Melasma

Melasma Treatment
Melasma (Pregnancy Mask) Treatment in the San Diego Area

Dr. Melanie Palm is nationally recognized as a top dermatologist and is an expert in the treatment of skin pigmentation disorders like melasma (sometimes known as "pregnancy mask" or "chloasma"). Her offices are located in Solana Beach, CA just north of San Diego.

What is Melasma?

Melasma, sometimes referred to as “pregnancy mask” or “chloasma” when it occurs during pregnancy, is a skin pigmentation disorder. Melasma appears as areas of patchy brown pigmentation on sun exposed areas, usually affecting the:

  • forehead
  • glabella (in between the eyebrows)
  • cheeks
  • upper lip
  • chin

Although less common, melasma can also appear on the neck and forearms. Individuals affected are almost always female, with darker skinned individuals being more susceptible than those with fair skin.

What causes Melasma?

Melasma is caused by overproduction of pigment in melanocytes, the pigment producing cells in the skin. Exposure to ultraviolet light, in particular, makes these areas darker, even with minimal exposure to the sun. Female hormones seem to play a role, as pregnancy, hormone therapy, and birth control pills all aggravate melasma. In addition to the roles of hormones and sun exposure, both heat and inflammation seem to also aggravate the condition.

Is there a cure for Melasma?

No.   Melasma is a condition that we as dermatologists can often control and improve greatly, but not cure. It is important that melasma patients understand continual maintenance of some form including proper sun protection and brightening regimens are required for good control and lightening of the melasma brown patches.

How is Melasma Treated?

Treatment options for patients with melasma can vary and may include topical retinoids, bleaching agents (e.g. hydroquinone and certain botanical derivatives), and strict photoprotection including physical blocking sunscreen agents containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Melanage Peel, a topical, medical-grade peel consisting of both hydroquinone and a retinoid, is extremely effective in treating melasma.

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is usually not recommended for melasma patients because it produces heat in the skin which may aggravate the condition in the long-term. Dr. Palm often combines a comprehensive topical brightening regimen with specific sunscreens as foundational treatment. Specific lasers and occasionally oral anti-oxidant therapy is also utilized in the treatment of melasma. Your dermatologist will help you determine which treatment option is right for you.

Spectra Laser – the Newest Melasma Treatment Option

A new, innovative laser treatment option is now available in the United States. The Spectra laser, typically used for laser tattoo removal and pigmentary and vascular disorders, is a Q-switched Nd:YAG laser that can be used at low energies to effectively target the pigmentation related to melasma without inflaming the condition. A series of treatments is necessary for clearance, and maintenance treatment periodically is recommended. Strict sun protection and sunblock use is critical to controlling melasma.

If you are in the San Diego area and would like to discuss your melasma treatment options, call Dr. Melanie Palm at 858.792.SKIN (7546) to schedule your appointment.