Everything You Need To Know About Melasma

The Skintellectual Series: Melasma Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

4 Minute ReadEducation by Jessica Lacey, Beauty Editor


Melasma, hmm yes, think I’ve heard of that…. remind me again?

You might not be clued up on the terminology of melasma but its appearance will be familiar. Instances present from the subtle to the severe but in any case, melasma is a whole lot more than a generous sprinkling of freckles. What does melasma look like? Melasma can be diagnosed by its appearance and location, so be on the lookout for clusters of dark patches and blotchy dark spots predominantly on the cheeks, ridge of the nose, forehead, chin and upper lip.

Why do people get melasma?

What causes melasma is not always a clear cut case but there are strong connections. First off, it’s a form of hyperpigmentation whereby the skin’s melanocyte cells shift into overdrive, producing an erratic burst of melanin as a protective response mechanism. However, melasma is different from hyperpigmentation in that whereas most hyperpigmentation is predominantly caused by compounded UV exposure, blemish scarring or post-inflammatory skin trauma following dermatological procedures, melasma is often an inside job. The American Academy of Dermatology have also confirmed that melasma causes can be:

- Stress triggering the release of the hormone cortisol which can cause melasma

- Thyroid gland issues that change the delicate balance of hormones can result in melasma but also do the reverse and clear it up again.

- The contraceptive pill or other medications that intentionally augment the body’s natural hormone secretion.

LYMA woman arm on face

Who gets melasma?

Hormonal changes and sudden fluctuations commonly cause melasma breakouts, particularly during pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause and because of this, melasma is almost exclusively a women’s issue. Circa 90% of melasma conditions are found on women and the darker the skin tone, the more likely a woman is to develop melasma. In contrast to sun-induced pigmentation that broadly affects fairer skin tones, melasma is most common in women of Latin, Asian, Black or Native American heritage. When the skin already contains high levels of melanin, it’s easier for it to release more, should the body command it to.

How do you treat melasma?

Though an annoying discoloration rather than dangerous, as with any skin condition, melasma needs to be surveyed by a healthcare professional, doctor or dermatologist. As a form of hyperpigmentation, melasma can be exacerbated by UV exposure, invasive dermatological procedures, changes in diet, the aging process and expectedly, hormonal shifts. As far as skin disorders go, melasma is tougher to shift than other forms of hyperpigmentation because even when it’s been effectively faded out, a sudden hormonal spike can cause melasma to return at a moments’ notice.

Melasma treatments: the great and the good

Laser resurfacing for melasma

Dermatological, clinic grade lasers are currently considered the best treatment for melasma on the face. These are skin rejuvenating lasers that heat the water content in the skin to such a degree that they cause controlled, yet significant thermal damage to the skin. The force of the laser beam breaks up the pigmentation patches and the skin creates collagen in a bid to repair against the attack. New collagen cells rush to the surface and have the cosmetic effect of brighter, younger looking skin.

Risks and complications of in-clinic laser treatment on melasma

Both the length of treatment and the results of laser rejuvenation, depend heavily on the severity and extent of the melasma that’s being treated. Hyperpigmentation is the most stubborn of all skin conditions and the skin rejuvenation lasers used in dermatological offices are high powered and intense. Treatment with these lasers often takes months of sessions with downtime in-between. The biggest risk and downside of dermatological lasers on melasma conditions is that most of them are unsafe to use on darker skin tones as the laser beam either cannot detect the pigment patches or the thermal damage causes post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and sometimes extensive scarring. This can render the approach entirely useless to melasma sufferers, the majority of whom commonly have darker skin tones.

The LYMA Laser

The LYMA Laser is a one-of-a-kind world first technology whereby cold laser light is used to transform the skin with no thermal damage whatsoever. This cutting edge technology works well on melasma through the advanced scientific process of photobiomodulation whereby light energy is transferred into fading skin cells in order to regain their regenerative powers. Unlike other lasers, this remarkable technology is completely safe to use on all skin tones with no risk of causing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

LYMA red laser

Chemical peels and microdermabrasion for melasma

These are skin treatment techniques used to strip the skin of its top layer and the melasma patches with it. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion achieve quick results but can be painful, causing trauma to the skin which in darker skin tones can inadvertently trigger post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, therefore swapping one skin disorder for another.

Prescription lightening creams

Dermatologists and medical professionals can prescribe skin lightening creams to fade out melasma and most forms of hyperpigmentation but the results are unpredictable and often cause hypersensitivity to the skin and damage the skin’s vital protective barrier.

The zero action treatment

There is also the option to do nothing. Melasma is fickle in that should the hormones that caused it, reduce back down, it can go as easily as it came.

Click here for more information about the LYMA Laser and see the results of how it transforms a wide variety of skin concerns.

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