If you’re like me, you are often peering into the mirror in confusion, wondering where the heck that latest freckle, spot, or Shar-Pei like wrinkle came from. There is just so much weirdness with skin, especially as women age. One common condition that tends to plague the ladies is melasma — a brownish-grayish rash that often appears on the face, most commonly the cheeks and nose. But what is melasma, and what exactly causes it?
Melasma is skin that is hyperpigmented, meaning that there are little patches that are darker than the rest of your face. If you're wondering if that brown blotch on your nose is melasma, one giveaway is that the spots are often patchy and widespread.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melasma is when the skin just decides to make too much melanin. The condition is more common in people of color, as they already have more melanocytes (the cells that make melanin) in their skin. And as one might expect, melasma tends to worsen in the summer — when melanin production is in overdrive — and then fade in the winter.
It's unclear what the exact cause of melasma is, but we do know it's triggered by things like sun exposure, light damage from staring at a computer all day, and alas... pregnancy. Yep. Fluctuating hormones can bring it on, making it crazy prevalent among those with child. So much so, the condition is sometimes called "the mask of pregnancy."
What to Expect reported that the condition often fades once a mom has weaned. But if it doesn't, and it bugs you, you can reach out to your derm regarding treatment options. Be forewarned: it can be tricky to get rid of. (And obviously, most of these treatments are off limits if you're still pregnant or nursing.) As per Marie Claire, some of the more common go-tos for managing melasama are laser removal, peels, microdermabrasion, and kojic acid.
Another popular treatment is hydroquinone, which is applied as a lotion or cream, and lightens the affected skin. You can buy it at CVS, but for something more heavy duty, and with more of the hydroquinone in it, you'll need a prescription from the doc.
Other tips from the AAD: avoid waxing, as it aggravates your skin, and make sure to use gentle skincare products. It's also important to note — if your melasma is hormone-related, it might be best to avoid hormonal forms of birth control.
But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that even if you are able to get those blotches to fade, they can come roaring back if you skimp on the sunscreen. Sunscreen is an absolute must for managing melasma. I mean sunscreen is an absolute must anyway, but if you're battling melasma, the condition is pretty much guaranteed to worsen without taking serious SPF precautions.
So firehose your face with Blue Lizard. Invest in a wide-brimmed hat or parasol, if you're feeling fancy/old timey. And remember, as James Blunt once sang: "You're beautiful, no matter what weird thing your skin might be doing at the moment." I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist.