Have A Great Relationship With Your Doctor

How Should You Treat Dark Facial Spots Or Lines?

by Terry Wilson

If you've recently begun to notice light brown spots or lines around your lips, on your cheekbones, or elsewhere on your face or neck, you may be dealing with melasma -- a skin discoloration that can be brought on by sun exposure, thyroid disorders, or even the hormonal changes of pregnancy. While generally harmless, melasma can be embarrassing, particularly when located in areas that can make it appear you have excess facial hair. Is there anything you can do to effectively treat or eradicate this condition? Read on to learn more about some treatments that may help your skin achieve a more uniform appearance.

What is melasma?

Melasma is the term used to describe any semi-permanent skin discoloration of the face or neck. Melasma can occur seemingly overnight and involves an overproduction of melanin in the top layers of the skin. This extra melanin forms into blotchy dark patches that may dissipate relatively quickly, but they could also stick around for months (or even years).

Because melasma can be caused by a variety of factors, there isn't any clinical test that indicates the presence of melasma -- your dermatologist will diagnose you with this condition by doing a physical examination or using a special lamp that will illuminate the areas that have excess melanin. Some of the most common melasma risk factors include frequent sun exposure, an olive or dark complexion, a thyroid disorder, the use of certain hormonal birth control methods, pregnancy, or menopause. 

What are the most effective treatment methods for melasma? 

Melasma can be a challenging condition to treat, as the root cause can vary widely -- and without addressing the issue that led to your melasma, you may find that it recurs even after eradication. However, until you can identify and begin to treat the cause of your melasma, there are some methods that will help diminish its visual effect and allow you to regain a more uniform appearance.

  • Hydroquinone (HQ)

HQ is a topical gel or lotion that can target a variety of types of skin discoloration, including melasma. When applied regularly, HQ is effective at reducing the melanin concentration in the top layers of skin, quickly lightening your dark spots to match the rest of your skin. You should be able to discontinue the use of HQ once your spots have lightened, although you may wish to occasionally apply a layer when you notice a dark spot or patch returning.

Because HQ can make your skin much more sensitive to sunlight and prone to sun damage, it's important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect any treated skin that's exposed to sunlight -- even if you're doing something as simple as walking outside to check the mail. Not only can unprotected sun exposure during a HQ regimen lead to long-term skin damage, it can actually temporarily worsen your melasma and cause other skin irritation.

  • Chemical peel

In some cases, melasma is primarily confined to the outer few layers of your skin and can be easily eliminated in an afternoon by undergoing a mild chemical peel. During this process, mild acids (like alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA)) are applied to your entire face, where they eat away at dead skin cells and other impurities, leaving only fresh skin behind. Once this outer layer of skin has been removed with the AHA solution, much of your melasma should be removed along with it.

For deeper or more stubborn melasma patches, a medium-to-deep chemical peel using tricholoracetic acid or phenol may be a better choice. These chemicals can deeply penetrate the skin to root out dead and deep-set melanin cells. You can expect a few days of reddened and somewhat sore skin following a chemical peel but may find that you look younger than you have in years -- and with a smooth, uniform complexion.

For more information, contact a local dermatologist. You can also click to read more here about skin treatments in your area.