By: Melissa Owens, Medical Aesthetician
The Southeast is known for sunshine, warm weather and beautiful landscapes. In short, there are lots of reasons to be outside! During the summer, brown spots (hyperpigmentation) are a chief complaint among our patients. These spots sometimes seem to appear out of nowhere, perhaps shortly after a stay at the beach or a day on the lake. Melasma is one form of hyperpigmentation that is particularly problematic.
There is still much to understand about what causes melasma, but studies show that triggers include hormones, sun exposure, inflammation and, occasionally, cosmetics. Melasma can appear in women or men of any skin color, but is most common in women with Fitzpatrick skin types III and IV—those of Hispanic, Asian, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern heritage. Brown spots associated with melasma tend to appear in symmetrical patches on the forehead, cheeks, upper lip and chin.
Melasma may resolve over a short time once triggers stop or continue for years. Fortunately, treatments are available to help manage the visible effects. Generally, the best way to manage melasma is with ample sun protection. Melasma is ultrasensitive to any sun exposure; recent studies show that infrared waves from the sun and possibly even visible light can trigger melasma. Thus, it is critical to apply and reapply a sunscreen with adequate protection from UVA, UVB and infrared waves. Wearing a hat, seeking shade and avoiding sun exposure between 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. (when UV rays are strongest) are other ways to protect skin.
A lightening product, in addition to sunscreen, often can yield good results. However, melasma can be persistent, so seeking professional treatments like chemical peels, microdermabrasion and other resurfacing procedures may be needed. Although light-based photorejuvenation procedures often are used to treat hyperpigmentation, they usually are not effective against melasma. That is why it is important to seek treatment from an aesthetician or doctor familiar with melasma and avoid unwanted side effects.
If you are interested in achieving healthier skin, remember that consultations are always free at Carolina Aesthetics. Our aestheticians will meet with you one-onone to discuss products and treatments that are right for your skin and lifestyle.