What is Melasma?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - 8:44pm

Melasma is a form of facial pigmentation stimulated by hormone disturbances, like pregnancy and birth control pills and UV exposure make it worse. However, the underlying hormone responsible is melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH). This hormone increases the production of melanin, which is responsible for darkening the skin.

Melasma appears on the face, especially on the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead and upper lip. Melasma is a very common patchy brown, tan, or blue-gray facial skin discoloration, usually seen in women in the reproductive years.


There are three types of melasma: epidermal, dermal and mixed.

Epidermal Melasma - affects the top layer of skin and the hyperpigmentation is brown with well-defined borders.

Dermal Melasma - affects the deeper dermis level and is characterised by blue-gray patches.

Mixed Melasma (a combination of epidermal and dermal) - shows as a brown-gray pigment. Due to the depth of the melanin pigments in dermal and mixed melasma, these types can be harder to treat.


The best treatment approach to treating Melasma is anti-inflammatory - slow and steady by balancing the hormones. In people who have melasma, the pigment cells are exquisitely sensitive. Any injury to those cells, (Laser/IPL, UV radiation, Chemical Peels) and they’ll start pumping out melanin which will stain the skin, which is why less is more. Tyrosinase inhibitors, such as licorice and vitamin C, are very helpful topically. I also love an ingredient called SepiWhite that suppresses Melanin Stimulating Hormone. Niacinamide also helps, stopping the keratinocyte from picking up the melanosome (pigment granules). Focus on anti-inflammation always, and stick with a zinc-based SPF. Vitamin A products with retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl propionate help correct DNA damage within that melanocyte and act as a chromophore, actually providing another level of sun protection, in addition to your zinc spf. 




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