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Five Things You Should Stop Believing About Melasma

Commonly known as “Black Mask” or “Mask of Pregnancy”, melasma lives up to its titles by concealing the confidence of those who suffer from it. While it may not be a life-threatening skin condition, the unsightly brown patches on the face can surely have a detrimental impact on your quality of life and self-esteem. Add to that the confusion brought about by the many widely accepted yet unfounded beliefs about melasma. Holding on to some of these melasma myths can either stop you from getting the right treatments or make your condition worse.

To unmask the truth about melasma, it is best to listen to what medical experts have to say. To enlighten us about some of the common misconceptions about melasma, we interviewed Dr. Lanny Juniarti, Founder and President Director of Miracle Aesthetic Clinic and Anti-Aging Group in Indonesia. She is also a member of Indonesian Medical Association, Indonesia Society of Laser Medicine, Indonesian Anti-Aging Society, Indonesia Society for Aesthetic Medicine, and American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine.

Myth 1: Melasma only occurs during pregnancy

Question: Can Melasma occur even outside pregnancy?
Yes, it can. While melasma is popularly known as “the mask of pregnancy”, even those who are not pregnant may get the skin condition. This skin condition likely occurs when the color-making cells in the skin called melanocytes produce too much color.

We also have to remember that there are several factors that trigger melasma. For example, melasma can be triggered by exposure to the Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, changes in hormones, birth control pills, hormone replacement medicine, and certain skin care products. So even if you’re not pregnant, you can be exposed to these triggers. The reason pregnant women often develop melasma is the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy, but with the other triggers around, even those without the baby bump may develop melasma.

Myth 2: There’s nothing you can do to get rid of melasma

Question: Some fear that the black mask is some sort of mystery that can never be fixed. Are there safe ways to help get rid of or at least lighten melasma?
There are a variety of options to treat melasma. Topical treatments are the first-line therapies for melasma. Some of the common topical treatments include Hydroquinone, Corticosteroids, Retinoid, Azelaic acid, Ascorbic acid, Kojic acid, Tyrosinase inhibitor, Tretinoin, , Niacinamide, Tranexamic acid, and Photoprotection.

Aside from topical treatments, oral therapies are known to be effective in treating melasma. An example is the Tranexamic acid, an anti-plasmin agent known for its role in reducing melanocyte-stimulating hormone and decreasing in pigmentary production. If topical and oral medicines aren’t effective, we recommend some procedural treatments for melasma such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser treatment, and light-based procedure.

Myth 3: Treatment of melasma is permanent.

Question: Once treatment has been done, is there an assurance that the patient is melasma-free?
The hard truth is that there is no magic pill that can make the effectiveness of melasma treatments last a lifetime. The fact that you can’t totally avoid all melasma triggers like sun exposure or hormonal change contributes to melasma relapse.

The key is committing to a long-term maintenance therapy. There’s a study on preventing melasma recurrence published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology suggesting that maintenance therapy over 6 months successfully prevented relapse in over half of the patients in that study. So this just shows that it is really important to maintain a skin regimen with an effective cream to avoid melasma relapse.

Myth 4: Sun protection can do no good when you already have melasma

Question: People often think that because they already have melasma, they will have nothing more to lose by getting enough sunshine. Can sun protection still help manage melasma?
Yes, part of a good treatment plan for melasma is sun protection. Remember, one of the melasma triggers is sun exposure, so it is recommended to wear sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days and after swimming or sweating. To protect your skin from the effects of the sun’s rays, you must apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before stepping out and reapply every two hours. Choose a broad-spectrum protection sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more and zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

Myth 5: Only women have the risk of developing melasma

Question: Can men develop melasma?
While it is more common in women of child-bearing age and in dark-skinned individuals in areas with intense UV radiation, melasma can affect both male and female and all races. Studies show that melasma in men is not uncommon. It was found to affect dark-skinned men of Asian and African-American origin.

This mysterious black mask may have given you a lot of reasons to hide, but knowing the facts behind it will lead you to the right track in treating melasma. Uncovering the truth about your skin condition and listening to health experts are a step closer to breaking free from melasma’s negative impact on your quaity of life and self-esteem.

An Expert Opinion by:

Dr Lanny Juniarti
Founder and President Director
Miracle Aesthetic Clinic & Anti-Aging Group
Surabaya Area, East Java, Indonesia