Do you have brownish, blotchy patches on your face? The patches may well be melasma, sometimes called “age spots”, a skin condition characterized by the blotches. Before starting any kind of treatment for this condition, it is important to get a definitive diagnosis from a doctor/dermatologist.
What, Where, When, and How
This common type of skin pigmentation is caused by a variety of reasons including:
- Rise in hormones, often due to pregnancy or use of birth control pills
- Unprotected exposure to the sun and/or tanning beds
- Hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid is under active
The face is the most common area for the blotches to appear. The cheeks, forehead, nose and lips tend to be the classic presentation. Occasionally, it will appear on the back or shoulders.
Women contract this hyperpigmentation in far greater numbers than men, and if you are a woman between the ages of 20 and 50, you are in the most likely age group to develop this condition.
Not surprisingly, due to the fact that the most susceptible age range is the childbearing years, pregnancy and birth control are major factors. A doctor may recommend you quit birth control medications or take thyroid medication if hypothyroidism is the suspected cause.
Is There Any Hope?
Unfortunately, this is a chronic condition with no cure. Occasionally it will fade after a pregnancy, but normally it is a lifelong condition. There are treatments available; however, but they must be used frequently and throughout your life.
Common types of melasma treatment include hydroquinone, azelaic acid, topical steroids, and laser therapy. In the cases of hydroquinone and steroids, you have to make sure to use them exactly as prescribed. Over use of those medications can result in dermatitis, acne, and thinning of the skin.
Sunscreens and avoiding sun exposure are the best preventative measures to help you avoid the hyperpigmentaton and lessen its severity if you already have it. A wide-brimmed hat is also invaluable to help limit your skin damage from the sun.
Living With It
While not dangerous, melasma may cause you embarrassment and the temptation to avoid social events. Rather than succumbing to unpleasantness of this condition, seek out medical assistance. Yes, it will require you to continue treatment throughout your life, but it can go a long way to improving your skin and give you confidence about your appearance.