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Do You Have Melasma (Patchy Skin)? | Skin Diaries | Dr. Shweta Virmani (MD Dermatology)

Each one of us dreams to have perfectly healthy, glowing and spot free face. However, more often than not, our face may have some discoloration or dark patches. While some discoloration is normal and is often due to exposure to harsh sunlight, sometimes it could be due to melasma.

What is melasma?

Melasma or chloasma is a common skin condition that causes dark and discolored pigmentation on the skin. The discoloration is more frequently seen in pregnant females and is more common in those with a darker complexion living in areas exposed to sunlight, although men can get it too.

What are the causes of melasma?

Although the exact cause is unknown, several factors are noted to cause melasma like hormonal drugs such as oral contraceptive pills, hormonal replacement therapy medicines, estrogen pills, pregnancy, other medical conditions that alter hormonal levels are also said to increase the chances of developing melasma, cosmetic products such as fragrances and perfumes, exposure to the sun, sunbathing and stress.

How does melasma look like?

Melasma causes discoloured patches on the skin. They are darker than the usual skin colour and seen symmetrically on both sides of the face. Melasma is commonly seen on:

-Forehead

-Cheeks

-Chin

-Bridge of nose

It may also appear on the arms and neck or any areas exposed to prolonged sunlight. The discoloration is harmless and is not raised above the skin. However, the appearance makes the person uncomfortable which makes them visit a dermatologist.

Is melasma hereditary?

Yes, melasma can run in families, making it an inherited condition.

How is melasma diagnosed?

Melasma is diagnosed by the characteristic patchy appearance on the face. Your dermatologist may take a small sample of the skin (biopsy) to rule out other conditions.

What is the treatment for melasma?

At present there is no cure for melasma; however, several treatment options can help to improve the condition.

-In some women, melasma disappears on its own, especially when caused by pregnancy or contraceptive pills.

Creams or topical steroids that will lighten the skin.

-One of the most common treatments for melasma is sun protection. This means wearing sunscreen every day and reapplying the sunscreen every 2 hours.

-Suncreens with at least an SPF of 30 or above are recommended.

-In addition, techniques like microabrasion, chemical peels, dermabrasion can also be considered.

Laser therapy can work in treating melasma but produce only temporary results.

Are there any home remedies that help in melasma?

One can use simple ingredients found in one’s kitchen to lighten the skin. They can help to treat melasma without any side effects. Some items that can be used are:

Lemon juice

Lemon juice acts as a natural bleach that helps in peeling of the outer layer of the skin and lightening melasma pigmentation. Use the juice of one lemon and generously apply on the face, rubbing gently for 2 minutes. Leave it for 15-20 minutes and wash with lukewarm water. Use this twice a day daily for the next 3 weeks.

Turmeric

Curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric is known to have strong antioxidant properties that help in reducing melanin pigmentation. Make an instant face pack my mixing 2 tbsp of turmeric with 5 tbsp of milk to make a thick paste. Apply all over the face and let it dry out completely. Rinse with lukewarm water. Additionally, you may add some gram flour to turn this into an exfoliating mask.

Aloe vera

The polysaccharides present in aloe vera help in reducing blemishes, reduce dark spots caused due to prolonged sun exposure and keep the face clean and healthy. Apply aloe vera gel on the face and rub it gently in circular motion for 2 minutes. Leave for 15 to 20 minutes and rinse off with lukewarm water. Repeat this daily for the next few weeks until the patches start to fade away.

If your melasma is making you self-conscious or affecting your image in public, it is best to visit a dermatologist.

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