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Melasma; it sneaks up on you, it's hard to get rid of, and everybody hates it. Even Glossier Founder Emily Weiss, who presumably has the best chances at beating the damn thing, can't beat the damn thing. She recently dropped her beauty routine and said; "I have melasma. I just cannot figure out how to get rid of it. I’ve done laser, like five times...it just comes back when it’s hot."
Melasma is a harmless pigmentation disorder that causes brown or gray patches to appear on the skin. While it can develop anywhere on the body, it is most common on the face along the bridge of the nose, the forehead, the cheeks, and the upper lip. Unfortunately, women are more likely than men to develop these dark patches. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, only 10 percent of melasma cases occur in men.
Doctors don’t really have an answer, but it may be due to a malfunction in the melanocytes (the color making cells in the skin) causing them to produce too much color. That means people with darker skin tones are more likely to develop melasma because their skin contains more melanocytes. Possible triggers for this malfunction include irritation from skincare products, sun exposure, or hormone changes from pregnancy (That’s why it’s also called “the mask of pregnancy”). It may also be genetic so if your mom has melasma, you’re more likely to develop the pigmentation disorder as well.
If you think you have melasma, you should seek a dermatologist. In some cases, dark patches may be a sign of other skin conditions. Most melasma cases will fade with time, but if they don’t there are a few possible treatments. A doctor may prescribe hydroquinone, corticosteroids, and/or tretinoin, all of which are over-the-counter creams that lighten the skin. Doctors may also prescribe azelaic acid or kojic acid, which can also lighten the skin. If topical treatments don’t work, you could also try medical procedures such as microdermabrasion, chemical peel, laser treatment, light therapy, and dermabrasion. It may also be helpful to limit sun exposure by wearing sunscreen and hats outside.
Of course, for the best results, you should ask your derm for a prescription topical treatment, but if you’d prefer a gentler dose of some of the ingredients like azelaic acid or kojic acid, our Supergreat community has a few recommendations:
While you wait for your skincare to do its magic, you might want to cover up your melasma. We aren’t saying you have to cover up. Your skin is beautiful no matter what. But if you prefer to even it out, our Supergreaters have loved these concealers, foundations, and color correctors:
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