or beginning any medication. (This would include hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy.) 

  1. Avoid exposure to excessive heat

Heat is another major trigger for melasma. Do your best to avoid intentionally being in a hot environment for a prolonged period of time. 

Examples of excessive heat: 

  • Any laser, including laser hair removal on the face or light treatments that use heat (even when these are “indicated” for melasma, they will only appear to fade the pigmentation at first. In time, your melasma will come back stronger, more stubborn and darker than before.) That being said, LED light therapy is a fantastic treatment for melasma as there is no heat emitted from this light treatment and it can help fade pigmentation successfully with proper home care. 
  • Saunas, Steam Rooms, Hot Yoga & Hot Tubs
  • Steam during a facial. You should always avoid the steamer if you are receiving a facial treatment. 
  • Hair dryers. Be sure to aim the hot air away from your face when you are blow-drying your hair as the heat from the dryer can be triggering to the pigmentation. 
  1. Avoid friction

Your skin interprets friction as trauma and melasma is triggered by trauma. You will want to avoid anything that creates friction on the skin. 

Examples of creating friction on the skin: 

    • Clarisonic brushes, skin brushes, facial loofahs, buff puffs, scrubs and anything that manually exfoliates the skin.
    • Microdermabrasion facials or professional treatments where they use a physical exfoliate. 
    • Waxing or sugaring the face. This type of hair removal removes layers of skin, and removing hair by wax or sugar will trigger melasma. This is especially true on the upper lip. 
  1. Start a proper home care skin regimen

A proper home care regimen (targeted at fading melasma pigmentation) is the foundation for ensuring the best results possible. 

To troubleshoot your skin and customize a regimen that is best for you, your first step is our Complimentary Skin Consultation

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