Melasma refers to irregular patches of darker skin color , usually on cheeks, forehead and upper lip. It is often called “mask of pregnancy” because it is believed to related to hormone changes during pregnancy, birth control pills and other hormone treatments. It affects women predominantly, especially those with skin of color. Exposure to ultraviolet light is also both a cause and an aggravator. Melasma is one of the most frustrating conditions to have and to treat. Although total clearance can happen, it would never be fair to tell every patient that her melasma can be cured. Melasma has been notoriously resistant to many fancy therapeutic approaches such as picolasers, IPL, Fraxel Laser’s etc.
That being said, it is absolutely possible to significantly lighten it, as well as keeping it under control. Both the patient and the dermatologist must be committed.
Most people looking to treat melasma go right to procedures. But one of the most effective, first-line options is prescription hydroquinone. This is available as a cream, lotion, or gel and is applied directly to the areas of concern. Hydroquinone evens out skin through depigmentation and is a safe way to treat your melasma.
You may be a candidate for corticosteroid lotion (hydrocortisone) or tretinoin cream. Corticosteroids relieve bodily inflammation, which often causes skin irritation and dark spots. Tretinoin cream is derived from Vitamin A, and can eliminate hyperpigmentation along with other skin concerns. Some people may even benefit from regularly using a combination cream with both of these medications.
It depends on what treatment you get. Procedures like Fraxel or intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy may worsen symptoms, so people may not get any of the results they desire. Hydroquinone cream should be applied daily for two to four months, so it may take more time to see a change. Hydrocortisone and tretinoin are typically stronger so they may take slightly less time to produce results.
If your melasma is mild, there is a chance it will go away and not come back after treatment. But people with more noticeable spots may experience a recurrence at some point after treatment is completed.