How to treat melasma

Published January 4, 2022, 3:24 PM

by Dr. Kaycee Reyes

Here’s to brighter days ahead

PIGMENTATION DISORDER Melasma is a kind of hyperpigmentation more common in women

Almost everyone has melanin, a natural pigment that’s produced by special skin cells. Melanin is what gives our hair, eyes, and skin their color, but when our skin’s melanin production gets damaged, hyperpigmentation happens. That’s when specific patches of skin look much darker than the rest of your skin.  For Asians, pigmentation due to melasma is a very common occurrence because we are living in areas of intense UV light exposure.

For women other than those genetically predisposed to have melasma, a history of oral contraceptive pill use and inflammation due to cosmetics and skin care can trigger pigment formation.

For women who are genetically predisposed to have melasma, they are more likely to have it because of their history of hormonal changes like going through pregnancy and chronic sun exposure. For other women, a history of oral contraceptive pill use and inflammation due to cosmetics and skin care can trigger pigment formation.  

Melasma is more than a pigment disorder. According to studies, vessels deliver vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that promotes formation of more pigment in melanocytes. Thus, it can be concluded that melasma is a photo-aging disorder caused by hyperactivity of our pigment cells with overproduction of melanin.

Etiological factors of melasma:

  • Genetic influences
  • UV irradiation or chronic sun exposure 
  • Female sex hormones (pregnancy and oral contraceptive pills use)
  • Inflammatory process due to concomitant medication

That is why sunscreen is a crucial step in our skincare routine, especially because we live in the Philippines, where we have high chances of being exposed to the sun. Sunscreen is our first line of defense for all kinds of hyperpigmentation, not just melasma.

If you already have melasma and you want to manage it, what needs to be done is for a dermatologist to assess your skin first. Depending on the type of melasma you have, skin professionals may suggest a topical solution or a mild laser combined with oral medication, or a program that involves all of those therapies.  The best goal for treatment is to restrict melanin formation to prevent future hyperpigmentation and also to reduce dark spots from melasma. 

There is no magic laser in melasma.  It’s a chronic disease that requires maintenance treatment. Combination treatments include avoiding triggers, protecting skin barrier, topical melanin inhibitors, oral treatment, and mild lasers. 

PROTECTION AGAINST THE HARMFUL SUN An important part of any skincare routine is sunscreen

Whether or not you are prone to hyperpigmentation, you will benefit from sunscreen. It’s the most accessible solution we have for anti-aging. If you’re already going through treatment for hyperpigmentation, all the more you need to use sunscreen and other topical products recommended by your dermatologist.

Here are the things you need to look for in your sunscreen: 

Zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is one of the most effective physical sunscreens.

Iron oxide. Iron Oxide helps keep sunscreen formulas from leaving a white cast on the skin.

SPF 50. This is the ideal Sun Protection Factor your sunscreen should have.

Broad-Spectrum Protection. If you see this label, it means your sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays.

The optimum treatment technique for Asian skin and skin of color is often a compromise between safety and effectiveness.  So the best bet is to check with your trusted skin specialist in treating these difficult pigmentation concerns.