Melasma 101: Busting 3 Myths About Skin Pigmentation

Melasma is a common skin pigmentation problem that affects over 45 million people globally; and in Singapore, about 1,500 women suffer from this condition annually. It involves the appearance of blotchy and brownish patches commonly over the cheeks, as well as the forehead, nose bridge and jawline.

While the condition does not pose any health risks and causes no pain, it can bring up emotional distress and affect the self-confidence for women who develop these pigmented patches on their faces. Caused by the overproduction of melanin in the skin’s pigment cells, melasma is influenced by several factors like pregnancy, sun exposure and oral contraceptive use.

The skin condition is prevalent in women than men, and many might be misinformed about how it can be tackled effectively. We take a closer look at some of the facts behind the myths of melasma so you know what to expect when treating it.

1. Myth: Melasma can be exfoliated away

Regular exfoliation can do wonders to remove dead skin cells and improve the texture of the skin. However, it does not help to treat or lighten melasma patches. Melasma is caused by overactive melanocytes which leads to the production of darker pigments that are not located in the superficial, epidermis layers of the skin. Using an exfoliator can render your efforts nought, and cause skin irritation instead. Being overly aggressive with skin scrubbing can worsen melasma with increased pigment production.

2. Myth: Skin pigmentation treatments are one-size-fits-all

There are 3 types of melasma, which required varied treatments to address the different levels of pigmentation in the skin.

Epidermal melasma – increased skin pigments in the top layer of the skin that appear as brown patches with defined borders.

Dermal melasma – tend to affect the deeper dermis layer of the skin, appearing as blue-gray patches without a clear border.

Mixed melasma – as the name suggests, it is a combination of light and dark brown patches that affect both the skin’s epidermal and dermal layers.

Pigmentation can be treated successfully with laser treatments, prescribed lightening creams and chemical peels – but they are used for different types of pigmentation. Unsuitable methods can worsen the initial problem, which is why going to an experienced doctor to seek proper advice and effectively remove any pigmentation on face is vital.

3. Myth: Once treated, melasma can be completely gone

Melasma can be challenging to treat – it also has the possibility to recur even after being successfully treated due to multiple factors which are not always easy to spot and control. Melasma has no permanent cure and some cases cannot be completely lightened, though you can take better control of it with prevention.

One of the best ways to prevent your condition from worsening is by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher every day. A common risk factor of melasma is sun exposure, so it’s recommended to apply it religiously – even if you’re staying indoors all-day during the Circuit Breaker period, as the sun’s harmful rays can penetrate through the glass windows.

Treating melasma

We offer various treatments to treat pigmented skin and melasma. Cosmelan Peel is a non-invasive depigmentation peel that controls the enzyme, tyrosinase, which plays a role in melanin production. By regulating the levels of melanin produced, it can help to even out the skin complexion and reduce pigmentation.

Another common treatment is chemical peels – where we apply a solution ranging between 20% to 50% of salicylic acid concentrations to your skin which helps in the removal of sun damaged cells. The level of intensity and number of sessions required to reduce pigmentation effectively will depend on your skin condition. For lasers, we utilise the Q-switch laser which delivers more efficacy in lightening targeted area with no downtime. It operates in the billionths of a second, breaking down the pigmented cells and releasing it into the skin to be naturally disposed by the body. It also works as an acne scar removal treatment for any unwanted scarring left behind by acne breakouts.

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