Melasma: what it is and how to treat it

Tackle skin pigmentation head on...

Fiona Ward

Melasma is a common skin condition in adults, causing pigmentation to develop on the face. Though it can affect both genders, it is most common in women, and can develop during pregnancy. It’s not dangerous, but many with melasma are constantly searching for a cure – so we caught up with Dr Firas Al-Niaimi, group medical director for the UK’s leading skincare clinic group sk:n, to find out more about it.


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What is melasma?

“Melasma is a common skin condition where light to dark brown patches of discolouration develop,” says Dr Al-Niaimi. “It’s usually on the face, but it can also appear on other parts of the body that are in the sun, such as forearms or neck. Anyone can develop it, and it’s not caught or caused by allergy. It’s not dangerous or sore, but people with the condition are often upset by the cosmetic aspects.”

What causes it?

“It’s not entirely certain what the exact cause is. However, anything that affects hormones can contribute to the condition, such as pregnancy or the pill. Over-exposure to the sun and genetics can also contribute. You may find melasma is more prevalent in the summer and improves in the winter, so if you can avoid too much sun this can help prevent it.”


Laser treatments can be used to combat melasma

How to treat it

“Wearing sunscreen daily is the easiest way to treat melasma at home,” says Dr Al-Niaimi. “A healthy lifestyle and an effective skincare routine can also help clear the skin.

“When it comes to getting professional help, consult an expert practitioner who can advise you of the best options for your individual case. Skin peels may be recommended - the treatment involves applying a non-toxic chemical to the skin to encourage natural exfoliation and remove imperfections.

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“Fraxel is another treatment for pigmentation: this laser resurfacing treatment penetrates the skin to create miniscule wounds. The wounds trigger the body's natural healing response, stimulating the growth of fresh, clear and healthy skin cells. Your dermatologist may also recommend a combination of topical creams. Q-switched lasers in a low energy setting can also help with some patients.”


A glycolic toner can help with melasma

What skincare ingredients can help?

“Using products that contain an ingredient called sulforaphane can help light pigmentation,” adds Dr Al-Niaimi. “You can also use an exfoliator that includes glycolic acid (such as the sk:n Facial Exfoliating Cleanser), an active ingredient that removes dead skin cells and lightens dark marks.”

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