Ross Dermatology

Preventing and Treating Melasma

Feb 21, 2023
Melasma is a condition that creates brown, grayish, or tan patches on your skin, particularly your face. It affects mainly women, especially during their reproductive years. Melasma can’t be cured, but it can be treated and prevented.

When you suddenly develop brown, gray, or tan patches on your face, you may wonder why. Or perhaps you already know. Melasma is a skin condition that tends to run in families. If your mother, aunt, or sisters had it, you probably will, too.

Although melasma has no cure, it can fade on its own over time. However, it also tends to recur. Melasma usually appears on the face — particularly the cheeks, forehead, and chin — but it sometimes affects the neck, arms, or other areas of the body.

If you know you’re at risk for melasma, you can take steps to prevent it. If you already have it and don’t want to wait for it to fade on its own over months or years, treatments are available to improve the look of your skin.

At Ross Dermatology — with offices in San Antonio, LaVernia, and Seguin, Texas — our expert team, led by dermatologist Kim Ross, MD, is dedicated to improving the clarity and health of your skin. If you have melasma, or if you want to prevent it, here’s what you need to do.

Determine your risk

Melasma tends to be triggered by hormonal changes, such as pregnancy. That’s why melasma is sometimes referred to as “the mask of pregnancy.” If you’re pregnant or you’re taking hormonal birth control, your risk for melasma may be higher, particularly if the condition runs in your family.

Although anyone can develop melasma, you’re more likely to have it if you have one or more of these risk factors:

  • Female
  • Light brown skin
  • Family history
  • High degree of sun exposure
  • On progesterone therapy, postmenopause
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid disease

Some of these risk factors are beyond your control, such as your genes. However, when you know you’re at risk, you can take steps to avoid the other risk factors, such as controlling your sun exposure and choosing a different contraceptive method.

Avoid the sun

Sunlight triggers outbreaks of melasma. Of course, everyone should avoid the brunt of the sun’s rays — whether they have melasma or not — to prevent damage inflicted by ultraviolet (UV) A and B rays. Be sure to:

  • Avoid the sun when it’s high in the sky (10am-4pm)
  • Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors
  • Regularly apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ 

Many women and men of color don’t realize that they need to use sunscreen to protect their skin because they believe their skin’s melanin is protection enough. However, dark-skinned individuals can develop skin cancer. Also, medium- to dark-toned skin is more likely to develop melasma and other sun damage-related hyperpigmentation. 

Wear sunscreen — even when indoors if you’re near a sunny window or while driving, as most window glass doesn’t screen out a significant amount of UVA and UVB rays. 

Choose your sunscreen carefully

Although it’s essential to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays with regular sunscreen application, chemical sunscreens can irritate your skin and worsen the appearance of your melasma. They can even get into your bloodstream, where they may disrupt hormones. 

Instead, choose sunscreens that are mineral based and deflect the sun’s rays away from your skin. They sit on the exterior of your skin and aren’t absorbed into your skin or bloodstream. Ingredients that are safe and beneficial for melasma include zinc oxide and niacinamide.

Treat melasma, but gently

If you’re troubled by the grayish or brownish patches of melasma, the Ross Dermatology team can help. Although you shouldn’t treat melasma while you’re pregnant, once your baby is born, we offer a number of options, including:

  • Lotions and creams
  • Laser skin resurfacing
  • Microneedling
  • Chemical peels

If you’re currently using progesterone, we may recommend discontinuing that hormone until your skin normalizes. 

It’s important that you don’t try to treat melasma yourself with over-the-counter treatments. Melasma treatment must be customized to an individual’s skin type and tone. Using the wrong product can damage your skin.

To maintain or regain your skin’s clarity, evenness, and beauty, contact us about melasma prevention or treatment today. Call the Ross Dermatology office nearest you, or request an appointment using our convenient online booking form.