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Melasma

Debra Irizarry, MD, FACS

Plastic Surgeon & Dermatologist located in Crestone, CO & Salida, CO

Melasma is a relatively common skin condition that causes adults to develop irregular patches of abnormal pigmentation on their facial skin. Although melasma can affect any area of skin that’s routinely exposed to sunlight, it most often appears on the forehead, cheeks, bridge of the nose, and upper lip area. From her innovative practice in the towns of Salida and Crestone, Colorado, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Debra Irizarry uses advanced laser skin resurfacing technology to help patients reduce the appearance of melasma. To learn more, call or book your appointment online today.

Melasma Q & A

What causes melasma?

The word melasma comes from the Greek word melas, which means black. Although it’s more common among women with darker skin tones who live in sunny climates, melasma can affect anyone, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or skin type.

Medical researchers don’t yet fully understand the specific causes of melasma, but several factors are associated with an increased likelihood of developing the condition, including:  

  • Pregnancy, hormone medications, and hormonal changes
  • Certain cosmetics, particularly those that contain perfume
  • Chronic stress may help trigger the condition in some people
  • Exposure to ultraviolet light can trigger or worsen melasma

The signs of melasma are usually more noticeable in the summer, when the sun is closer, and less pronounced during the winter when the sun is further away.

It’s important to bear in mind that melasma is not an infection and it isn’t contagious. It’s also not cancerous or precancerous, and it isn’t some type of allergic reaction.

How is melasma diagnosed?

Dr. Irizarry can usually spot melasma fairly quickly because its irregular pigmentation spots and characteristic distribution pattern are trademark signs of the condition. When there’s any doubt, examining a small sample of the affected skin under the microscope can help confirm the diagnosis.

Although there’s no cure for melasma, there are steps you can take to substantially improve its appearance. Protecting yourself from ultraviolet light is one of the best ways to prevent melasma flare-ups and keep the condition in check.

This means keeping your sun exposure to a minimum whenever possible, using a sunscreen that’s rated SPF 30 or above, and wearing a wide-brimmed hat when you do plan to be outside for long stretches of time.    

How is melasma treated medically?

Traditionally, physicians have recommended prescription skin lightening creams to reduce the appearance of melasma. These products, which contain active ingredients like hydroquinone, work by interfering with the activity of pigment-forming skin cells.

How can laser therapy help with melasma?   

If you want to diminish the appearance of melasma as much as possible, Dr. Irizarry provides advanced CO2 fractional laser treatments that can get the job done safely, efficiently, and effectively.

Most patients see substantial improvement in melasma-related hyperpigmentation after completing a series of laser treatments over the course of several weeks.