Melasma treatment requires expert advice and a holistic approach
Melasma treatment by About Face Brisbane involves a holistic approach to the health of your skin. This is because melasma is a complex condition, and is very different to other pigmentation such as freckles or sun spots, as you’ll see by reading through the detailed information on this page. Melasma treatment must be performed very carefully in order to improve this condition and not accidentally make it worse.
About Face Brisbane understands the complex hormonal and environmental factors which play a part in melasma and use the latest laser technology combined with a gentle approach to treat this stubborn and sometimes distressing type of pigmentation. If you would like information on our treatments for non-hormonal pigmentation such as freckles, age spots and sun spots please visit our freckles and skin pigmentation removal page.
Melasma treatment: key facts
Melasma – what is it?
Melasma is a common skin condition affecting the facial skin of adults. Children do not develop melasma. Symptoms of melasma are hyperpigmented (dark), irregular-shaped patches of skin. The patches of hyperpigmentation may be dark brown with well-defined edges (epidermal melasma) or light brown or bluish/greyish with poorly-defined edges (dermal melasma).
Melasma most commonly develops on the forehead, upper cheek, nose, and upper lip. Melasma often develops gradually and does not cause any symptoms other than discolouration of the skin.
Melasma is not an infection, is not caused by an allergen, and is not contagious. Melasma is benign (not harmful), and will not turn into skin cancer of any type, or any other malignant disease. Although melasma is not dangerous and will not cause any health complications, it is chronic (it persists for a long time or constantly recurs) and can cause a lot of cosmetic concern for sufferers.
Melasma can affect adults of any race or gender. However, women are affected more commonly than men. When melasma occurs in pregnant women, it is called chloasma. Melasma often gets darker in warmer months of the year, and improves during cooler months. It is especially common in people with light brown or olive skin tones who live in sunny, warm climates.
Melasma – which is pronounced ‘muh-LAZ-muh’- gets its name from the Greek word for the colour black: melas.
What causes melasma?
There are two main layers that make up our skin – the epidermis and the dermis. The dermis is the lower layer of our skin. The epidermis is the upper layer. Right at the bottom of the epidermis, cells called melanocytes are found. These melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment which gives each person their genetically predetermined skin colour. When these melanocytes are overstimulated, they produce excess melanin. This excess pigment gets trapped in the top layer of skin (the epidermis) and can also move down to the dermis. Over time, the pigmented skin cells slowly move to the surface of the skin, resulting in darkened patches of skin.
Factors which contribute to melasma or make it worse
Scientists and doctors haven’t been able to find out the exact cause of melasma (or chloasma) yet, but they do know that several things contribute to the development of melasma by over-stimulating the melanocytes within our skin, which then produce too much melanin as explained above.
The known, common contributing factors for melasma are:
- pregnancy (melasma is called chloasma when it affects pregnant women)
- the contraceptive pill and other hormone-affecting medications
- some make-up products and facial skin-care products, especially those containing artificial fragrances and colours
- genetic predisposition to hyperpigmentation
- exposure to visible light, UV-A rays and UV-B rays
- inflammation of the skin.
Very occasionally, medical conditions that affect hormone levels can contribute to the development of melasma. Some scientific research suggests that melasma can be brought on by stress.
Are there different types of melasma?
Yes, there are three different types of melasma:
- Epidermal melasma. Epidermal melasma is melasma affecting only the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis) and appears as dark brown, well-defined patches of pigmentation. This type of melasma is usually the easiest to treat as it is close to the surface of the skin.
- Dermal melasma. Dermal melasma affects the deep layers of the skin, making it the most difficult type of melasma to treat. It appears as bluish/greyish or light-brown patches with poorly-defined boarders.
- Mixed melasma. This is a combination of epidermal and dermal melasma.
- Chloasma is the same condition as melasma, but the term chloasma is used when melasma appears as a result of pregnancy.
The best way to find out which type of melasma you have and get the right advice on which treatment is best for you is to make an appointment to see Dr Colin Campey. Dr Campey has been treating melasma for 17 years and has an in-depth understanding of this complex skin condition and knows how to gently but effectively treat melasma.
How can About Face Brisbane get rid of melasma?
About Face Brisbane understands that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to skin pigmentation removal doesn’t work when treating melasma. For example, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is very effective at removing freckles, but will make patches of melasma worse, and even trigger melasma to develop on patches of skin that were previously melasma-free. This is why it’s very important to seek expert advice from a medical professional who uses multiple technologies and takes a holistic approach to melasma treatment and skin pigmentation removal, such as Dr Colin Campey. Treating melasma involves treating not only the surface of the skin, but also the deeper layers, along with careful avoidance of things that can make your melasma worse. Melasma treatment may also include stopping or changing certain types of medication, if it is safe for you to do so, which is why medical advice is needed as part of holistic melasma treatment and skin pigmentation removal.
About Face Brisbane uses an advanced two-step laser treatment to safely and effectively treat melasma, including deep and stubborn melasma (dermal melasma). Our head doctor, Dr Colin Campey, is a leading expert in laser treatments and Karen Campey is a trained laser technician. Together they have over 20 years experience in dealing with skin conditions such as melasma and will provide the right treatment plan for your skin and pigmentation type.
There is no cure for melasma, and it will be a lifetime struggle without the right treatment and advice, but About Face Brisbane is in your corner and will take away the stress and guess work associated with this complicated type of pigmentation.
How doses laser melasma treatment work?
About Face Brisbane’s laser melasma treatment targets both layers of your skin for superior results. The first step of the treatment is performed with low-level settings on our Medlite C6 Laser. The laser light enters deep into the skin causing a warming effect that shatters the pigmentation. Once the pigment breaks down into fragments the body removes it via the immune system. This unique process also generates the formation of collagen and elastin within this dermal layer, giving the added bonus of anti-ageing effects.
For the second step, the KTP 532nm Laser is used to help reduce superficial pigmentation and remove any small, visible blood vessels.
The results are a dramatic reduction in the appearance of melasma, along with a smoother, more evenly toned complexion. You may require a few treatments to gain maximum benefit.
What is involved with treatment?
As there are many influencing factors involved with melasma, you will greatly benefit from a pre-treatment consultation with Dr Colin Campey who will examine your melasma and discuss your medical and specific lifestyle factors that are contributing to it. Dr Campey will provide you with expert advice regarding how to manage your melasma, and will develop a tailored treatment plan for you which may involve several different treatment methods.
If you take the contraceptive pill, Dr Campey may discuss the possibility of switching to a lower dose pill, or a progesterone-only pill if this is a suitable option for you. Dr Campey may also prescribe a topical de-pigmenting agent such as, which epidermal melasma often responds well to. All of these treatment options can be used alongside our laser melasma treatments to achieve superior results.
You can either choose to proceed with melasma treatment on the day of your consultation, or you can take some time to think about your options. Before your laser treatment takes place, your skin will be thoroughly cleansed and dried, and you’ll need to have protected your skin from the sun for the two to three weeks prior to treatment.
You will lie back in a comfortable position on a treatment table in a private treatment room. You will be given safety glasses to wear during the treatment as a precaution for your eyes. Dr Campey or Karen will perform the treatment by guiding the laser beam over the treatment area. The treatment will take between 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the area being treated.
Immediately after treatment, your skin will a little sensitive or you may experience a tingling sensation, which just means your skin has responded to the laser. The skin may appear red and/or darker around the areas of pigment. This is normal and it is very important to avoid sun exposure as this will increase the amount of pigment. Over the few days following treatment, you may notice that areas of the pigment start to flake off. This is not always the case as some clients experience just the fading of the pigment with no flaking. If you have any concerns or questions after the treatment please don’t hesitate to contact us at the clinic.
After melasma treatment there is no recovery period, but there are some important things you need to do, not only immediately after treatment but on an ongoing basis:
- avoid UV-A, UV-B rays and visible light through staying out of the sun and wearing a high quality, broad-spectrum sunblock which contain ingredients that physically block sunlight, such as zinc dioxide and titanium dioxide. Sunscreens that only contains chemical blockers are not sufficient as they don’t block all forms of light
- using skincare products at home which will help treat melasma, not make it worse. Products which contain alpha and beta hydroxyl acids and vitamins A, C and B3 boost the skin’s immunity, promote the production of collagen, reduce melanocyte activity and help to fade pigmentation. Synergie Skin Care’s Vanish skin brightening serum and Uberzinc essential daily moisturiser are perfect for melasma-prone skin and are available to purchase from our clinic.
This will be explained in detail during your pre-treatment consultation with Dr Campey. We’ll also give you some take-home information as well.
You will need to wait 4-6 weeks before your next melasma laser treatment. This is because it takes time for your body to process the removal of pigment and the skin evolves on a four week cycle.
How much does melasma treatment cost?
One session of melasma treatment is $200 to $350 (depending on the size of the treatment area).
Medicare rebates are available for this treatment.
Other useful information melasma removal
How many treatments will I need?
To get your melasma under control, usually an initial series of 4 to 6 treatments is needed, with treatments spaced 4 to 6 weeks apart. Following the initial treatment series, you may need an occasional laser treatment for maintenance. You can extend the time in between maintenance treatments by following the advice on this page.
Is melasma laser treatment painful?
No, melasma treatment with our advanced laser is not painful. During treatment you will feel a heating and tingling sensation in the skin.
How can I stop my melasma from getting worse?
Without ongoing maintenance and treatment, melasma will keep coming back for the vast majority of people. However, although melasma is a complex and stubborn type of pigmentation, there are some simple things you can do to dramatically slow down the rate at which your melasma returns after each laser melasma treatment.
The most important thing you need to do is avoid exposure to visible light, UV-A and UV-B rays and use sunblock which contains physical blocking agents. What many people don’t realise is that even if you protect your face from the sun extremely well, but still directly expose skin on other areas of your body to sunlight, your melasma can still be triggered. We understand that tanned skin looks great on some people, but if you have melasma or chloasma, sunbaking is one of the worst things you can do (even if you protect your face properly). The good news is there are some really high-quality no-sun tanning products on the markets these days to give you that golden glow without flaring up your melasma.
You also need to stop your skin from becoming irritated or inflamed. Facial skin care products which contain perfumes and artificial colours can trigger inflammation within your skin, which in turn can make melasma or chloasma worse.
If you take the contraceptive pill, talk to Dr Campey (or your regular doctor) about switching to a progesterone-only (‘mini-pill’) contraceptive pill.
Complement the above measures with regular in-clinic treatments to keep your melasma under control for the long-term.
What type of skin care products should I use if I have melasma-prone skin?
At home, people with melasma should adopt a home skin care regime using products which contain antioxidants such as vitamins C, B3 and A, as well as alpha and beta hydroxyl acids. These products work in synergy to boost the natural immunity of the skin, stimulate collagen production, calm melanocyte activity and fade pigmentation. Unfortunately, skin care products which are available from supermarkets are not suitable for melasma-prone skin and can actually make melasma worse.
The Synergie Skin Care range contains several products which are perfect for anyone wanting to manage and treat their melasma. About Face Brisbane is proud to stock this Australian-made and owned brand which does not test on animals and contains no carcinogenic (cancer-causing) ingredients.
If I developed melasma after becoming pregnant, will it go away by itself?
For most women, if you only developed melasma after falling pregnant, the melasma (called chloasma) will go away by itself within a few months of giving birth as long as you protect your skin from the sun and factors that cause inflammation.
Why don’t you use IPL to treat melasma?
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) should never be used to treat melasma. This is because this type of high-energy light, which creates a lot of heat within the skin, usually makes melasma worse, and can even make melasma appear on areas of skin which were previously unaffected. Unfortunately, a lot of the franchise laser clinics that are popping up in shopping centres in Queensland promote the use of IPL to treat melasma, due to a lack of proper understanding of this condition and inability to differentiate it from non-hormonal pigmentation.