Is There a Melasma Cure?
Melasma is a skin condition that results in patches of brown and gray hyperpigmentation on the face and sometimes other parts of the body. The condition is common in women, especially those who are pregnant, with only about 10% of individuals with melasma being men. While the condition has no cure, there are both preventative measures that can reduce the risk of flare-ups and effective treatments for reducing hyperpigmentation. Melasma treatments can include chemical peels, laser treatments, and facial masks performed by a skincare professional. Along with these treatments most patients also benefit from using a combination melasma cream that contains lightening ingredients.
What Are Some Melasma Causes?
Causes for melasma flare-ups include sun exposure, hormonal changes, and the use of certain irritating products on the skin. The most common trigger is ultraviolet light from the sun, which stimulates the production of melanocytes that lead to hyperpigmentation. Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and birth control medication are also common melasma causes.
Preventative measures are usually the first step in managing melasma. Proper sun protection is essential as even a small amount of exposure can trigger a new flare-up. To protect against UV rays, a broad-spectrum sunscreen should be worn daily with frequent reapplication and a broad-brimmed hat worn to protect the face when going outside. The American Academy of Dermatology has some excellent resources on sunscreen and sun protection that are recommended for anyone with melasma.
Even with the proper precautionary measures it is difficult to avoid flare-ups, however, and in many cases melasma will appear even with the right skin protection.
What Are Melasma Treatment Options?
Finding the best treatment for melasma can be difficult as it is a stubborn condition that frequently returns after getting it under control. Since how melasma develops is not completely understood, a combination of therapies is often the best approach.
Glycolic acid peels can provide great improvement for many melasma patients. These chemical peels need to be done by a qualified skincare professional who understands how to use the appropriate strength and application time for the individual’s skin. Glycolic acid peels are available in multiple strengths for different depths of treatment.
Lasers and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) devices are used to treat melasma and there are a variety of procedures available for different skin types. (Learn about what the best numbing cream for laser treatments is here.)
Melasma Cream: The best melasma treatment will vary between individuals, but regardless of what procedures are used a melasma cream is often prescribed to be used post-treatment. There are many OTC products that claim to treat melasma but the best melasma cream is one with a combination of prescription-strength ingredients.
What is the Best Melasma Cream?
Use of a combination melasma cream has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments for melasma. By itself hydroquinone may be effective, but the best melasma cream includes multiple ingredients working together. A melasma cream that includes hydroquinone, tretinoin, kojic acid, and hydrocortisone is the best way to improve the complexion. This effective combination of ingredients is fully customizable by a compounding pharmacy. We make different strengths and ingredients to meet the needs of each patient.
Hydroquinone and Kojic Acid
These are essential skin lighteners that change the pigment of the skin to reduce the appearance of melasma patches. Hydroquinone and kojic acid are chemicals that inhibit production of tyrosinase, which is necessary for melanin synthesis. They slow the overactive synthesis of melanin that is causing melasma hyperpigmentation. Hydroquinone cream has been used on its own for many years but was found to work even more effectively in combination with other ingredients. This ingredient is only available by prescription and the higher dosages must be obtained from a compounding pharmacy.
Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid)
Tretinoin (retinoic acid) improves the complexion by gently removing hyperpigmented skin through increased cell turnover. This exfoliation eliminates the hyperpigmented skin cells so they can be replaced by unaffected cells. Tretinoin also helps the hydroquinone and kojic acid in the melasma cream to penetrate the skin.
Hydrocortisone reduces redness and irritation that can occur from the use of hydroquinone or tretinoin. It has a soothing effect on the skin by preventing inflammation.
When these ingredients are combined they treat melasma more effectively and provide faster results than a cream with only hydroquinone. Another topical cream that is often used on its own is tranexamic acid cream. This cream has been shown to be as effective as hydroquinone but may have less side effects.
Melasma creams may be used as part of a full melasma treatment kit that includes a melasma mask applied by an experienced skincare professional. Through multiple treatment methods and the right preventative measures, melasma flare-ups are effectively be brought under control.