You can spot Melasma from far away. This condition which causes discoloured patches on skin (and occasionally rears its ugly head even behind makeup) can be a real pesky skin problem, especially for beauty seekers like you and me. After speaking with Dr Low Chai Ling, Founder of SW1 Clinic, we share 10 facts about Melasma and available treatments to combat it.
1. IT’S NATURE AND NURTURE
UV exposure, genetic and hormonal factors are all causes of Melasma. It also occurs predominantly in women with brown skin aka Asians, between the ages of 21 and 40.
2. IT CAN BE BOTH DEEP AND SUPERFICIAL
You’d think Melasma is anything but superficial. Yet it can be.
“It can be deep dermal melasma, a more superficial epidermal one, or a mixture of both. Some melasma also has a vascular component which means it is actually a combination of both red and brown, but tends to show up as a dark patch with the red part being obscured,” explained Dr Low.
3. IT CAN RECUR
Melasma is tricky to treat because it can recur even after treatment. Therefore, prevention is key! It’s critical to use UVA & UVB shielding sunscreen which has a minimum SPF of more than 30 religiously. This daily habit can also prevent further worsening of existing pigmentation so start treatment early and don’t be discouraged.
SW1 Umbrella UV-Protection & Light-Diffusing Cream contains a mega dose of SPF70 sun protection in a water-resistant and matte base.
4. IT’S A MASK OF PREGNANCY
It’s widely known that Melasma often develops during a woman’s pregnancy due to hormonal changes. This is the time to help yourself to creams that contain Azelaic acid, AHA and Vitamin C which are safe for use. Want Melasma to make a disappearing act so you look radiant for the baby shower? This new revolutionary Californian laser featured in Quattro Toning treatment is the answer. Faster and more adept, it translates to a pain-free and safe experience due to the low heat emission on skin, helping you refresh a tepid skin tone.
Read More: Pregnancy Skin Survival Guide
5. THERE’S MORE OPTIONS BESIDES HYDROQUINONE
Hydroquinone is one of the most well-known and potent skin lightening agents that works by inhibiting tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to make melanin, thus preventing pigmentation. However, its use to treat Melasma may be controversial as it may pose a health risk and cause photosensitivity.
According to Dr Low, with the jury still out, she is not opposed to using Hydroquinone to tackle skin pigmentation. She also explained that with better ingredients to treat pigmentation these days, the best treatment would be a combination of these ingredients.
“Some skincare ingredients are synergistic which is why when they are carefully paired, they may result in better outcomes than single modalities. Most patients focus on one or two ingredients and that’s where they fail to see consistent improvements over time.”
6. ANTI-OXIDANTS TO THE RESCUE
Give it up for supplements like vitamins B, C, E and glutathione. They can help repair sun damage and reduce formation of melanin. Traditional ingredients such as Vitamin C, AHAs and Kojic Acid in topicals help reduce hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme responsible for the formation of skin-darkening melanin. Newer ingredients such as Mequinol and Tranexamic Acid have shown great promise in combating this problem.
Read More: Beauty Tailored for Your Face Shape
7. LASER TREATMENTS HAVE RISKS
Lasers are not immune to side effects and they do pose the risk of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), where the skin reacts to the trauma of heat by creating or releasing more pigment, causing the treated area to become darker. There is also some risk of the opposite which is hypopigmentation.
8. GO FOR THE GOLD STANDARD
Regardless of skin tone, when shopping for laser treatments, Dr Low’s advice is to always pick the type of lasers which provide consistent results and have a track record for safety. Her clinic uses the latest Pico laser, which is the world’s fastest laser and has a higher safety profile and efficacy when it comes to treating pigmentation for Asian skins.
“Traditional laser toning using the old Q-switched ND YAG systems has a greater likelihood of causing post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Thus, a laser like the Picosecond laser can prevent and banish Melasma without much of the undesired side effects of traditional laser toning,” she said.
9. THE SKILL OF THE PRACTITIONER PLAYS A PART IN THE FINAL RESULT
10. NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL APPROACH
As everyone’s skin and condition is unique, many factors – such as the severity of pigmentation, skin type, skin sensitivity, exposure to sun light and lifestyle – need to be taken into consideration before tackling Melasma. For instance, superficial pigment may respond to chemical peels, IPL, microdermabasion, but deeper pigmentation will require more treatment sessions and powerful lasers like a fractionally ablative laser.
Here, Dr Low advices a word of caution, “It is important to ascertain first of all, what sort of melasma your patient has. Understanding the underlying aetiology as well as the type of melasma allows us to design the best treatment regime that will ensure optimal clearance of this tricky problem.
Blindly treating the problem with bleaching creams is probably the worst thing you can do.