Melasma is something rubbish that happens mainly to women. Health tips for those questing on their own melasmadventure.
Melasma – what’s that? A Greek island? Something I can eat? Something I can eat on a Greek Island?
Is it just something rubbish, then?
Well, sorry to say, but, yes, melasma is something rubbish. In fact, it’s a real pain in the bottom. But it is something you should be aware of. Because it happens mainly to women, onset tends to be in the late 20s to early 30s, and once it appears it’s incredibly difficult to get rid of.
This is some melasma going on here.
What is melasma?
Melasma is a patchy brown discolouration usually found on the face: it is caused by hyperpigmentation. Melasma is not painful or cancerous, but it can be unsightly and cause distress to anyone living with it. It usually appears on the highest parts of the face, such as the forehead (to give you a nice Mikhail Gorbachev type effect), cheekbones and nose, but it can also appear on the chin and upper lip, (to afford you a nice Captain Jack Sparrow moustache effect).
As you may have clocked, I choose to liken my melasma symptoms to the features of Russian presidents and fictional pirates through the ages. I do this to help assuage associated stress. This approach may or may not work for all melasma sufferers.
Who is at risk?
Melasma is often experienced by pregnant women – and is also called chloasma – but non-pregnant women who have olive or darker skin tones are also at risk. Long-term exposure to the sun’s rays or use of sun-beds can result in melasma appearing. Other possible causes are hormonal changes from the use of the contraceptive pill and other factors, such as HRT, certain cosmetics containing perfume, and stress.
Can melasma be cured?
Sadly, not. Once you have melasma, that’s it; it’s with you for life, in some manifestation. There are products that you can use to lessen its severity, but drop your guard and melasma will creep back up on you. It is also very tricky to disguise with make-up. Prevention is the best cure.
What can I do to prevent it?
Melasma is made worse by exposure to the sun, so by avoiding direct exposure to the sun’s rays you can minimise the risk of developing it or worsening existing symptoms. Always wear a high factor suncreen (SPF 35+) and/or a hat. And don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you can’t see any wrinkles on your face you don’t have sun damage.
What can I do to make melasma go away?
At the advice of Dr. Internet, I tried many things to shift my splodgy blotches, such as rubbing lemon juice on my face; rubbing licorice extract on my face; microdermabrasion; laser treatment; cleansing with a Clarisonic; glycolic peels; TCA peels; wearing a balaclava 24/7 (okay, maybe not, but I thought about it) and none of these really made a significant difference. In fact, I think with some of the tinkering I may have made my melasma worse.
Speaking of making things worse, if you have melasma, whatever you do, don’t go to the dangerous extremes that this lady did to try and clear your skin. Melasma is a frustrating and stressful condition, made worse by the fact that it is so difficult to get rid of, and it may be tempting to take desperate measures like rubbing bleach into your face. Please don’t.
As mentioned in the above article, hydroquinone cream is said to be effective in treating melasma. It can only be obtained in the U.K. through a doctor’s prescription. At present I am trying a treatment called Obagi Nu Derm – also mentioned in the article – which I got through a private dermal clinic. It also contains hydroquinone and seems to be fading my melasma, but at the cost of mucho dinero. I have had to skip a holiday this year to pay to clear up my melasma.
Prevention is best
If you fall into one of the at-risk categories for melasma, then do your best to eliminate your likelihood of developing it in the first place. Wear SPF 35+ (UVA + UVB protection) during the day, and, if you can, a hat when in direct sunlight. I should say that I thought I was shielding my face when I was younger by always wearing some form of SPF, but it turns out I wasn’t doing enough. If you need to tan your face, invest in a good bronzer or fake tan. The extra cost will be worth not getting melasma.
Melasma really is rubbish, isn’t it?
It is rubbish, yes. But as a note of comfort, I’ve learned a few things since embarking on my melasmadventure. Firstly, how many women this actually happens to. Initially, I thought I was alone, but now I notice a lot more women with little brown islands on their faces – a sign of our sun-worshipping times, perhaps. There are lots of forums on the internet with people sharing melasma tales.
Another thing you should perhaps give some credence to is the fact that your melasma maybe isn’t actually as bad as you think. Some of my friends have strained their eyes to see what I am talking about when I try to point mine out. Of course, there are varying degrees of severity, and if melasma is affecting your self-esteem then you should take whatever action is necessary to feel positive about yourself again.