Many women who are pregnant have a skin disorder called melasma, also called the “mask of pregnancy.” This skin rash typically appears around the mouth and cheek areas, and the level of discoloration ranges from light brown to dark grey. While the cause of melasma is still unknown, there are some treatment options available to reduce its appearance. Here are some of the latest treatment options available for individuals with melasma:
Laser Skin Rejuvenation for Melasma
Laser skin rejuvenation treatments such as light therapy and laser skin resurfacing treatments that use heat and light energy waves to break down the skin cells can be a powerful and effective treatment for melasma. Laser skin rejuvenation procedures are designed to correct pigmentation by damaging the dermis and triggering healthy skin cell renewal. While this process can help to reduce the effects of melasma, the risks include skin surface irregularities, excessive burning and scarring and infection.
Chemical Peels for Melasma
Melasma can be treated with chemical peels made with lactic acid, glycolic acid, trichloracetic acid and azelaic acid. Chemical peels can be effective for reducing skin discoloration and pigmented patches of skin, but a peel that is too aggressive can damage the skin and cause excessive scarring. The medical esthetician or physician administering the peel may need to create a custom blend of peel based on your skin type and level of pigmentation.
Skin Lightening Treatments for Melasma
Skin lightening products such as hydroquinone serums and kojic acid can help to treat melasma but at a very slow rate. These products are applied topically and can help to lighten the skin over a period of weeks and months. Other bleaching agents contain varying levels of hydroquinone, glycolic acid, retinol and tretinoin. Skin lightening treatments to consider include Lustra, Glyquin, Tri-Luma, Obagi and Lustra AF.
Tri-Luma is a relatively new prescription-only treatment for melasma and contains the active trio of 0.5% tretinoin, hydroquinone and flucinolone acetonide, a topical steroid. The product is applied as a cream before bedtime and is designed to only be used for very short periods of time because it can thin out the skin and even cause spider veins.
Certain types of botanicals can also have a lightening effect on the skin. Vitamin C, licorice extract and bearberry extract, when combined with lactic acid and hydroquinone, can help to lighten the skin over time.
Individuals with melasma are also advised to wear a high-quality sunscreen to prevent melasma from worsening, and protect the skin from excessive sun exposure by wearing the right type of clothing.
Melasma is a harmless skin condition and since it is transient, often resolves itself a few months after appearing. When melasma appears in non-pregnant women or men, it can exist for a few months or a few years, but the effects may be improved with the right skin treatment.
Learn more about skin rejuvenation procedures in our information guide, or consult with a cosmetic dermatologist in your area to discuss different treatment options for melasma.