Melasma: The Pregnancy Mask
Melasma (chloasma) is hyperpigmentation or dark, irregular patches commonly found on the upper cheeks, nose, upper lip, and forehead. The patches can develop gradually over time or during pregnancy. Melasma can also develop when taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy medications. Melasma is thought to be stimulated by hormones, however exactly which hormones are involved has yet to be determined. The most important factor in the development of melasma is sun exposure,and without the strict avoidance of sun exposure, treatments for melasma are likely to be unsuccessful. Melasma can be permanent or disappear and reappear with each pregnancy.
Hyperpigmentation is the term used to describe any type of abnormal dark area of the skin, this includes melasma, freckles and sun spots. When we treat hyperpigmentation in the skin, it is important to understand that the melanocyte is not functioning properly, so it overproduces melanosomes and the excess melanin can not be evenly distributed among the keratinocytys. As the cells rise to the surface of the skin they cause over pigmented or dark spots. When the skin is exfoliated with AHA’s, chemical peels or microdermabrasion, the hyperpigmentation will appear lighter because some of the top layers of skin have been removed and the pigment is less dense (temporarily). The pigment is still there, it is just appears lighter and the melanocyte is still not functioning properlly, so in a few weeks as the top skin layers are replaced the pigment will appear dark again. Tanning will also further stimulate the melanocyte causing darker pigmentation to develop and Melasma will become worse. Hydroquinone works to suppress the melanocyte and is an excellent way to treat the pregnancy mask. For best results Hydroquinone can be used in conjunction with exfoliating treatments. I understand this description may be a little difficult to understand, so if I have lost you, you can come in for a consultation and I will use visual aids to better explain the cause and treatment for hyperpigmentation.
Melasma: My Personal Story
I have Melasma myself, on my upper cheeks and forehead. I first developed Melasma patches on my upper cheeks in my late twenties and later after giving birth to my second child I developed another large patch in the center of my forehead. I have successfully treated my Melasma, but I need to continue to maintain my skin so that it doesn’t come back. As a Medical Esthetician, I obviously have access to the best skin care products and treatments available. I can share both my professional and personal experience with treating Melasma. Using hydroquinone, and broad spectrum sunblock is absolutely necessary for treating and controlling Melasma. Even after successful correction of Melasma, the hyperpigmentation can reappear especially after sun exposure.
My Personal Skin Regimen
My personal skin regimen includes using the Obagi Nu-Derm system, with a 1/2 gram of Clear (4% hydroquinone) AM and PM. Initially I used a 1/2 gram of a .1% tretinoin ( Retin-A) every night, however I am now on a maintenance protocol and only use tretinoin occasionally. I also use a topical vitamin C and a broad spectrum sunblock containing Zinc oxide. I top it off with Jane Iredale mineral makeup SPF 20.
Professional Skin Treatments
I have had an Obagi Blue Peel, and Fraxel treatments. I personally felt I had better results with the Blue Peel. Fractional laser resurfacing and Blue Peels are ideal when treating deep or resistant Melasma.
Although I have corrected my Melasma, I still need to continue to maintain my skin to keep the Melasma under control. In addition to the topical products I previously mentioned, I try to have a light chemical peel every 4-6 weeks. The chemical peel I have found that gives me the best results treating pigmentation, is a custom chemical peel.
Obagi Nu-Derm System
This is correction after using the Obagi Nu-Derm System. This is a prescription strength skin system and is only available at medical skin clinics. Treatment protocols vary depending on skin type and condition.
Obagi Blue Peel
This is an example of deeply pigmented Melasma.
After treatment with Obagi Nu- Derm & Obagi Blue Peel
It is important to precondition with the Obagi Nu-Derm System and Retin-A before having a Blue Peel. I recommend preconditioning for a minimum of 6 weeks or longer depending on how aggressively Tretinoin is used. Patients that are better preconditioned get a better result. It is also necessary to continue to use the creams after peel to prevent Hyperpigmentation & to maintain healthy skin.
Custom Chemical Peel for Melasma
The Custom Chemical Peel I use is a light peel that can be repeated as often as every 4-6 weeks, compared to the Obagi Blue Peel which is a deeper peel necessary for treating deeper pigmentation. I have decided to not include details of my protocol for this custom peel. It is proprietary information that I don’t wish to share with others in the industry. If you would like to learn more, you can schedule a private consultation. I can tell you that with this peel, I will usually get light peeling for 2-3 days. The peeling is minimal and I would not consider there to be any “down-time”, you can still go about your regular routine. You just don’t want to schedule a peel less than a week before any major event like a wedding. I make it a point to work with my clients and their social calendar, so that they look their best for any events.
Get Professional Treatment For Melasma
If you have Melasma call to schedule a free consultation at
Paradise Valley Skin Klinic.