What Is Melasma? Melasma is a common skin condition mostly seen in women that causes dark patches to appear on the skin, usually the face. The forehead, bridge of the nose, cheeks and upper lip are common places where dark spots develop. The exact cause of melasma is unknown, but it is believed to be related to a combination of hormonal, UV exposure, and genetic influences. Sun protection (wearing sunscreen daily, reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours, wearing wide-brimmed hats, etc.) is essential. However, avoiding sun exposure alone may not undo the dark spots that are already present. Melasma due to hormonal causes such as pregnancy or birth control pills may fade on its own, but for some people, melasma will not fade without treatment. Though melasma is not harmful, some people like to treat the dark spots for cosmetic reasons.
What Is The Role of Hyperpigmentation Cream? Hyperpigmentation creams help treat melasma by lightening dark spots. These creams are compounded products that are made based on a physician’s prescription. Hyperpigmentation creams are customized based on a person’s individual needs and may contain unique combinations of ingredients such as retinoic acid, hydroquinone, kojic acid, and methimazole. Together, these ingredients can treat melasma and promote firm and even skin. Most people see an improvement in their dark spots within a few months of use.
Components of hyperpigmentation creams:
Retinoic acid: Retinoic acid is a derivative of Vitamin A. It is a common component of skincare regimens due to its anti-aging properties. In combination with other ingredients, it can also have potent effects on reducing hyperpigmentation by reducing melanin in the epidermis. Topical retinoic acid should not cause hypopigmentation when other areas of the skin are exposed to it. It is important to note that retinoic acid causes increased sun sensitivity, so sun protection is very important. If you are using other drugs that increase sun sensitivity, please inform your doctor before starting hyperpigmentation cream due to the risk of additive sun sensitivity.
Hydroquinone: Like retinoic acid, hydroquinone reduces melanin in the epidermis, which lightens the skin. It is the gold standard for treating hyperpigmentation and is extra effective when combined with retinoic acid. Some hydroquinone products are available over the counter, but these will be a lower strength than a compounded prescription hyperpigmentation cream.
Kojic acid: Kojic acid is a naturally occurring substance derived from fungi. It’s a common ingredient in hyperpigmentation creams due to its ability to lighten the skin by reducing the production of melanin. It’s also commonly used to control the colors of food and makeup.
Methimazole: Methimazole is best known in its oral form as an anti-thyroid medication. As a topical agent, methimazole blocks the formation of melanin in the skin without disrupting thyroid hormones. People who are resistant to hydroquinone-based hyperpigmentation creams may benefit from one that is methimazole-based.
Other Treatment Options In addition to hyperpigmentation creams, some other treatments for melasma include topical steroids, chemical peels, laser treatments, light therapy, and dermabrasion.
Resource: American Academy of Dermatology (https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/color-problems/melasma)