Hyperpigmentation and Melasma are some terms which are commonly heard but not many are aware of the differences, its causes and solution. This article will explain the differences between hyperpigmentation and melasma, the causes and how you can get rid of it, or at least be in control it.
Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition where individual experiences discoloured skin or dark patches due to damage to the skin such as through sun damage, acne, injury, inflammation from an eczema flare-up etc.
This happens because any damage to the skin, be it by acne, UV associated skin conditions, skin rashes, and the like stimulate melanocytes, the pigment-making cells in the skin, to make a surplus of pigment, causing an increase in pigment in the lower levels of the skin. The diagram below illustrates the different layers of human skin.
The level of severity varies, but if you spot discolouration on your skin after a triggering event that caused skin damage, it may be safe to assume that it’s hyperpigmentation. But it is always best to consult an experienced doctor to be sure.
Melasma is a pigmentary condition that is more common in women and is usually brown or grayish-brown blotches, typically on the forehead, chin, cheeks, upper lip, or nose. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 90% of people who develop melasma are women.
The word melasma originates from the Greek root “melas”, which means black, and refers to its brownish clinical presentation. It’s also known as chloasma, or the “mask of pregnancy”. This condition is much more common in women than men, though men can get it too.
One will notice patches of discolouration and these patches are darker than usual skin colour. Common areas are usually on the face and it may be symmetrical, with matching marks on both sides of the face. Other areas of the body which are often exposed to sun, can also develop melasma.
Not to worry, Melasma doesn’t do any physical harm, but it may affect one’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Left untreated, Melasma can progress to become darker, bigger patches.
There are 4 types of Melasma: epidermal, dermal, mixed, and an unnamed type found in dark-complexioned individuals.
The epidermal type is identified by the presence of excess melanin in the superficial layers of skin. Dermal melasma is distinguished by the presence of melanophages (cells that ingest melanin) throughout the dermis. The mixed type includes both the epidermal and dermal type. In the fourth type, excess melanocytes are present in the skin of dark-skinned individuals.
There is no clear evidence on what causes melasma. However, it is proven that darker-skinned individuals are more at risk as compared to their fairer skin counterparts. Estrogen and progesterone sensitivity are also associated with the condition.
Birth control pills, pregnancy, and hormone therapy can trigger melasma. Stress and thyroid disease are also thought to be causes of melasma.
Furthermore, sun exposure can also cause melasma because ultraviolet rays affect the cells that control pigment (melanocytes).
The first step is to evaluate your lifestyle and note the changes. Has there been a change in lifestyle habits, such as stress level increase, hormonal changes, acne breakouts, or if you just gave birth?
As both Hyperpigmentation and Melasma show symptoms of skin discolouration, dark patches and spots, it can be quite difficult to really pinpoint and self-treat it. Hence, the next step would be to consult a doctor where professional assessment and treatments can be done at an early stage to prevent the condition from worsening.
Creams that are specially formulated with multiple effective lightening ingredients to combat dark spots, as well as a dull complexion, and treat/ control Melasma.
Medication containing Tranexamic acid helps to lighten the dark Melasmic pigmentation.
Other lightening supplements include Heliocare Max 240 Purewhite Radiance.
It contains an additional dose of Fernblock®, which has an excellent antioxidant property that is able to reduce free radicals by up to 50%, preventing the formation of hyperpigmentation caused by UV rays.
In a recent study conducted by the National Skin Centre, Singapore, a 62% improvement in melasma was observed when compared to baseline in just 12 weeks.
Furthermore, Purewhite Radiance Max 240 is enhanced with the exclusive blend of White Tech Complex where it controls and blocks the main enzyme that is responsible for melanin production. The blend in White Tech Complex consists of Pomegranate extract, L-Cystine, vitamin C and B3, all clinically proven to promote skin fairness and radiance.
Developments and advancement in technology have introduced more options for non-surgical procedures especially in Laser Treatments. Apart from being very effective, these laser procedures often require no to minimal downtime and are quick and pain-free.
Spectra XT Laser
The popular laser treatment, which has no downtime, is the Spectra XT Laser. This is a one of a kind photo-enhancer based laser treatment that is performed only using the Spectra XT ™ laser.
The procedure is safe on most skin types and is a fantastic way to treat melasma, pigmentation whilst brightening up your skin without the longer downtimes associated with other procedures.
It uses no harsh formulas or abrasive scrubbing tools, which means no bleeding and adverse chemical reactions; yet promises the instant effects one would expect from a professional face peel.
The Spectra XT Laser session takes about 30 minutes and numbing cream is applied before the treatment to ensure maximum comfort during the procedure.
There is no downtime with this treatment.
Treats melasma, pigmentation and other signs of sun damage
Improves skin tone, texture and elasticity
Brightens and tightens skin for a natural, well-rested look
Reduces all types of acne
Controls sebum production
Reduces redness from inflamed acne
For best results, several sessions of Spectra XT Laser are needed.
The Thulium BB Laser is a stronger laser treatment that effectively targets Melasma, Pigmentation conditions, brightens the skin, smoothens the texture of the skin and improves the size of pores. In South Korea, many call it the BB Laser because of its ability to improve the texture and tone of the skin, just like when applying BB cream to the skin.
The Thulium BB Laser is a unique sub-ablative thulium 1927nm laser for skin resurfacing, treatment of melasma and pigmentation condition, and rejuvenating the skin. The laser’s wavelength penetrates to a level between the lower part of the epidermis and dermis where it is able to target freckles, sunspots, age spots and Melasma while renewing damaged skin and stimulating collagen production.
The wavelength penetrates the upper dermis while not causing the upper layer to peel.
Improvement in pigmentation & Melasma
Skin brightening/ Fairer skin
Smoother, younger-looking skin
Overall improvement in skin texture and tone
Improvement in fine wrinkles
The Thulium BB Laser can be combined with the Spectra XT Laser to further enhance the results and successfully reduce the appearance of Melasma and other pigmentation conditions.
At M-Aesthetic Clinic, we have the full range of Pigmentation Treatments in Singapore to treat all kinds of pigmentation conditions.
Dr Ho believes that every individual is unique and he takes into account their lifestyle habits, budget, condition and severity of the hyperpigmentation. Based on that, he plans a suitable treatment plan for each individual, tracks and records the process for best results.
He also firmly believes that each pigmentation condition is unique in each individual and that best results are achieved by not limiting one’s self to a standard treatment modality but by combining different effective treatments to block the different pathways of pigment formation.
Should you have these symptoms or any other queries, do contact us and/or schedule an appointment with Dr Ho Rui Ming so that he can examine your skin and come up with the most suitable and effective plan for you.