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Melasma: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Nov 01, 2021

What is the Melasma?

Melasma is a common skin problem that is more prevalent in women. The condition causes dark, discolored patches to appear on the skin..

What is the difference between Melasma and hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a common term used for all types of conditions involving the darkening of a particular region of the skin. It may involve different types of cases which are accompanied by dark spots on the skin such as liver spots, freckles, and Melasma. On the other hand, Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation.

It involves dark spots on a particular skin area such as the chin, cheeks, upper lips, and nose. While the reason for hyperpigmentation is the exposure of the skin to UV rays in the sunlight, the cause for Melasma involves hormonal changes during several conditions such as pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of melasma?

Melasma causes patches of discoloration on the skin. The brown or grey-brown patches of melasma appear most often on the cheeks, forehead, nose and chin.

Can Melasma fade itself?

Melasma is a common condition of the skin that results from any disturbance in the hormonal balance inside the body. The condition usually gets resolved spontaneously over a period of time by just eliminating or ending up the causative factors which may include the condition of pregnancy or intake of contraceptive pills. It does not require any treatment.

What is the main cause of melasma?

Melasma can be due to hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy or from exposure to sun. Hormones stimulate the growth of cells that make brown pigment (melanocytes) and exposure to sunlight stimulates melanin pigments.

How is melasma treatment done?

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Melasma can be cured easily with the application of creams or steroids. The most common melasma therapies include:

  • Application of sunscreen is extremely vital to treat melasma. It is important to apply sunscreen so that it helps to block penetration of sun light and stimulation of pigment formation.
  • Hydroquinone creams: 2% hydroquinone (HQ) creams. Hydroquinone can be found as gels, lotions, or even liquid and is applied on the skin to lighten the skin color.
  • Tretinoin drugs: Tretinoin or a corticosteroid drugs are also prescribed as these have also proven to be effective in skin lightning.
  • Triple cream: A medicine, called triple cream, contains 3 medicines (hydroquinone, tretinoin, and a corticosteroid) in 1 cream.
  • Dermatologist may also prescribe azelaic acid or kojic acid for topical application on the skin to help lighten melasma.
  • Treatments also provide laser therapy, chemical peel, microdermabrasion, dermabrasion or a light-based treatment.

Who is eligible for the treatment?

Melasma is a common disorder found in many people across the world. People with facial skin covered with brown pigments and patches can consult a dermatologist for its treatment.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Appearance of patches on the skin, if caused due to other reasons, like allergy, need to be treated differently. Those patients are not eligible for the treatment of melasma. Also, if the pigments disappear on its own, medical assistance is not required.

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Are there any side effects?

Possible side effects of melasma treatments include temporary skin irritation. This may happen because of the individual skin type. However, this fades away as the skin adjusts to the medicines. People who use hydroquinone treatment in very high concentrations for prolonged periods are likely to develop a side effect called exogenous ochronosis. In this condition, the skin actually darkens instead of lightening the skin while the bleaching agent is used.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Avoiding exposure to sun, particularly of the face, is the most important factor after the treatment. Melasma is a chronic disorder with periodic ups and downs. It is important to follow the advices of the dermatologist effectively for best results. Using sunscreen lotions or creams and other accessories like hats, sunglasses or protective masks can reduce the exposure of facial skin to sunlight. Even after the pigmentation clears, the patient must continue with the course until its completion. This is called maintenance therapy that helps prevent melasma from returning.

How long does it take to recover?

Treatment of melasma is a slow process. It takes months for the patches to fade away and the discoloration to normalize. If the dark or brown pigments occur only on some areas, the treatment may take around eight or nine months to cure. But if it spreads over a wide region, covering major part of the face, then it takes even greater time and continuous treatment to disappear.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

Treatment of melasma is a time taking process. The creams and steroids need to be applied for a minimum of eight to twelve months before they start to fade away. So, this incurs a cost for the multiple creams and doctor appointments. And, moreover, laser treatment of melasma is an expensive affair. There is a probable need of 3-4 treatments over 3-6 months for the patients. Roughly, the amount may reach up to Rs 50,000.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The outcome of the treatment is usually permanent if proper care and precautions be taken. Removal of pigmentation does not guarantee its longevity. The patches may again appear if the skin is exposed to severe sunlight or if there be some hormonal imbalance. To prevent such, use of sunscreens and protective masks during long outdoor stays under the sunlight is essential.

What foods make Melasma worse?

Some of the food items which usually make the condition worse and aggravate the condition include multigrain bread, flax seeds, tofu, soy milk, dried fruits, chickpeas, sesame seeds, beans, peas, whole grain cereals, alcoholic beverages, wheat, and ginseng. These foods trigger hyperpigmentation by having an adverse effect on the hormonal level.

How can I get rid of Melasma naturally?

We can get rid of Melasma in some of the natural ways which are as follows:

  • Use of apple cider vinegar, which contains acetic acid.
  • Use of aloe vera on the skin which contains aloin, a natural compound for depigmentation.
  • Application of red onion which has a skin lightening effect.
  • Use of green tea extract as well as black tea.
  • Application of some products on the skin such as milk, tomato paste, etc.

Is Aloe Vera good for Melasma?

Aloe vera is a proven and effective home remedy for the treatment of conditions of hyperpigmentation such as Melasma. It can be used as a preparation in the form of encapsulation of the liposome and can be applied as a topical form or application on the affected area of the skin. It brings noticeable changes in the skin and hence is a much-preferred way of natural treatment.

Can turmeric cure Melasma?

Turmeric is one of the most effective home remedies that has been used till now to get good results in case of any skin problems. Enriched with valuable properties and medicinal values, it can do miracles in case of hyperpigmented conditions such as Melasma. Turmeric can be applied directly to the skin in combination with milk and it effectively reduces the accumulated melanin in the affected skin area.

Is Honey Good for Melasma?

Honey is one of the most effective home remedies that may be used as a natural treatment method for Melasma. It has antioxidants as well as skin lightening properties which effectively minimizes the dark spots due to excessive melanin accumulation in the skin. It may be used in a combination with papaya or may be used with lemon for maximum benefits.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Melasma can be treated by alternative means. Home made remedies may be helpful to restore the normal skin color and remove the patches. Lemon juice is a natural skin lightener with its astringent properties. The acidic nature of lemon juice also helps to remove the outer layer of the skin, thereby eliminating a layer of the hyperpigmented skin. Apple acid vinegar, turmeric, onion juice can also help to eliminate the patches on the skin. Aloe vera gel, due to the presence of mucilaginous polysaccharides, can alleviate hyperpigmentation and restore the skin’s original color. Other substances can also be used effectively for treating melasma. Apart from this, use of homeopathic treatment and Ayurveda may also be useful to remove hyperpigmentation of the skin.

Summary: Melasma is a common skin problem that can occur as a result of hyperpigmentation of the skin. Being related to the hormonal imbalances in our body, It usually fades away by itself over a certain period of time when the related causes such as pregnancy end up or use of contraceptive pills is stopped. It can be effectively treated by applications of natural home remedies too.

References

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Written ByDr. Deepa Kadam MD - AyurvedaDermatology
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