Melasma — or as I call them … Those Ugly Brown Spots on Your Face

Just when I think my skin has evened out, here comes the sun! One day into the warmer weather, and I look like an old banana.

Years ago, a little sun made me look healthier and younger, now the opposite seems to be true. Ever since the two youngest monkeys were born, I have a big brown dot on my cheek and, when I’m not careful in the sun, a dark line on my upper lip.

Next to wrinkles, nothing makes you look your age (or worse) than brown spots and a false mustache.

Why does it happen?

The color making cells (melanocytes) in the skin overreact. It occurs much more often in women (shocker … why would men have to deal with anything else???) and in darker skinned people.

When does it happen?

Sun exposure makes it worse.

It can “just” happen, but many women notice worsening during pregnancy. During this blessed time, it gets a special name, chloasma: the mask of pregnancy. Just when you thought you couldn’t feel worse …

Birth control pills and hormonal replacement may also cause the melanocytes to darken.

What to do

— Wear sunscreen every day. I wear SPF 30 religiously on my face, but when I’m going to be in the bright sun midday, I add an SPF 55 to the dark spots. This seems to help balance out the shading a bit.

— Choose gentle skin products, as anything that irritates the skin, can make the melasma worse.

— Avoid waxing these areas.

— Skin bleaching creams especially those prescribed by a physician, can help a lot. Often a second cream will be prescribed to enhance the effectiveness of the skin lightener.

— Dermatologists and/or cosmetologists can perform procedures like chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

Remember, there is always risk for the melasma to return, so even when you aren’t seeing those spots and smudges, focus on sun protection and avoidance of any triggers.

This is me … it is early and I have no makeup on. Be kind. I know, I know — I’m making an appointment now.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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