If you love spending time in the sun, then you've probably heard of (or maybe even experienced) what is known as Melasma. Melasma is a common skin condition where you get darker patches or spots on your face, often from sun exposure. It's more common for women to get this condition, affecting 15 to 50 percent of pregnant women as well. The American Academy of Dermatology states it is common among women between the ages of 20 and 40.
Today, we go over the common causes of Melasma and how you can best protect yourself from this skin condition with sun-protective clothing.
What Is Melasma?
According to Cleveland Clinic, Melasma loosely translates to "black spot." It is a skin condition characterized by brown or blue-gray patches or spots that are darker than the rest of your skin. Melasma usually shows up on your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin, although it can pop up on any area of skin that's been exposed to sunlight.
What Are the Causes of Melasma?
UV light can trigger the over-production of melanin, which can cause your skin to produce more pigment. Sometimes this pigment comes in unevenly in different colors and patches producing what's known as Melasma. Some of the main causes of Melasma include but are not limited to the following:
- Radiation (UV light, visible light, or infrared light)
- Fluctuations in hormones (caused by pregnancy, hormonal birth control, and/or hormonal replacement therapy)
It should be noted that no matter what the cause is, the sun is one of the most exacerbating factors.
Melasma Versus Hyperpigmentation
While these two skin conditions often get mixed up, we are here to clear that up for you. Hyperpigmentation refers to skin discoloration, of any kind. Melasma is a kind of hyperpigmentation.
While it can be difficult to tell the difference between these two types of skin conditions, there are some telltale signs to help you out:
1. Melasma is often caused by a fluctuation in hormone levels.
2. Hyperpigmentation often occurs in a certain area on the body whereas Melasma is more patchy.
Who Has a Higher Chance of Getting Melasma?
Women between the ages of 20 to 40 are significantly more likely to experience Melasma, as are women with a darker skin tone. Birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and drugs that cause photosensitivity to UV light can also trigger Melasma.
Estrogen and progesterone may play a role in this process. Many women experience Melasma due to higher fluctuations of these hormones while pregnant. These darker skin patches and spots are frequently called the “mask of pregnancy”.
Melasma may also run in families so if a family member has this skin condition, you might have a higher chance of getting it as well.
Does Melasma Go Away?
While Melasma is a common and harmless skin condition, it may cause self-consciousness or even embarrassment. For some women, Melasma fades after childbirth, stopping birth control pills, or discontinuing hormone replacement therapy. For others, it can take months of treatment for it to clear up. It may also subside during winter months but darken in summer due to increased sun exposure.
How to Treat Melasma
Here are our top recommendations on how to treat Melasma:
Find UPF Clothing You Can Trust
To avoid getting Melasma in the first place, protect yourself from the sun. We highly recommend wearing a UPF hat, such as our Women's Seaside Hat, which is rated at a UPF 50+. It's certified to block over 98% of the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays, so you don't need to worry about your skin while outside having fun!
Visit a Dermatologist
Visit a dermatologist to determine whether your skin discoloration is due to Melasma or another skin condition that could cause alarm. Be sure to select a dermatologist familiar with Melasma to get the best management and treatment for your skin concerns.
Treatment usually starts with topical creams and gels, but may also include oral and cosmetic treatments like in-office laser therapy or chemical peels. If you’re pregnant, avoid over-the-counter (OTC) treatments unless your dermatologist recommends one. Melasma can be stubborn - even with professional treatment - so it can sometimes take months to see results.
Ask About Skin Lightening Medications
According to Harvard Medical School, lightening medications are also commonly used to treat Melasma. It should be noted that pregnant women should avoid most of these except for azelaic acid, which is a safe choice to use during pregnancy.
How to Avoid Melasma During Pregnancy
Pregnant women are more likely to get Melasma due to hormonal changes. Here are our top tips on how to protect yourself:
- Try to stay in shaded areas when outside.
- Opt for women's sun-protective clothing with a UPF rating of 50+.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen and reapply it.
- Use mild soaps, moisturizers, and creams as they're less likely to cause a reaction to the sun.
How to Protect Yourself From Melasma
Using effective sun-safe measures is essential to minimize Melasma, protect treated areas, and minimize recurrence. Since it’s not always realistic to avoid UV exposure, many sun-smart strategies can help keep your skin safe while you’re outdoors. These sun-safe strategies include the following:
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with iron oxide and SPF 30 or higher every two hours.
- Wear a wide-brim hat and UVA/UVB sunglasses to shield your face, ears, eyes, and neck from sunlight.
- Dress in UPF clothing and sun accessories that cover your upper and lower body.
- Avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or when UV rays are the most damaging.
- Use a lip balm with SPF protection.
- Find shade when possible.
Check your skin monthly for any unusual skin spots. Women over age 20 can perform their monthly skin and breast self-exams on the same day. In addition, all adults should schedule yearly visits with their dermatologist for a full-body skin exam.
Where to Find UPF Clothing to Protect Your Skin
Shop UV Skinz for UPF 50+ sun-safe clothing and accessories that will keep you confident and protected from unwanted sun exposure, which can lead to Melasma and hyperpigmentation.
Be sure to check out our UPF dresses and coverups for sun protection you can trust.