Treatment Options for Melasma ("The Mask of Pregnancy")


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pregnant woman; UW Health Transformations Jeune Skin Care - Treatment Options for Melasma, The Mask of PregnancyMelasma is a skin condition that causes brown patches to appear on the face of adults. It is also known as chloasma or "mask of pregnancy" when present in pregnant women.


The most common areas affected are the forehead, upper lip, cheeks and the bridge of the nose. Melasma mostly occurs in women and only about 10 percent of those affected are men.


A change in hormonal status may trigger melasma. It is particularly common in pregnant women or with the use of oral contraceptives.


Sun exposure contributes to melasma. Ultraviolet light from the sun can stimulate pigment-producing cells, or melanocytes, in the skin.


People with skin of color have more active melanocytes than those with light skin. These melanocytes produce a large amount of pigment under normal conditions, but this production increases even further when stimulated by light exposure of an increase in hormone levels.


Treatment for Melasma


There is no cure for melasma but many treatments are available to hasten the fading of the discolored patches:

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  • Sunscreen is essential - a broad spectrum (protecting from both UVA and UVB rays) SPF 30 or greater should be used on a daily basis, whether it is sunny outside or if you are indoors or outdoors. An excellent choice would include zinc oxide and titanium oxide.
  • Topical depigmenting agents, such as hydroquinone in either over-the-counter 2 percent or prescription 4 percent strength. Hydroquinone is a chemical that inhibits tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in the production of melanin.
  • Tretinoin or Retin A, which is an acid that increases skin cell turnover.
  • Azelaic acid or kojic acid, which is thought to decrease the activity of melanocytes.
  • Treatments such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser treatments. To set up a complimentary skin consultation with one of our medical aestheticians, call UW Health Transformations Jeune Skin Care at (608) 836-9990 or Request a Free Jeune Skin Care Consultation online.