Melasma is a skin condition characterized by brown or blue-gray patches or freckle-like spots. It’s often called the “mask of pregnancy.” Melasma happens because of overproduction of the cells that make the color of your skin. It is common, harmless and some treatments may help.

While not everyone sees microneedling as a home run for melasma, emerging research supports its success in hundreds of cases, across skin tones—attributing its efficacy, in large part, to the channels it creates in the skin. These carefully oriented punctures serve as tiny portals, allowing select lightening agents to seep into the skin’s deeper layers, which are impossible to reach with ordinary creams. But the benefits of microneedling don’t end there.

Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation that causes brown, tan, or grayish-brown patches to appear on the forehead, cheeks, jawline, and bridge of the nose, although it can also form on other parts of the body such as the neck and arms. This discoloration occurs when the color-making skin cells called melanocytes produce too much color. Although not exclusive, melasma is almost always found in women and typically in women between 20 and 50 years of age. While the exact causes of melasma are still undetermined, melasma is often connected to a change in hormones (such as pregnancy, or the use of birth control pills or hormone replacement medicine), but can also be associated with excessive sun exposure since UV light stimulates the skin cells to produce color.

How Can Microneedling Help?

Microneedling treatment uses more needles than traditional microneedling devices to pierce the skin and break the blood vessels just beneath the surface. Breaking these vessels causes an increased blood supply to the wound area where new collagen and healthy cells form, allowing your skin’s texture to improve and reducing the appearance of melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation.

Melasma is a skin condition characterized by brown or blue-gray patches or freckle-like spots. It’s often called the “mask of pregnancy.” Melasma happens because of overproduction of the cells that make the color of your skin. It is common, harmless and some treatments may help.

While not everyone sees microneedling as a home run for melasma, emerging research supports its success in hundreds of cases, across skin tones—attributing its efficacy, in large part, to the channels it creates in the skin. These carefully oriented punctures serve as tiny portals, allowing select lightening agents to seep into the skin’s deeper layers, which are impossible to reach with ordinary creams. But the benefits of microneedling don’t end there.

Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation that causes brown, tan, or grayish-brown patches to appear on the forehead, cheeks, jawline, and bridge of the nose, although it can also form on other parts of the body such as the neck and arms. This discoloration occurs when the color-making skin cells called melanocytes produce too much color. Although not exclusive, melasma is almost always found in women and typically in women between 20 and 50 years of age. While the exact causes of melasma are still undetermined, melasma is often connected to a change in hormones (such as pregnancy, or the use of birth control pills or hormone replacement medicine), but can also be associated with excessive sun exposure since UV light stimulates the skin cells to produce color.

How Can Microneedling Help?

Microneedling treatment uses more needles than traditional microneedling devices to pierce the skin and break the blood vessels just beneath the surface. Breaking these vessels causes an increased blood supply to the wound area where new collagen and healthy cells form, allowing your skin’s texture to improve and reducing the appearance of melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation.

Combine Your Microneedling Procedure to Enhance Results

While microneedling with the Collagen P.I.N. can significantly reduce the appearance of melasma, you may wish to consider combining your microneedling experience with a vitamin-infused facial or peel for further skin rejuvenation. Common companion procedures can include:

  • ENVIRON® Vitamin-Infused Facial uses vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidants to treat hyperpigmentation, which allows the skin to heal faster and provides the maximum stimulation of collagen.
  • HydraFacial® uses a combination of deep cleaning, microdermabrasion, exfoliation, and hydration to target brown spots.
  • ZO® 3-Step Peel™ treats melasma by blending retinol, exfoliants, and multi-action agents to rejuvenate the skin and allow the skin to repair itself.

Why Does Microneedling Help Our Skin?

Microneedling procedures can be split into two different types. One of these is where the microneedling itself is the only intervention, and the other is where the microneedling is then combined with the application of a topical medicine that penetrates through the newly created pores to the deeper layers of the skin. In the first of these types, the act of using the needles to penetrate the dermis has the beneficial effect of causing activation of cells called ‘fibroblasts’ that produce new collagen. As these cells produce collagen, the skin ends up looking fuller and visible wrinkles reduce.

In addition to the collagen-boosting activation of fibroblasts, the second type of microneedling treatment includes the opportunity for topical medications, such as skin lightening creams or anti-acne medications to use these pores to penetrate more easily into the skin than they would otherwise.

Why is Melasma so Difficult to Treat?

Melasma can stain the epidermis, or topmost layer of skin, as well as the deeper dermis—and oftentimes affects both. Melasma is perpetuated by both endogenous estrogen—our own innate supply, which waxes during pregnancy and wanes with menopause—as well as exogenous sources, like birth control pills and hormone therapy. While derms don’t meddle with inherent hormones, “we do try to suggest that women [with melasma] stop the Pill, if they can, and use alternate forms of contraception,” says Dr. Dover—though he notes, “we never stop it if someone needs it for endometriosis or another medical problem.” Working with patients’ gynecologists, they may transition melasma sufferers to a low-dose pill, or if safe and appropriate, wean them off external hormones completely in order to reduce the instigative effect on pigment production.

Equally unrelenting is the sun—which is why most derms won’t even attempt to treat melasma with anything other than sunscreen and prescription creams during the UV-intense summer months. “That’s fighting an uphill battle,” says Dr. Dover. “Five minutes in the sun can actually reverse a month of treatment.” Whether inside, outside, or in the car, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF is mandatory—as are hats with circumferential brims wide enough to shield melasma hot spots, like the forehead, upper lip, cheeks, and nose.

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