Written by Dr Branden Seow
Melasma is a common skin condition that results in brown or gray patches on the skin, primarily on the face. It is also known as chloasma or “mask of pregnancy” because it is often seen in pregnant women. Melasma is more common in women than men, but it can occur in anyone. It is most prevalent in people with darker skin types.
Melasma occurs when the pigment-producing cells in the skin, called melanocytes, produce too much pigment. The excess pigment accumulates in certain areas of the skin, leading to the characteristic brown or gray patches. The patches are usually symmetrical and appear on the forehead, cheeks, nose, and upper lip. Melasma can also appear on the neck and forearms.
The exact cause of melasma is not fully understood, but there are several factors that may contribute to its development. One of the main risk factors is exposure to sunlight, as ultraviolet (UV) radiation can stimulate the melanocytes to produce more pigment. Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or while taking hormonal contraceptives, can also trigger melasma. Other potential risk factors include genetics, certain medications, and thyroid dysfunction.
Melasma is more common in women who are pregnant, taking hormonal contraceptives, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy. People with a family history of melasma are also more likely to develop the condition. In addition, individuals with darker skin types are at higher risk of developing melasma, as their skin contains more melanocytes.
There are several treatment options available for melasma. Most common treatments include topical creams containing hydroquinone, tretinoin, and corticosteroids, as well as chemical peels and laser therapy. Sun protection is also essential for managing melasma, as exposure to UV radiation can worsen the condition or slow down improvement.
Melasma can be challenging to treat, but there are several options available to help lighten the skin and reduce the appearance of the patches.
Here are some of the treatments for melasma:
1. Topical creams: Hydroquinone, tretinoin, and corticosteroids are the commonly prescribed topical creams for treating melasma. Hydroquinone works by inhibiting the production of melanin, while tretinoin helps to increase cell turnover and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Corticosteroids can help to reduce inflammation and redness associated with melasma. These creams are typically applied once or twice a day for several weeks or months, depending on the severity of the melasma. They can come in various combinations and brand names.
2. Chemical peels: Chemical peels involve the application of a solution to the skin that causes the top layer to peel away. This can help to remove some of the pigmentation associated with melasma.
3. Laser therapy: Laser therapy uses high-intensity light to target and break up the pigment in the skin. This can help to lighten the appearance of melasma. This is fast becoming the preferred treatment for melasma in view of its convenience and relatively no downtime, as compared to chemical peel that tends to leave mild redness post procedure.
4. Sun protection: Since sun exposure can worsen melasma, it’s important to protect your skin from UV radiation. This includes wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and avoiding the sun during peak hours.
At The Clifford Clinic, we have the various treatments and technologies as described above, house under one roof to address your melasma concerns. We shall elaborate more of our laser systems available that can help to treat melasma.
Pico laser: Picolaser uses ultra-short pulses of laser light to break up the pigment in the skin. The energy from the laser is absorbed by the melanin, causing it to fragment into smaller particles that are more easily removed by the body. Picolaser is known for its precision and can be used to treat melasma without damaging the surrounding skin. It is also commonly used as an acne scar treatment in Singapore.
Fraxel laser: Fraxel laser uses fractional laser technology to target the pigment in the skin. During the treatment, the laser creates tiny wounds in the skin, triggering the body’s natural healing process. As the skin heals, it produces new collagen, which helps to even out the skin tone and reduce the appearance of melasma. The Fraxel laser is safe for all skin types and can be customized to target specific areas of the skin.
Plasma Plason System: The Plasma Plason system is a non-invasive treatment that uses plasma technology to rejuvenate the skin and reduce the appearance of melasma. The Plasma Plason system can also help to reduce the appearance of melasma by stimulating collagen production, which can improve the overall texture and tone of the skin.
Which Treatment is Right for You?
All the treatments can be good in improving the appearance of melasma. Picolaser has no down-time associated with its treatment. Patients can do laser during lunchtime and back to office for meetings. Plasma Plason System also has no downtime but one session of Plasma Plason therapy will take a longer time than a Picolaser session. FRAXEL laser has mild redness to the face post-treatment. The redness will take 1 to 3 days to clear up.
It’s important to note that each of these lasers has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the right laser for you will depend on the severity of your melasma and other factors such as skin type and medical history. Additionally, laser treatments for melasma typically require multiple sessions for best results.
Other treatments that can help with melasma
There are also several oral medications, supplements, and creams that can be used to treat melasma, in addition to the laser therapy, chemical peels, and sun protection mentioned earlier.
Tranexamic acid: Tranexamic acid is an oral medication that has been shown to be effective in reducing the appearance of melasma. It works by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin. Tranexamic acid is usually taken orally twice a day for several months. Tranexamic acid can also exist in topical solution form and applied to the face instead of taking orally.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. It can be taken as a supplement or applied topically in a cream or serum.
Niacinamide: Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that can help to reduce hyperpigmentation and improve the overall appearance of the skin. It can be taken orally as a supplement or applied topically in a cream or serum.
Azelaic acid: Azelaic acid is a topical cream that can be used to treat melasma. It works by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin and reducing inflammation. Azelaic acid is usually applied to the affected areas twice a day for several weeks or months.
Kojic acid: Kojic acid is a natural skin lightener that can be used to treat hyperpigmentation, including melasma. It works by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin. Kojic acid is typically applied topically in a cream or serum.
In conclusion, there are several strategies to treat melasma. Drop by The Clifford Clinic to enquire more!