Lighten Up

This post goes out to Kelly and Katie, hang in there – help is on the way.

We are not alone, my friends. Most of us have some sort of skin abnormality to deal with. For me, it’s acne rosacea. For Kelly and Katie, it’s melasma. Melasma is a dark skin discoloration found on sun-exposed areas of the face, particularly common in women. People with light brown skin from regions of the world with intense sun exposure are more prone to develop melasma. A major factor is exposure to sunlight – ultraviolet radiation. However, more than a third of melasma patients have a family history of it. It has been linked to pregnant women and/or those women taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy medications. Melasma doesn’t happen overnight….it develops gradually, making it difficult to treat at the outset.

Creams and serums containing tretinoin, kojic acid and azelaic acid have been known to improve the appearance of melasma. Hydroquinone (HQ) is most commonly used. It is a hydroxyphenolic chemical that inhibits tyrosinase, decreasing the production of melanin. There are other forms of treatment, such as chemical peels or topical steroid creams. A chemical peel involves applying a peeling agent to the skin for a short period of time. The skin will peel similar to that of a sunburn.Although a number of studies have shown that treating melasma with superficial chemical peels and a bleaching agent is safe and effective, you should be aware of possible adverse effects such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and hypertrophic scars. The most drastic of all measures is laser treatment to remove the dark pigment.

Regardless of the treatment you choose, it will be pointless if you continue to expose yourself to the sun. Okay, let me break that down….that means, Stay Out Of The Sun. Certainly daily sunscreen use helps prevent melasma – and bonus, it is crucial in the prevention of skin cancer and wrinkles.

Side note: I recently recommended topical treatments to help lighten hyperpigmentation for Kelly and Katie. And while I think they are a great start in the treatment of melasma, a dermatologist consultation is highly advised.

Many dermotologists consider hydroquinone to be the most effective skin lightening ingredient available at this time and is the only skin bleaching agent approved by the FDA. The FDA limits over-the-counter concentrations of hydroquinone to 2%. Some prescription products can contain up to 5%. Although hydroquinone has been used in the US for more than 40 years for skin lightening, some studies over the last 25 years have shed light on potential side effects. However, they have yet to be proven conclusive.


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