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Top 5 Melasma Myths

Woman with hyperpigmentation on the cheek

Melasma is a common acquired skin disorder that presents as symmetric brownish discoloration on the cheeks, forehead, bridge of the nose and chin. It is not physically harmful but studies have shown that it can lead to psychological problems and poorer quality of life due to the changes it causes in a person’s appearance.

There are many widely accepted yet unfounded beliefs about melasma. It is best to listen to what a board-certified dermatologist has to say about some common myths and misconceptions regarding melasma. 

MYTH #1:  ONLY FEMALES GET MELASMA

Although melasma is more common in women than in men, with an onset typically between the ages of 20 and 40 years, a number of men can still have it. 

MYTH #2: MELASMA ONLY OCCURS DURING PREGNANCY

Pregnancy is a common trigger for melasma but taking oral contraceptive pills can exacerbate it as well.  Melasma is multifactorial.  It can be genetic or brought about by excessive sun exposure.  The use of certain products with fragrance can cause a phototoxic reaction that also triggers melasma.

MYTH #3: THERE IS NO TREATMENT FOR MELASMA

Most patients are discouraged from seeking treatment because of this myth. Different treatment options for melasma include:

  • General measures such as diligent sunscreen use and avoiding sun exposure.
  • Topical therapy with skin lightening agents such as hydroquinone, arbutin, and tretinoin is still the gold standard in the treatment of melasma.  Other topical agents such as azelaic acid, kojic acid, ascorbic acid, and alpha-hydroxyacids used alone or in combination can help in fading the pigmentation.
  • A skincare system that targets aging skin and melasma, such as the Obagi 360 System.

Adjuncts or treatments that have an added benefit in melasma are the following:

  • Chemical peels  (Obagi Radiance Peel or Glytone Glycolic Peel) with trichloroacetic acid (TCA), such as Obagi Blue Peel, slough off skin cells together with some of the pigmentation.
  • Microneedling creates micro channels on the skin that act as efficient pathways to bring the lightening products deeper into the skin
  • Lasers such as Q-switched Nd:YAG laser (HOO Genesis Skin Treatment) bursts the pigment in melasma and aid in the lightening of the dark patches.
  • Oral tranexamic acid may play a role as a systemic agent in treating refractory melasma.

MYTH #4: WEARING OF SUNSCREEN INDOORS IS NOT NECESSARY TO PREVENT MELASMA

Wearing of sunscreen indoors or outdoors is a must especially for patients with melasma.  UV light can pass through window glass or shade and could come from other sources such as lamp shades or ceiling lights.

MYTH #5: TREATMENT OF MELASMA IS PERMANENT

Melasma is frustrating to treat and has a high risk of relapse.  Lifelong sun protection and topical therapy should be emphasized. A change of lifestyle is also recommended for melasma patients who like outdoor sports or activities.

Manage your melasma. Consult with our board-certified dermatologist and get a customized melasma treatment plan. Contact our hotline at 0917 576-2326.