Melasma, known also as chloasma face, is a common skin problem that can affect anyone and is manifested in the form of dark or tan discoloration on the skin. It is most commonly found in women, especially those who take contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy medications, and pregnant women. Usually, the discoloration is found on the cheeks, nose, and forehead, but probably the worst version is the one that occurs on the upper lip, giving women the unattractive illusion of having a mustache.
When it comes to upper lip melasma, it will most likely develop in younger women. It can be quite embarrassing, and at times, hard to hide, and can cause a person to feel self-conscious and insecure about her looks. Naturally, you would want it gone as fast as possible, but first, let’s see what causes it before we tackle the problem of treating it.
What Causes Melasma?
The official cause of melasma is, sadly, still unknown. However, it is considered that the condition is triggered by the fluctuations of hormones – progesterone and estrogen. This especially applies to young women who are using a patch or oral contraceptives, pregnant ladies, or women who are undergoing a hormone replacement therapy because of menopause or another reason. Also, people, especially women, who are exposed to the sun frequently and for longer periods are more likely to develop melasma.
How to Treat It?
Stop with the contraceptives. Birth control pills and patches can affect your hormonal balance and cause melasma to appear on your face. Before you stop taking them talk to your doctor and figure out what the best solution is, to quit completely, or to switch to a different product.
Use hydroquinone cream. Talk to your doctor to see if this is a good solution for you. Even though a number of these products can be bought over-the-counter, only a professional dermatologist can determine which one is the best for you in regards to strength. Hydroquinone can come in the form of a lotion, gel, cream, and liquid. It blocks the chemical processes which are responsible for the melanin creation in your skin, so they reduce the appearance of melasma by reducing the amount of melanin. Usually, the most prescribed hydroquinone has a concentration of four percent.
Use a skin lightener. Again, before putting anything on your skin talk to your doctor. Skin lighteners can actually help with melasma by helping out the hydroquinone creams. Most commonly used are corticosteroids and tretinoins. There are also creams that contain hydroquinone, corticosteroid, and tretinoin all at once. Also, you can opt for kojic acid or azelaic acid instead.
Chemical peels. You will have to go to a professional dermatologist to get a chemical peel which is a procedure of peeling the top layer of the skin through the use of glycolic acid. Chemical peels work by causing a mild chemical burn, and as those burned layers peel away they leave behind healthy, new skin. Depending on where you go, a dermatologist may use glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid, which can be a little bit more painful, but still a good option for severe melasma.
Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion. Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are treatments that strip away the top layer of the skin through the use of abrasive materials. In the case of microdermabrasion, smaller materials are used, and it tends to be more thorough than dermabrasion. During this procedure, very very small crystals are “dragged” across the skin, stripping away dead skin cells and removing the top layer of the skin.
Laser treatment. Some laser treatments may be a good option for treating melasma, but be wary of some which can actually make matters worse. Try to look for a fractional or restorative dual laser which will only target the discoloration at the surface of your skin, instead of going further down. Also, always look for a skilled professional who will perform the procedure, as it is quite costly and will need a few sessions to get the desired results.
Cysteamine cream. Cysteamine creams are safe for use and can treat melasma quite successfully. Cysteamine can be found naturally in our bodies, and it is a great antioxidant which inhibits the synthesis of melanin which produces the discoloration of your skin. You can find these creams online or over-the-counter.
Kojic acid and megaplex cream. Melaplex and kojic acid are skin brighteners gentler and less irritating for the skin than hydroquinone. Kojic acid and melaplex will slow down the production of melanin and the new skin cells will, in return, be less dark.
Try natural remedies. Paper mulberry is one of the most common natural remedies for melasma. An extract of this plant can be used topically and orally. Some of the other good natural treatments are bearberry, mandelic acid, watercress, lemon peel extract, vitamin C, lactic acid, and apple cider vinegar.
Sun protection. One of the most important things you can do is to protect your skin from the sun. Use a good sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, wear a hat and sunglasses when you go outside, and opt for a light long sleeved shirt and pants.
Control the stress. As with most hormonal skin conditions, stress can actually make melasma worse. Stress can worsen the imbalance of the hormones in your body, so figuring out a way to stay calm can help you get rid of melasma sooner. Try doing yoga or meditating to help you relax. If, however, you are not into that, try to relax some other way. Take a walk through the park, have a picnic, take a soothing bubble bath, read a book, and spend time with loved ones who can make you smile and make the stress go away, and, sooner than you know it, your skin condition will start getting better. Also, try not to be overly self-conscious because of your melasma, as stressing over it can make matters worse, and the issue is easily covered with makeup until you make it go away for good.