Melasma, Age Spots, and Freckles- What’s the Difference?
If you have unusual brown or grey discoloration on your face, you may find yourself wondering, “What is melasma?” This condition affects millions of people every year. Although it may appear unsightly, the condition is not dangerous nor does it cause physical discomfort. Read on to discover more about what is melasma and how to minimize the appearance of the condition.
First, it’s important to understand that those brown or grey spots may not be melasma at all. Sometimes they are just freckles or age spots. How is it possible to tell the difference between freckles, age spots and melasma? The truth is that all three conditions are caused by overactive pigment cells. These cells produce melanin, a substance that darkens the skin. Freckles are generally harmless, tiny brown spots that usually appear on sun-exposed areas early in life, and fade over time. Age spots look similar, but they are usually seen later in life and tend not to fade. It is possible to get rid of most age spots with proper treatment by a dermatologist. Perhaps the most significant of these three hyperpigmentation conditions is melasma.
What is Melasma?
If you are wondering what is melasma, then you are probably a woman between the ages of 20 and 50. In fact, 90% of people who have melasma on the face are women in their reproductive years. Because the condition is so common among women, it is most often females who seek a treatment for melasma. However, men can also get melasma and treatment is similar for both sexes.
Melasma treatment becomes a necessity for women who are concerned about their appearance. The primary cause of melasma is thought to be sun exposure. This is why melasma is most common on the face and neck. These portions of the body typically get the most exposure to the sun’s harmful rays on a daily basis.
Dermatologists believe that melanocytes, cells in the skin that make pigment, produce too much pigment upon excessive or repeated sun exposure. Nonetheless, sun exposure alone is not generally enough to cause melasma. Hormonal changes also appear to play a role, which is why many pregnant women seek treatment for melasma. Women taking birth control pills or utilizing hormone replacement therapy may similarly wonder “what is melasma?” The condition may have racial and genetic components. Women of Latin, Asian or Middle Eastern descent are far more likely to develop it. Scientists believe this is because they have a greater number ofmelanocytes in their skin.
Although the signs of melasma are obvious, there are no symptoms. That is, although the spots are visible signs of the condition, there is no associated itch or discomfort. Nonetheless, women dealing with this predicament want to know how to get rid of melasma. The usual treatment for it is non-invasive and safe. That’s why most women go forward with treating melasma after a diagnosis.
When it comes to how to get rid of melasma, women can take proactive steps by seeking better sun protection. Using sunscreen on a daily basis, and reapplying it as needed, helps to prevent the disorder from developing in the first place. When it is already present, use of sunscreen can help minimize the effects and provide helpful support to any prescribed treatments.
A dermatologist is something of a melasma treatment expert. The gold standard melasma treatment is a topical cream containing hydroquinone, a retinoid and a mild anti-inflammatory agent. By targeting pigment from multiple angles, the best results can be obtained. Some dermatologists also prescribe a sunscreen that contains hydroquinone as a method to get rid of melasma. Over the counter products containing a two percent concentration of hydroquinone are readily available and may prove to be effective, although it is important for these products to be used under the supervision of a dermatologist.
Some cases of melasma are more severe than others. For these women, the question of how to get rid of melasma is a bit more challenging. Fortunately, a dermatologist has multiple ways to approach this condition and can tailor treatment for each individual.
In addition to the creams that can be applied at home, a dermatologist can perform many in office treatments that may be effective. A chemical peel of glycolic acid concentrations between 30 and 70% can be highly effective. A dermatologist must carefully review each patient’s unique case before prescribing a particular chemical peel.
Microdermabrasion is another useful technique that utilizes vacuum suction and a fine abrasive material to improve the appearance of skin. In rare instances, the dermatologist may attempt laser therapy. However, the other approaches are typically more successful and reliable.
If you are wondering what is melasma or if you’ve recently asked yourself, “How do you get rid of melasma?” the first place you should seek answers is at your dermatologist’s office. Between prescription creams and in-office treatments like chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser therapy, there is rarely a need to simply accept melasma.