Melasma – The Mask of Pregnancy (Melasma- La Máscara del Embarazo)

As a Miami dermatologist, I work with a significant number of Latin American patients who are seeking treatment for Melasma, a condition that is most prevalent in people with olive complexion – especially Latins and Asians. 

The condition appears as dark spots covering the cheekbone and skin above the lip, usually in the mid to late 30’s.  The age factor coupled with the fact that this condition shows up suddenly, accounts for the naming of this condition the “Mask of Pregnancy”.

The cell pigment in this area of the face is more active and the production of estrogen has been shown to cause these patches to flare up; hence the tie to pregnancy.  However, the next most common cause of Melasma is sun exposure.

This condition can be treated with bleaching and a fading regimen.  In most cases, the condition will fade, especially if the patient stays out of the sun once the spots appear.  I continually caution my patients about the detrimental aging factors of sun exposure and the importance of sun screen.  However, when working with patients who have, or have had, Melasma, I emphatically stress sun avoidance.

Frequently, my Melasma patients will tell me they don’t get much sun, especially those who have olive complexions and don’t burn from sun exposure.    They mistakenly assume that wearing a hat will be sufficient for avoiding exposure to the face, but a hat will not protect against the reflective rays that bounce up from the ground or our white sandy beaches.

Here’s the good news – the spots will fade – 90% of my patients experience favorable results with bleaching and fading regimens.  However, once a patient has experienced Melasma, they can almost count on a recurrence with even the slightest exposure to the sun.  As little as ten minutes in the sun can be enough to bring on a resurgence of these pesky brown spots and patches.

The best course of action for a Melasma sufferer is sun avoidance.  That being said, I know that some of you are avid sun worshippers and can’t live without taking advantage of our beautiful Florida beaches.  If that’s the case, the next best course of action is to wear the hat and add at least a  sunscreen that blocks UVB and UVA rays to the face every few hours.  Preserve your skin and preserve your beauty by making these lifestyle changes as you live in Florida.

By Miami cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Hevia.

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