Melasma, also know as the mask of pregnancy, is a tan or brown blotchy discoloration of the face, almost in the distribution of a mask. It’s very, very challenging to treat because the pigment cells that cause melasma are so sensitive that any time they are injured, they make more brown pigment. Which makes your melasma worse. So what constitutes to these sensitized pigment cells, an injury? Believe it or not, sun exposure, even with some sunscreens can cause a minor injury relevant specifically to the skin of people with melasma. Since a key step in treating melasma is sun protection, there have been some very exciting breakthroughs in sunscreen technology that go a long way in helping to treat melasma. Let me explain.
One of the differences between traditional carbon based sunscreens that you put on one half hour before sun exposure and newer chem free sunscreens - like this 10% zinc oxide based sunscreen...
that you apply anytime before sun exposure...
is that the carbon based sunscreens absorb the sun’s rogue UV energy and the chem-frees reflect it.
Remember what absorbing energy does? It creates heat! And heat equals damage when it comes to the exquisite sensitivity of those melasma-primed melanocytes that cause unwanted brown pigment, making your melasma worse! So instead, you want to use the new variety of chem free sunscreens that reflects the suns UV without absorbing any energy and thereby prevents generating any heat that could potentially stimulate the pigment cells to make more pigment.
Of course, this only addresses stopping the sun from making new unwanted pigment. To get rid of what’s already been produced and infused into the existing epidermal cells, see DermTV Episode 101, Melasma: The Mask of Pregnancy. In that episode, I walk through how to use bleaches and exfoliants to remove the existing pigment and further help to prevent more future pigment.