Sun Spots

Close-up portrait of young Caucasian female's face.

What’s the difference between Melasma and Sun Damage?

Do you struggle with brown spots on your face?  Are you tired of trying to cover them with makeup? If you’re wondering what they are and what you need to do to get rid of them, then this page is very important for you to read.  Two conditions, melasma and sun damage, are often confused with one another because they look a lot alike.  However, understanding each and distinguishing which one you have is critical because each has a different underlying cause and therefore, very different treatment.  Let’s go over the melasma first.

Melasma causes facial discoloration of varying shades of brown. It can affect either men or women, but usually affects women much more.  The reason melasma happens is that people with it have pigment-making cells (melanocytes) that are overly sensitive to hormonal changes.  The melanocytes make way too much pigment (melanin) causing the brown spots to form in response to normal hormonal changes such as pregnancy, menopause and oral birth control pills.  Because of this, melasma is considered a chronic skin condition that has no cure.

Melasma treatment is aimed at slowing down this excess melanin production. Over time with treatment, the brown spots will fade and continued treatment is often needed to keep new ones from popping up.  Melasma gets tricky to treat because the melanin can be located either in the top layers of the skin (the epidermis), down deep (the dermis) or a combination of both.  Melanin that is closer to the surface usually is easier to fade than the deeper kind.

On the other hand, sun damage or sun spots (solar lentigines, seborrheic keratosis, freckles, liver spots) are brown spots that are either on or very near the surface of the skin which makes them a lot easier to treat.  Usually a few treatments to any one area are necessary to get the brown spot to fade completely. But once it’s gone, it’s gone for good, and new, healthy, normally colored skin takes its place.

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