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Urban Effects MedSpa Blog

Hyperpigmentation and Melasma— the Differences and How to Treat Them

Posted by Susan Cross on Dec 11, 2018 1:44:00 PM
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Hyperpigmentation, including melasma, is very common and can leave millions of Americans unhappy with their skin’s appearance. Many do not realize, however, that melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation are different conditions with different causes and symptoms. Fortunately, effective treatments are available for various types of hyperpigmentation. 



Melasma causes grey-brown patches on the skin, primarily on the face. Affecting upwards of 5 million Americans, melasma is a common condition. Though these patches are not dangerous, many people who develop them are unhappy with their appearance.

The specific cause of melasma is not fully understood, but it appears to be triggered by hormonal changes, UV exposure, and skin irritation. These factors can trigger melanocytes, the color-making cells in the skin, to over-produce pigment in certain areas of the skin.

In general, women are more likely to develop melasma than men are, and it is particularly prevalent during pregnancy. Those with darker skin and those with relatives who have melasma are more likely to develop it as well. 



Hyperpigmentation refers to any condition in which patches of skin become darker than the surrounding skin. It includes melasma as well as sun or age spots, freckles, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation such as that caused by post-blemish scarring, eczema, and psoriasis.

Unlike melasma, sun spots are not caused by changes in hormone levels but rather from extended sun exposure. These patches are smaller than melasma and can affect both men and women of all skin colors. 



Though melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation have different causes, simple sunscreen is crucial for preventing all types. It is difficult to overstate the importance of quality sunscreen. If your skin appears to be developing melasma or another type of hyperpigmentation, try applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher once every two hours. Generally, sunscreens with higher SPF are more effective not only in preventing sunburns but also in preventing and mitigating the effects of melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation. The sun’s UV rays magnify hyperpigmentation by stimulating melanocytes, so any treatment will be limited in effect without consistent use of sunscreen. 



Prevention is only half of the solution. Fortunately, efficient, effective treatment options are available for those who have already developed hyperpigmentation.

Cutera’s Secret RF micro-needling technology can lighten pigmentation by  stimulating your body to produce new collagen, creating a more consistent pigmentation. Secret RF combines the benefits of both micro-needle and radio frequency treatments by delivering radio frequency treatment from the tip of micro-needles. These needles are adjustable, meaning that Secret RF can precisely treat different depths of the skin based on each individual’s concerns. By precisely delivering radiofrequency waves, Secret RF induces your body to produce more collagen at varying depths depending on the area being treated, resulting fresher and more lively skin. For example, one study found that four micro-needling treatments one month apart quadrupled collagen production! This combination makes Secret RF far more precise and efficient than either alone. Taking only 20 minutes, a Secret RF treatment can fit easily into your daily schedule.

Obagi Nu-Derm is a professional, prescription skin care product that can be applied at home to treat age spots and other types of hyperpigmentation. The treatment uses 4% hydroquinone, a tyrosinase inhibitor that is recommended for treating hyperpigmentation.

Additionally, Forever Young BroadBand Light (BBL) is a light therapy treatment that can reduce the signs of aging and discoloration from sun exposure. Forever Young BBL offers personalized treatments to fit each patient. BBL heats the upper layers of skin, causing skin cells to regenerate and leaving skin looking fresh and rejuvenated. After just one treatment, results are visible and long lasting. 


Ultimately, the best treatment for discoloration will be determined by your skincare professional. Treatments can vary in effectiveness from one individual to the next, but a professional can provide you tailored treatments to best address your hyperpigmentation issue. Urban Effects MedSpa offers Secret RF and Obagi Nu-Derm treatments customized to suit your specific skin profile and needs. Contact Urban Effects MedSpa today to learn more about treating melasma or other hyperpigmentation issues. 


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Topics: skin wellness, skin care products, medical skin care