Back 8 Aug 2023 / Ask Dr. Maryam, MZ Blog, Spotlight

Your guide to melasma and how to treat it

Person with visible pigmentation on their skin

What is melasma?

Melasma is a pigmentation condition of the skin that is hormonally regulated and is exacerbated with stress, UV radiation (sun exposure), heat (sauna/steam rooms for instance), and thyroid disorders. There are also certain medications that can also trigger flare-ups.  Melasma is most common in skin type 3 and 4 (darker white skin and light brown skin) and is seen more among women than men.  It is often referred to as the ‘mask of pregnancy’ that can look like a shadow over the upper lip, or as plaques on the cheeks, chin or forehead.  Melasma appears as dark brown patches in dark skin complexions and can appear more tan colour in lighter skin tones.

person with melasma on their skin

How is melasma diagnosed?

Melasma is a clinical diagnosis that is categorised as either epidermal or dermal hyperpigmentation. Epidermal melasma is more superficial, and it lights up in a Wood’s lamp examination. Dermal melasma is deeper and will not light up as much with a Wood’s Lamp for that reason.

How to avoid melasma flare-ups?

  1. Avoid sun exposure when possible. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen to shield skin from UVA and UVB rays.  Wear sunglasses, visors and hats that protect the face from the sun.
  2. Avoid triggers like heat and stress. Dedicate some time in your day for journaling, meditation, or any other form of mindfulness, like exercise or simply spending some time in nature.

How to manage melasma?

Key ingredients to add to your arsenal: 

  • Broad spectrum SPF is at the core of preventing melasma or worsening its appearance. Look for products that are at least SPF 30 or higher.
  • Vitamin C can help brighten skin. Incorporate a Vitamin C serum into your routine or look for skincare products that include Vitamin C in their formulations.
  • Tranexamic Acid can help inhibit the melanin synthesis, therefore reducing the appearance of dark spots.
  • Kojic Acid blocks the pigment pathway and prevents tyrosine from converting into melanin.
  • Liquorice Root extract is a skin-lightening agent that can help even out dark spots.

Discover products from MZ Skin’s range that can help with reducing the appearance of pigmentation:

Brighten & Perfect

Pigmentation Correcting Ampoules

Retinol Skin Booster

Dr. Zamani Gives Advice

The hardest part of melasma is that it cannot be permanently treated, and flare ups, particularly after summer can really affect self-esteem and confidence.  The use of topical skincare products has been essential in keeping my melasma at bay, but I spend a LOT of time in a hot, sunny climate in the summer and despite my best efforts, my melasma does return; maybe not as bad as it used to be. Melasma is a tricky condition; and affects so many people from pre-pregnancy all the way through to menopause; don’t be hard on yourself.  There is no magic bullet but with the above, we can get your skin to where it needs to be!” Dr. Maryam Zamani

Skin Advisor