Melasma

This very common problem causes dark, irregular patches to form on the face. It is thought to be caused by certain hormones, which is why it often appears in pregnancy and in some women who take the oral contraceptive pill.

Melasma can develop gradually and exposure to sunlight will make the pigmentation darker and makes the condition worse. A large variety of creams have been used, usually with little or no effect.

In the past treatments have been disappointing, sometimes even resulting in darkening of the pigmentation. It is only recently that we have begun to understand the underlying processes that cause this condition. This means that melasma treatments can be targeted specifically at the problem areas.

Outcomes & Expectations

Cairns Skin Centre has a number of lasers that have been specifically programmed to target the processes that caused the pigmentation in the first place. By doing this, the pigment can be safely removed and the darkening process can be stopped in most cases.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to prevent melasma?

Melasma is thought to be caused by a stimulation of the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes by certain hormones, in particular oestrogen and progesterone. That’s why it occurs in pregnancy and sometimes with the oral contraceptive pill. It should be noted that while stopping the pill may slow the progress, it  will also naturally increase the risk of pregnancy which, among other things makes melasma worse.

Once established, melasma will be made worse by sun exposure, so avoiding UV light through sunscreen, long-sleeved clothing, and a broad-brimmed hat is essential.

How do the treatments work?

Laser treatment works by targeting two components of melasma. The first part is the underlying blood vessels that are thought to produce a special hormone called a ‘growth factor’. This hormone is thought to stimulate the melanocytes (the skin cells that produce the pigment melanin) to make more pigment. The second part of the laser treatment targets the melanin pigment itself.

How quickly will I see results?

With a combination of therapy and avoiding aggravating factors such as sunlight and hormones, you should see a gradual improvement over a period of several months.

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