Melasma

Melasma, sometimes referred to as “chloasma” when it occurs during pregnancy, is a skin pigmentation disorder. The skin condition consists of patchy brown pigmentation on sun exposed areas, usually affecting the forehead, glabella (in between the eyebrows), cheeks, upper lip, and chin. Individuals affected are almost always female. Melasma is caused by overproduction of pigment of 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. Treatment can vary and may consist of topical retinoids, bleaching agents such as hydroquinone and botanical derivatives, as well as IPL. Melanage Peel, a topical, medical-grade peel consisting of hydroquinone and a retinoid, is extremely effective in treating the condition. A newer laser innovation to be used in the United States is the Spectra laser.  This laser, typically used for laser tattoo removal and pigmentary and vascular disorders, can be used at low energies to effectively target the pigmentation related to melasma.  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.