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What is Melasma & How Do You Treat It?

Clear, even-toned skin is a hallmark of both health and beauty in many cultures, so it’s no wonder why so many of us strive for that “perfect” complexion—and why discoloration and hyperpigmentation are top concerns of OVME clientele.

One of the most common types of discoloration we see is a skin condition called melasma that causes dark patches to appear on the skin. While not harmful, these spots can be disconcerting if you’re not familiar or don’t know what’s causing the discoloration to appear. Many patients also report feeling self-conscious or insecure about the appearance of their melasma, and it can get worse over time without proper skincare.

“Melasma typically shows up as a dark, stain-like pigment that tends to be pretty symmetrical,” explained OVME’s Advanced Medical Injector Sorelle Cooper, MSN, FNP-BC. “We often see clients with patches of similar size on both cheeks or temples…this symmetry is the first clue that it’s probably melasma.”

Fortunately, there are treatments that can be done—both at home and in OVME Studios—that can help reduce and, in some cases, eliminate melasma patches. Read on to learn more about the causes, treatments, and preventative measures you can take to manage your melasma, achieve a more even skin tone, and restore your confidence.

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What causes melasma?

While doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes melasma, there are certain factors that play a contributing role. We know that melasma occurs more frequently in women than in men. In fact, 90% of people who get melasma are women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Fluctuations in hormones are also a big contributor, making melasma more likely to appear during a person’s reproductive years. It’s also quite common in pregnant women and can be referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.”
People of color and those with darker skin tones tend to experience higher rates of melasma as well. Some epidemiological studies have reported higher prevalence among those of East Asian (Japanese, Korean and Chinese), Indian, Pakistani, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean-African descent. In North and South America, melasma is common among Hispanic-Americans and Brazilians.

“While hormonal fluctuations are a major contributor, melasma is really exacerbated by UV exposure,” Sorelle said. “We see it more frequently in populations that live in warmer climates where there might be a lot of unmitigated sun exposure, and unfortunately, people don’t always realize that the sun makes it worse.”

You know what we’re going to say next—time to slather on the SPF! Because exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause further discoloration, it’s important to always apply sunscreen (whether you have melasma or not) before spending time outdoors.

So, how do we treat melasma?

When it comes to treating melasma, there’s no “quick fix” or “one-size-fits-all” treatment. Every skin type and tone is different, which is why we take a bespoke approach to your treatment plan at OVME. Often, we need a multi-step plan in order to treat this skin condition.

“As is the case with really any sort of hyperpigmentation, multiple modalities are needed to treat melasma,” shared Sorelle. “The cornerstone, as we discussed, is going to be UV protection. Heat is another variable, so even things like blow drying your hair can worsen melasma or cause flare-ups. Aside from those protective measures, there are many active ways to treat melasma both at home and at OVME.”

While your specific treatment plan will vary, we typically utilize one or more of the following to help treat melasma:

Chemical Peels: Chemical peels are ideal for treating melasma for all skin types—yes, even darker tones! The formulations we use at OVME are safe for everyone, and over multiple sessions, will greatly reduce discoloration and hyperpigmentation. Chemical peels work by stimulating skin regeneration. They essentially remove the dry, discolored top layer of skin to reveal brighter, more even-toned skin underneath.

OVME RF Microneedling: Microneedling works by creating superficial punctures in the skin with very fine needles, and at OVME, we combine this treatment with radiofrequency, or RF, to further enhance both collagen production and the tightening of the tissue. How does this treat melasma? The microscopic wounds caused by microneedling trigger your body’s healing response, leading to the formation of new, healthy skin that matches your true skin tone. While RF does emit some heat, your OVME provider can adjust the settings as needed to ensure the best results.

HydraFacials: HydraFacials are a great way to supplement your melasma skincare routine or treatment regimen because they can be customized to fit your skin’s particular needs. So if you have melasma, for example, your OVME aesthetician can select a booster to help with discoloration. The three-step process will also cleanse, extract, hydrate, and protect, leaving you with glowing, radiant skin. What’s more, you can choose from three different options: The 60-minute HydraFacial Elite, the 45-minute HydraFacial Signature, or the 30-minute HydraFacial Express.

At-Home Skincare: In order to maximize the results of your medical-grade treatment plan, you’ll need to adjust your at-home skincare routine, too. Creams and serums can be used to “calm down” the melanin activity, and to brighten or lighten the areas that have been discolored. In addition to SPF, Sorelle recommends a good vitamin C serum, retinol or retinoid, a brightening cleanser, and exfoliation pads a few times per week.

When beginning any sort of skincare treatment plan for melasma, it’s important to remember that results take time and that multiple sessions and different procedures may be required to achieve desired results. Like anything worth having, great skin is an investment—and you deserve it!

“We usually have to approach any pigmentation issues from a minimum of three different angles,” Sorelle explained. “In terms of what we’re trying to do chemically in the skin, it requires a bit of commitment. I always tell my clients, ‘If we’re going to do this, I need your time, I need your commitment, and I need your patience!’ If they can do that, it will be worth it in the end.”

If you’re interested in treating your melasma or just learning more about our offerings, contact an OVME Studio near you. Our experts are standing by to create a customized treatment plan that will leave you looking—and feeling—fabulous. Book an appointment today!

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