What causes melasma?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, doctors still don’t know what causes melasma, but they have observed that it tends to run in families. Although not causes, hormone therapy, birth control pills, certain drugs that make skin more susceptible to sun exposure, antiseizure medications, sun exposure and pregnancy often trigger melasma. Melasma is so common for pregnant women that it’s known as “the mask of pregnancy.”
Effective melasma treatments
Sometimes melasma fades on its own, especially after a pregnancy or if you stop taking birth control pills. More often than not, you’ll need to make an appointment with your dermatologist to figure out the best plan of attack.
At the dermatologist’s office
Your dermatologist may prescribe a cream that contains hydroquinone, a skin-lightening agent. Sometimes, dermatologists complement the hydroquinone with a cream containing tretinoin, corticosteroids, or glycolic acid to enhance the skin-lightening effect. Azelaic acid and kojic acid are other active ingredients that can help to fade skin discolorations. Dermatologists also use chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser surgery to help treat melasma.
Along with a prescription treatment, your dermatologist will likely recommend using a daily sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. In addition to being a healthy skin care practice in general, sunscreen helps to protect skin from sunlight, which can trigger melasma. Be sure to apply your sunscreen every day, because UV rays can penetrate the skin in sneaky ways—when it’s cloudy, when you’re driving, or even when you’re sitting next to a window. Along with daily sunscreen application, give your skin some extra TLC and avoid products that might irritate your skin, because that irritation could worsen melasma too.