The link between hormones and Melasma

If you find yourself to be one of the between five and six million women in America suffering from melasma, hormonal changes could have everything to do with it. Granted, some people are more prone to developing melasma than others – darker-skinned people, for one. Additionally, a person could develop melasma from overexposure to the sun. But, during pregnancy and if taking birth control pills, women frequently experience dark, blotchy patches on their face, neck, forearms, and possibly other areas. This is probably a condition called melasma and is related to hormonal changes.

Pregnancy and Melasma

Sometimes referred to as “the mask of pregnancy” or Chloasma, melasma is not uncommon in mothers-to-be. It frequently occurs. So much so, in fact, that symptoms initially developed during pregnancy account for half of all melasma cases.

Some type of skin hyperpigmentation is experienced by most pregnant women. However, melasma develops from hyperpigmentation in approximately 10% to 15% of those women. When there are big hormonal changes – the presumed association between pregnancy and melasma – it only strengthens the link between hormones and hyperpigmentation symptoms.

Contraceptives and Melasma

Melasma develops in women taking oral contraceptives to the tune of about 10% to 25%. If you have noticed changes in your skin pigment, and you are taking birth control pills, to determine if you have melasma, see a dermatologist. It is thought that the skin of those without melasma is less responsive to the hormone estrogen. If you are taking birth control pills, particularly if you have melasma-sensitive skin, you could likely experience symptoms.

In 1967, one of the first contraceptives/melasma studies was done. Melasma was developed by 25% of those taking oral contraceptives. This is where the concept of melasma being related to hormonal changes was developed. Specifics still have not been determined, however.

Melasma Treatments

If you are taking birth control pills, you may wish to discuss a hormone-free option with your physician. If you are pregnant and experiencing melasma, rest assured that it will likely clear up after delivery. If you become pregnant again, however, it is likely to return.

If melasma is being caused by something other than hormones, treatments are available. Some of them include the following:

  • Light-based treatments such as laser treatments (dermatological procedure)
  • Dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, or chemical peel (dermatological procedure)
  • Cysteamine (Cream)
  • Kojic acid or azelaic acid (prescription)
  • Corticosteroids and tretinoin (prescription)
  • Hydroquinone (liquid, gel, lotion, or cream)

Seek Professional Help for Melasma Caused by Hormonal Changes

The only way to determine if your melasma was caused by hormonal changes is to consult with an experienced doctor. In some cases, melasma goes away on its own but it does not always happen this way. Therefore, you may need to be treated. In addition, it is safer to talk with your doctor and find out the best treatment plan for you.

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