While a lesser known skin condition than many, Melasma is still a common skin problem that predominantly effects women, and can have a big impact on self-confidence, due to the unsightly nature of the condition. A disorder where the skin develops dark patches, often on the face, the grey-brown blemishes usually appear on the cheeks, nose and forehead, but can also be found on other parts of the body. While anyone can suffer from melasma, it’s more commonly found in both pregnant women and women taking contraceptives and the condition can also arise as a result of hormonal changes in the body, or as a reaction due to sun exposure. Graded by how far it has penetrated into the skin: in the first stage, only the epidermis is affected. In the next stage, it proceeds down to the dermis, and will be harder to treat. So success depends on how early you start treatment, and it’s therefore imperative to act as soon as you see signs of Melasma appearing.
Melasma vs hyperpigmentation
Due to the similar symptoms, melasma can often be confused with general hyperpigmentation, melasma appears in the form of discoloration on the skin and is exacerbated by exposure to the sun. However, there are actually quite a few differences that set it apart from your run-of-the-mill hyperpigmentation, and it’s important to ensure the difference between the two conditions in order to treat them correctly. Everything from freckles to sun-spots to discolouration caused by eczema can cause the skin to darken, and each are categorized under the wider umbrella of hyperpigmentation. And melasma, while being a form of hyperpigmentation, is its own separate skin disorder, and is distinguishable by the fact that it’s believed to be triggered by both sun exposure and hormonal influences, thus making it harder to treat. It, too, is worth noting, that as well as being caused by too much exposure to the sun, sitting in front of a computer all day can have a negative impact as well. Indeed, melasma can also be worsened by infrared energy, which is felt as warmth.
How to identify Melasma
Identifiable by its appearance – usually a symmetrical patch found on areas on your face that natural catch the sun such as bridge of the nose, forehead and cheeks, it too can be found on the parts of the body that are more prone to UV rays, such as the neck and forearms, and many who suffer from the condition say that it worsens in summer. It is noted by many that darker skin tones are affected more frequently than lighter, and approximately 90% of those that suffer from melasma are women.
There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter treatments that have been developed, which have various levels of success in making the skin tone more even. However, what works for one person might not work for another, and consequently it’s essential that anyone hoping to treat their melasma successfully should try several such products, and then decide by trial-and-error which one is the most effective on their skin. And, as with all conditions, prevention – where possible – is better than cure, but suffice it to say, it would be impossible to cut out everything that could be causing melasma. However, it’s important to be diligent with your sunscreen application to stave off all manners of sun-induced ailments, including melasma. Even if yours is triggered by hormones, being meticulous when it comes to sunscreen is no bad thing.
Effective treatment will depend on the severity of your condition, and while the impact of remedial creams will vary from person to person, we’ve composed this buyer’s guide to help you make the right decision when selecting a cream to help control your melasma.
SkinMedica’s Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum
An advanced pigment correcting serum formulated to address the appearance of stubborn skin discolouration, Lytera Pigment Correcting Serum is appropriate for all skin types and tones, regardless of skin type or genetic make up. A Non-hydroquinone, retinol-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic formulation, improvements can be seen in as early as 2 weeks with progressively dramatic results at 12 weeks and beyond. Additionally, it helps optimize results of multiple treatment approaches, including chemical peels, laser therapy, microdermabrasion, and prescription skin care products, including hydroquinone and 95% of users said it lightened the darker blotches of their skin and diminished the appearance of dark spots.
A popular hyperpigmentation cream among those suffering from melasma, the active ingredients in this skin lightening formula help reduce discoloration and improve appearance by inhibiting the enzymes that stimulate pigment-producing cells. Arbutin, kojic acid and glycerin are the key ingredients that help lessen the appearance of hyperpigmentation, and it can take anywhere between 1 and 3 months to start seeing your hyperpigmentation spots fade.
Vincere Anti Melasma Cream
Formulated for both face and body, this anti-melasma cream helps reduce the appearance of melasma, age spots, sun spots, pigmentation and freckles. Rich in active ingredients, it also protects the skin from UV exposure by gradually slowing down melanin production and the highly effective nano size formula penetrates to deeper layers of the skin which directly helps to fade freckles, dark spots and discolouration. Additionally, the Vincere anti-melasma cream enhances clarity, helping to promote a more luminous complexion. A light and easily absorbed cream, it also moisturizes skin for a smooth and supple finish and helps to diminish fine lines and wrinkles.
Obagi Nu-Derm System
Available in formulas that will suit both normal to dry and normal to oily skin, the Obagi Nu-Derm System is the #1 physician-dispensed skin care system that will transform skin, help correct hyperpigmentation and improve visible signs of skin aging. Featuring 4% hydroquinone, this Complete skin care system includes everything from a foaming gel, toner and Sun Shield SPF 50, and is specially formulated to help correct hyperpigmentation, such as dark spots, sun spots, age spots, melasma, and other types of discoloration, for a healthier-looking, more even skin tone.
ASAP Skin serum
ASAP’s Super C serum features a high concentration of vitamin C, alongside powerful antioxidants Pycnogenol and Idebenone. Ideal for anyone suffering the side effects of Melasma, this serum helps to reduce the signs of premature ageing caused by the sun’s harsh UVB and UVA rays, and helps stimulate collagen production to help improve skin tone and texture. In addition, this super serum contains anti-inflammatory properties to assist in the reduction of facial redness and encourages quick skin recovery.
Aspect Dr Complete Pigment Serum
Aspect Dr Complete Pigment Serum is designed to fight skin pigmentation. This serum focuses on lightening and reducing the appearance of pigmentation, which when used on a regular basis will gradually fade the discolouration and help brighten dull skin. With ingredients such as Tyrostat 11™ a patented, chemical free skin brightener that assists by inhibiting the production of pigment, and Canadian Willowherb which has anti-inflammatory and calming properties, it can be used safely during pregnancy and has a beautifully lightweight texture. This powerful and fast absorbing age spot and hyperpigmentation skin brightening serum can be used both morning and night after cleansing.
Oxygenetix Oxygenting Foundation
While not strictly a cream that will treat Melasma, this oil and fragrance-free foundation from Oxygenetix is a great foundation for anyone with Melasma, and has been designed to help soothe and conceal a range of skin conditions, and can help disguise the effects of Melasma. Offering full-coverage with a lightweight texture, this foundation creates a second skin effect as it blends extremely well with skin tones while also providing SPF 25 protection. Oxygenetix moisturisers and protects against premature aging and diminish existing lines and wrinkles, plumping the skin and soothing irritation and inflammation. Oxygenetix products work together flawlessly, creating beautiful, hydrated, healthy skin.