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A Guide to Melasma + How to Manage It

By Quani Burnett 

Sometimes, the skin around your face can become darkened or discolored in response to inflammation or damage. It’s a facial pigmentation condition called melasma. Melasma, which is common on the cheeks and forehead, expresses itself as dark or discolored patches, typically brown or grayish in color, thanks to the production of excess melanocytes, or cells that produce melanin. Though melasma occurs in all skin tones, according to Dr. Angelo Landriscina, a dermatologist based in Brooklyn, New York, melasma “in deeper skin tones is more stubborn and more noticeable.” 

CAUSES OF MELASMA 

Have you laid out in the sun without wearing sunscreen? This, taking certain medications, and even pregnancy have been linked to melasma, which is often called “the mask of pregnancy.” Though the pathology is still not fully understood, research shows that genetics, hormonal changes such as pregnancy or the use of hormonal contraceptives, and sun exposure are originating factors and triggers.

MANAGING MELASMA 

Managing melasma should be a multi-pronged approach. In addition to preventative sun protection, Dr. Landriscina recommends turnover-supporting topicals like retinol, and brightening ingredients like vitamin C.  Though more aggressive approaches such as chemical peels and laser treatments can be beneficial, for those with deeper skin tones, Dr. Landriscina recommends—with emphasis—the importance of finding a dermatologist who has experience working on all skin tones. “Complications could mean worsening of your hyperpigmentation,” otherwise, he says. 

Prevention is the best form of management, and that really comes down to wearing and reapplying sunscreen; SPF prevents further hyperpigmentation. As Dr. Landriscina says, “Sun protection is really the most important remedy of them all.” 

Though melasma is a skin concern for many, we can all challenge ourselves to practice skin positivity on the daily along with our topical skincare routines. Real skin isn’t perfect, and that’s ok! All skin is beautiful.