What are these brown patches on my skin? I consult with patients regularly regarding this skin concern. Patches of brown spots or hyperpigmentation is usually Melasma. It typically presents on the cheeks, forehead or upper lip. Melasma is triggered by sun exposure, certain medications, or hormone fluctuation (pregnancy or menopause). This skin condition is extremely difficult to manage, however improvement is possible.
So, what are the options in management of Melasma?
- First and foremost, sunscreen. Sun exposure will flare melasma, causing the patching to become much darker. Use a broad spectrum, UVA/UVB SPF 30. Reminder that sunscreen only lasts 2-3 hours so re application is a must.
- Key skincare ingredients for improvement are alpha arbutin, kojic acid, vitamin c and retinol. Exfoliate 1-2 times per week. Avoid using an aggressive scrub as this can actually damage the skin. Be patient, as it can take 8-10 weeks to notice improvement of the hyperpigmentation. Be diligent with your skincare regimen so you actually see improvement.
- Sometimes your skincare products are not enough and in office treatments are necessary. Which treatments are best? Melasma is a very sensitive condition, so caution needs to be taken with treatments. I have found chemical peels, specifically ViPeel, give the most improvement without causing the melasma to flare. To start, I recommend a series of 3-4 peels every 4 weeks then maintenance treatments every year. I absolutely love the results of Intense Pulsed Light Photofacial for typical sun damage and broken capillaries, however not for treatment of Melasma, as it can actually worsen the hyperpigmentation.
So, to sum up Melasma, it’s a complicated skin condition, however there are options for improvement. Use sunscreen and effective ingredients!