Melasma is a common skin condition consisting of brown and blotchy pigmentation that appears on the face. Also dubbed the "mask of pregnancy," this over-production of melanin may be triggered by hormones and is particularly common in pregnant women. Although the exact cause is unknown, genetics, sun exposure and hormones seem to play a role in this disorder. Though melasma often fades on its own, it can linger or recur, requiring home treatment and prevention.
Causes and Considerations
Some links to melasma include pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, sun exposure and photo toxic reactions after using certain cosmetics and skin care products. However, melasma may occur in healthy non-pregnant women. The facial pigmentation disorder is most common in women; only 10 percent of affected individuals are men.
Home Treatment and Prevention
A combination of at-home therapies can be used to remove facial pigmentation. Over-the-counter bleaching creams are effective, because they stop the formation of melanin. Brands with hydroquinone, azelaic acid or kojic acid as the active ingredient. The bleaching cream is applied daily for several months to the face after cleansing with a mild face wash. Additionally, put on sunscreen before going outdoors.
Hormone Changes and Melasma
Your doctor may suggest that you discontinue oral contraceptives and use alternate birth control methods as a way to treat melasma naturally. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melasma can fade on its own after the discontinuation of birth control pills. After you have given birth, melasma may also go away without any treatment.
Removing facial pigmentation may take several months. In the meantime, you may use concealers, foundation and powder to camouflage the area. Even after successful treatment, facial pigmentation may re-appear and require you use skin-lightening creams again.
If you notice any skin irritation while treating melasma at home, discontinue use of the product and contact a doctor. If home treatment is not successful, your doctor may recommend more aggressive medical treatments. For instance, laser re-surfacing, dermabrasion and prescription topical retinoids may be used to peel off the pigment.