Melasma (not to be confused with melisma, a vocal run overused by the likes of Christina Aguilera) is an overproduction of melanin, the pigment that gives our skin its color. It often appears as a light brown or gray-ish patch on the bridge of the hose, cheeks, forehead, or upper lip area but can occur elsewhere on the body. It's not completely understood why it occurs, but most research points to hormonal changes like pregnancy, birth control, sun exposure, contact with some irritant, and a dash of everyone's favorite – genetics. 🤷♀️ Women are much more likely to experience melasma than men – and during pregnancy, it's common and colloquially referred to as the "pregnancy mask."
Now, what can we do about it?
"If you have melasma you MUST wear sunscreen EVERYDAY," says Alyssa, Skin Therapist at the Upper West Side, whose capital letters definitely mean business. "The minute we walk outside, we are exposed to UVA/UVB rays whether it's sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowing, cold, etc. Getting a lightweight daily moisturizer that is meant for the face is ideal for daily use. Obviously I love our Image Prevention+ SPF 50 because it's high in protection and lovely to use." Melissa, Skin Therapist at Noho, adds, "When in the sun, make sure you reapply your sunscreen every two hours, especially on your area of concern." Both suggest a wide-brimmed hat.
In addition to protection, Alyssa adds, "Exfoliation is also key in improving the pigmentation. Lactic acid has been known to dramatically reduce the appearance of sun damage and melasma (it is also hydrating for the skin!) Doing a chemical peel at least once a month or using a product that contains lactic acid once a week are just a few potential things you can do." Melissa, Skin Therpist at Noho, adds, "Retinoids, laser, or certain light therapies (not red, which can worsen melasma!) can help treat melasma."