What Is Melasma? The Benefits of Prevention
Written by: Janet Early
Melasma is a skin disorder in which dark patches appear on the skin, most commonly as a result of pigment cells becoming hyper-responsive to the sun’s rays. The condition is very common, but can cause permanent discoloration of the skin. This can occur even after just one instance of serious sunburn.
Once you develop melasma, its symptoms can appear again and again. The afflicted person needs to be diligent in their sun-protective practices, since their skin pigmentation has become highly responsive to the sun’s rays and heat.
What Causes this Condition?
The causes of melasma are largely unknown and are still being researched. However, known triggers are:
- Ultraviolet light – Typically, melasma develops in correlation with high amounts of sun exposure. UV light can affect the melanocytes, color-producing agents, within the skin, causing them to work overtime and produce these noticeable, dark patches on the face.
- Hormonal changes – Pregnant women and people taking hormonal substances are at a higher risk for this skin disease because of increased estrogens levels.
- Skin care products that aggravate the skin, reduce skin health and subsequently increase vulnerability to skin problems like melasma.
Who Is Most Susceptible To Melasma?
Melasma occurs in some people more than others. Those who are most prone to the condition are people who:
- Are of color – Latinos, Asians and African Americans have more reported instances of the condition.
- Use birth control, take hormone replacement therapy, or are pregnant.
- Have a first-degree relative with the condition.
- Women – Melasma can occur in anyone, but 90% of cases happen to females.
- Live in tropical climates.
- Are regularly exposed to great amounts of sun.
- Are under high stress – Melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, can be affected by stress-related hormones, leading some dermatologists to believe that the condition is stress-induced.
Can It Be Treated?
While there are ways to treat and ease the symptoms of melasma, in some cases, the scarring may never completely disappear. In a sense, it’s a condition without a cure and those who are susceptible need to carefully guard against it.
People with melasma can seek help from a dermatologist, who will try to remove the discolored pigment from the skin. The following practices have been found to aid in reducing symptoms, however, when it comes to true healing, it’s important to dig in and try to detect the root cause for your individual circumstances.
- Hydroquinone medication
- Herbal creams containing naturally-occurring licorice, soy, kojic acid, arbutin, tretinoin, or azelaic acid
- Chemical peels and laser treatment
- Topical steroid creams
- Discontinuing use of certain hormonal treatments (this will usually cause the skin discoloration to fade over a period of several months).
Additionally, these ingredients are nutrient-filled powerhouses when it comes to skin health:
- Herbs, fruits, and vegetables containing the flavonoid apigenin, which protects against destructive UV-rays due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic powers. Apigenin is found in parsley, oranges, onions, chamomile and tea among other healthy sources.
- Curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, Green tea, and Grape Seed Oil, which also prevent damaging UV effects on the skin.
- A key ingredient in Milk Thistle called Silymarin is shown to provide sunscreen-like protection effects.
- Pomegranate, a frequently used ingredient in skin care products, can reduce sun damage and signs of aging.
- Coffee – Extracts of the coffea arabica plant provide reduce fine lines and wrinkles while simultaneously improving pigmentation and skin appearance. This is due to the plant’s high antioxidant properties in the form of polyphenols. Just be sure you are drinking enough water each day, since coffee is also a diuretic, which combined with dehydration can instead contribute to skin damage.
While the causes of this condition are still being researched, the best known treatment for melasma is to prevent it! Diligent sunscreen and sun-protection habits are your best bet at doing just that and they simultaneously deter wrinkles and skin cancer. It’s a win, win, win (no matter what)!
Janet Early is a health enthusiast living in Los Angeles and working as a researcher for a major television company. An aspiring writer, Janet discovered her passion for wholesome nutrition and natural healing while navigating the struggles of balancing food sensitivities in a modern world. In addition to nutrition, she enjoys traveling, storytelling and embarking on daily adventures.
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