Melasma: What can make it worse?


Melasma can be simply, defined as a skin condition that causes brown or grey patches, mostly on the face and it’s triggered by excessive melanin production. Melasma is often linked to hormonal changes, sun exposure, or genetics.

Melasma can be identified by their irregular, symmetrical patches on the upper lip, forehead, or cheeks. Interventions to prevent and cure melasma are usually recommended if these patches persist despite your best efforts for sun protection, if the patches cause distress and if they do not respond to over-the-counter remedies for melasma.

The specialists you will want to see for melasma treatment include dermatologists and cosmetic doctors. A good provider will carefully assess your skin and the melasma itself to recommend the best treatment plan which may include chemical peels, topical medications and even laser therapy for severe cases.

This page was created for you if you have melasma and are worried about what might make it worse. Keep reading.


What Makes Melasma Worse?

To begin with, melasma itself isn’t dangerous. However, the patches it causes can be a little upsetting which best explains why many people get worried if their melasma seems to not improve and ask; why is my melasma getting worse? Here are a few possible explanations;

  • Sun Exposure: Sunlight plays a significant role in melasma development. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun stimulate melanocytes which may lead to increased pigmentation. Prolonged sun exposure without adequate protection can worsen existing melasma patches and contribute to their recurrence. To minimize this, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF. Also, wear wide-brimmed hats, and seek shade, especially during peak sunlight hours.
  • Hormonal Changes:Hormonal fluctuations, particularly during pregnancy or while taking birth control pills, can also trigger melasma in some individuals. Estrogen and progesterone influence melanin production. Pregnancy-related melasma, known as chloasma or the “mask of pregnancy,” often fades postpartum. However, hormone replacement therapy or contraceptives might trigger or worsen melasma.
  • Heat: Increased heat levels, whether from hot weather, saunas, or hot baths, can exacerbate melasma. Elevated temperatures stimulate melanocytes. Again, this may pave the way for heightened skin pigmentation. To manage this, avoid excessive heat exposure. And most importantly, opt for cool environments or lukewarm water when washing your face.
  • Certain Medications: There are also medications that may make your melasma worse or spread. Most notable examples include certain antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, and cosmetics which are formulated with fragrances or other irritants. These agents may trigger melasma or make it worse. If you suspect medication-induced melasma, consult your doctor for alternative options or adjustments.
  • Inflammatory Skin Conditions: Skin inflammation from conditions like acne or other dermatological issues can worsen melasma. Inflammation prompts melanocytes to produce more pigment and this too, may intensify melasma patches. With this in mind, if you’re living with an inflammatory skin issue, you will want to manage the underlying skin conditions and stick to a proper skincare routine and treatment to prevent your melasma from getting worse.
  • Chemical Irritants: Harsh skincare products, such as those containing abrasive exfoliants or certain chemicals, may aggravate melasma. Abrasive scrubs or aggressive chemical peels can irritate the skin, and lead to increased pigmentation. So for cleaning, opt for gentle, non-irritating skincare products. Also, avoid harsh treatments that may worsen melasma.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Genetic factors can contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to melasma. Those with a family history of melasma might be more prone to developing or experiencing worsened melasma patches. While genetic predisposition cannot be altered, understanding its influence can encourage proactive measures to manage other exacerbating factors effectively.

And when Should I See a Dermatologist for Melasma?

Melasma is a complicated skin condition so it isn’t easy to tell right away if you should see a dermatologist for the condition or not. To tell if it is time to see a dermatologist, you may want to monitor changes in your skin.

If the patches grow larger, become darker, or cause emotional distress, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for an assessment and guidelines on what to do next. You may also want to see a dermatologist for melasma if you’re pregnant or planning pregnancy as hormonal changes can exacerbate melasma.

The guidance from a dermatologist beforehand could just be what you need to manage and prevent potential flare-ups. The other instances to see a dermatologist for melasma include when you’ve tried conventional treatments without success.

Despite consistent use of over-the-counter remedies or sun protection, persistent patches may indicate the need for more specialized care. Dermatologists receive extensive training of the skin and conditions that affect it.

What’s more, they have access to various treatment options that could effectively manage stubborn or severe cases of melasma. So, seeking professional help early on is not only beneficial for tailored advice.

It can also help you get a personalized treatment plan. An experienced dermatologist can recommend specific skincare routines, topical medications, chemical peels, or laser therapies based on the severity and extent of melasma.

This approach increases the likelihood of achieving clearer skin and prevents the worsening of the condition. You will still want to maintain regular follow-ups with your dermatologist for proper monitoring of your skin’s response to treatment.

This will help with making adjustments to your treatment regimen if necessary. And since a dermatologist’s expertise is key for your treatment outcomes, see to it that you find a board-certified provider who you can count on for a thorough assessment and tailored melasma treatment plan.

It’s a Wrap!

Several things may trigger or worsen melasma and the list we’ve given on this page isn’t by any means conclusive. So if you already know what is making your melasma worse and it is within your control, the best course of action is to stop it.

If you’re dealing with a bad melasma which you do not know the triggers for, see a specialist doctor for a thorough assessment and a personalized melasma treatment plan. At One Face Clinic, we understand that everyone is different and treat each case individually.