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Melasma is a common skin condition characterized by brown or brown-grey patches, typically on the face. Though this condition usually affects women, it can occasionally occur in men. Patients with a family history are more likely to develop melasma than others. Though the exact cause is often unknown, pregnancy, birth control pills, cosmetics, hormones, certain medications and sun exposure often trigger this condition.

After the proper diagnosis is made, there are many treatment options available including topical creams, chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser. Dr. Jaliman’s own triple action cream combines powerful prescription lightening agents with retinoic acid to create a more even complexion. Our Medlite laser is an excellent solution for melasma. This revolutionary laser treatment slowly breaks down hyper-pigmented areas gradually over time so they can be re-absorbed by the body. This laser can be used on all skin types with no scarring, scabbing or down-time. It an essential to use broad base sunscreens that block both UVA and UVA rays to protect the skin from further damage. We offer many formulas including powder and cream blocks.

What is melasma?

Melasma is a skin condition which causes brown discoloration on the face. It is also called the mask of pregnancy because many women get it while they are pregnant.

Where on the face does melasma occur?

It usually occurs above the upper lip, on the cheeks, forehead and even on the nose.

What causes melasma?

Some people with dark hair and dark eyes and even dark skin are more prone to melasma because they have more pigment in their skin to begin with. It is caused by a combination of hormones and ultraviolet light. So even if you’ve never been pregnant but are taking birth control pills you may get melasma.

What can I do to prevent to prevent melasma?

It is important to wear a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every single day rain or shine. That is because ultraviolet light reaches the earth surface and the surface of your skin even on a cloudy day.

Are there other precautions I can take?

If you know you will be out in strong sun all day it’s important to wear a hat with at least a 2 inch brim. There are companies that make sun protective clothing and you can buy a hat made out of this fabric. The fabric has an SPF rating of 50. It’s also important to reapply your sunscreen if you’re going to be sweating or swimming. You should also wear sunscreen that says it’s water resistant for 80 minutes or more. Try to choose a sunscreen that has a high concentration of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. The sunscreen that Dr Jaliman recommends has a zinc oxide concentration of 9%. (Eltamd) It is also helpful to wear UV400 blocking sunglasses. Wraparound sunglasses offer more protection.

Are special tests needed to diagnose melasma?

For a board-certified dermatologist this is an easy diagnosis and can be made just by looking at the patient. There are no special tests needed.

What are the treatments for melasma?

Melasma can be treated with topical skin creams. It is best to obtain these from a board-certified dermatologist. In our office we use prescription strength azelaic acid, Niacinamide, retinol, hydroquinone, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, citric acid and even retinoids. A specific treatment plan is designed for each individual patient.

Are there prescription topical medications for melasma?

There is a very safe and effective prescription medication that Dr. Jaliman uses to treat melasma. It contains an anti-inflammatory as well as 4% hydroquinone and a retinoid. It can be used every night to treat melasma. It is called Tri-Luma.

What happens if topical prescription treatments don’t work?

Melasma can also be treated with procedures done in a dermatologist’s office. For example, microdermabrasion or light chemical peels can be performed which have little or no downtime.

Can lasers be used to treat melasma?

There is a very effective laser called the Medlite C laser which can be used. This is even safe for very dark-skinned individuals. A series of treatments may be necessary. It usually requires 6 or more treatments two weeks apart. Each patient is unique and requires a different number of treatment sessions. The number of treatments depends on how dark the discoloration is, how deep the pigment is and the natural color of the skin. A Fraxel laser can also be use but requires a few days of downtime. If this laser is used it still may require a few treatment sessions scheduled 4 weeks apart. There is also a new laser called the Clear & Brilliant which is considered to be a mini Fraxel. This only requires four hours of downtime. Multiple treatment sessions with this laser can be performed three weeks apart.

Can melasma be cured?

While melasma can be safely and effectively treated it can never be cured. It must always be maintained. Someone who once had melasma is always prone to getting it again.

Are there things that should be avoided with melasma?

Avoid harsh chemicals as they may darken the pigment on your face. Avoid waxing with hot waxes as this can also irritate the skin and darken the pigment.

Call board certified NYC dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman to schedule a consultation for your melasma treatment.