It is estimated that as many as six million Americans are affected by melasma. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 90 percent of melasma sufferers are women. This may be predominantly due to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, though instances of melasma are also associated with sun exposure. This condition is so prevalent during pregnancy that it is commonly referred to as “mask of pregnancy.” Other factors that can trigger melasma in women include oral contraceptives and estrogen supplements.

On the skin, melasma appears as brown patches on the jaw line, upper lip, cheeks, or the forehead. The role of hormones in the development of melasma may come down to the stimulation in the production of melanocytes, or pigmented skin cells. Coupled with the stimulation that occurs with natural sunlight, hormones can lead to the over accumulation of melanin.

Dr. Kenneth Neal, board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Washington Dermatology Consultants, encourages those with melasma to seek professional care rather than attempting to lighten skin with home remedies. In our offices in Arlington and Stafford, we offer individualized care based on each patient’s unique needs.

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Treating melasma

Melasma is not a condition that tends to clear on its own. There are several “bleaching” creams available without a prescription, though the success rate of such products is very limited. Over-the-counter bleaching creams contain only 2 percent hydroquinone, a component of topical medication that slows the production of melanin in pigment-producing cells. Over-the-counter creams are typically only effective on very mild cases of melasma. Results are also limited to the time during which cream is regularly used. As soon as affected areas are exposed to sunlight, spots will recur.

Our dermatologist can prescribe medication containing 4 percent hydroquinone, a dose far more effective at lightening darkened skin. Prescription medication also contains additional active ingredients that promote results.

By working together with our experienced dermatologist, it is possible to find relief from melasma. To learn how your melasma may be treated, contact Washington Dermatology Consultants in Arlington or Stafford.