Skin Deep

A Closer Look at Melasma

 

drb@drbaumann.com

Skin discoloration, or hyperpigmentation, is usually a sign of sun damage that begins to worsen as years of unprotected sun exposure rise to the surface of the skin. While typical age spots become visible around the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, a skin condition called melasma usually makes its presence known much earlier.

Melasma appears as dark patches, most commonly on the upper lip, cheeks and forehead. Most prevalent in women of Latin or Asian heritage, this discoloration can also appear during pregnancy; then it’s called chloasma. We know there’s a link between melasma and hormones, which is why women who take oral contraceptives are more prone to the condition.

Unlike sun-related hyperpigmentation that occurs later in life, melasma peaks between the ages of 20 and 40, when estrogen levels are at their highest. Once a woman reaches menopause, melasma symptoms begin to subside.

Although there are prescription medications that can curb the discoloration associated with melasma, the key to minimizing dark patches is prevention. It’s important to wear sunscreen every day (365 days a year, rain or shine) and avoid the sun. You may also want to rethink your birth control, and even avoid facial waxing and steaming during facials, as heat can make melasma worse. Although melasma tends to subside with menopause, hormone replacement therapy can lead to further skin darkening.

Recent research has also established a link between stress and melasma. Stress can activate the propriomelanocortrin gene that prompts the skin to produce more pigment. Our bodies also interpret lack of sleep as stress, so this too can make melasma symptoms worse. This gene has an effect on all pigment production, but if you’re concerned about melasma, then it’s important to look at all of these factors as causes for the discoloration. Your dermatologist can recommend the best skincare, prescriptions and treatments to help get your melasma under control, but this is only one part of the picture. For optimal skin clarity and radiance, don’t underestimate the toll your lifestyle takes.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.

Read more Skin Deep stories from the Miami Herald

  • Skin Deep

    FDA warns about not using Expression as a filler

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people can take injections so lightly. Yes, they are cosmetic and non-invasive, but these treatments require the training and skill only an experienced dermatologist, plastic surgeon, facial plastic surgeon or oculoplastic surgeon possess. Every week I have at least one patient that comes to me to correct filler injected by an inexperienced or inartistic doctor.

  • Skin Deep

    Injectibles may make you look younger - but make sure you go to an experienced practioner

    One of the biggest questions I get from first-time injectable patients is, “Will I look different?” and my answer is always, “You’ll look like yourself, just better.”

  • Skin Deep

    What’s the difference between skin rejuvenation, skin resurfacing?

    Although the terms “skin rejuvenation” and “skin resurfacing” are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference. Rejuvenation is anything that makes the skin look better — skincare products, treatments or in-office procedures — while resurfacing refers to a treatment or procedure that physically removes the top layer of the skin. Simply put, skin resurfacing is just one way to accomplish skin rejuvenation.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category