Wondering what to do about your melasma? If so, you're not alone. This common skin discoloration problem afflicts more than six million women in the United States, reports Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center.
Melasma most commonly is triggered by sun exposure, pregnancy and medications, including birth control pills and hormone replacement medications. It causes changes in the color of the skin that many people would like to lighten.
If you have melasma, here are some tips to even your skin tone and prevent further flare-ups.
Use sunscreen on a daily basis
Although you may not know the specific causes of your melasma, sunlight exposure can make the extra color worse. In fact, you can get high intensity sun exposure, even on cloudy days.
"One of the most common treatments for melasma is sun protection," according to the American Academy of Dermatology. "Since sunlight triggers melasma, it is important to wear sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days and after swimming or sweating."
The AAD recommends wearing a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and includes zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Re-application throughout the day is especially important when you spend a lot of time outside.
Wear protective clothing
Unfortunately, sunscreen is not enough to protect yourself from sun exposure, as a study in the journal Nature found. That's not to say that sunscreen isn't helpful - it just can't be your entire plan for protecting your skin. Sunscreen does not guarantee absolute protection from sun damage
Instead, wear a long sleeved shirt or sun sleeves, and long pants when you're in the sun. Also, you should wear a wide-brimmed hat for protection. Cover yourself with a towel if you're sitting by a pool or on the beach.
This preventive planning will also try and help you avoid a painful sunburn and lower your chance of getting skin cancer.
Choose gentle skin care products
Skin care products can aggravate your skin, which will make your melasma worse. You may know of specific products that have irritated your skin in the past, but if you're nervous about trying anything new, avoid any potentially problematic products.
"Fragrances and preservatives are often to blame," according to WebMD. "Even products that say they are 'unscented' can have a fragrance used to cover up chemical scents. You may not smell it, but it's there, and may cause an allergic reaction."
WebMD points out these common ingredients to watch for and eschew:
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- DMDM hydantoin
Additionally, any skin product that stings or burns when you put it on should be eliminated from your routine.
When trying to ease the effects of melasma, avoid waxing to get rid of unwanted hair.
"Waxing may cause skin irritation which can lead to worsening of melasma, so it's important to avoid waxing areas of the body affected by the condition," according to Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center. "Ask a dermatologist about other types of hair removal that may be right for you."
Visit a dermatologist
Melasma has various causes and may fade on its own, particularly if it was brought on by birth control or other changes to your hormone balance. Regardless of when you noticed your melasma, a dermatologist at Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center can answer your questions and give advice specific to your case.