If you have dark patches on your skin—particularly your face—you’ve likely heard the term “Melasma” before. While it’s true that melasma could be the reason for the brown patches on you skin, there are also many other skin conditions that could be to blame.
Before you attribute your dark patches to melasma, it’s important to educate yourself on the other types of skin discoloration that exist (e.g. melasma vs. hyperpigmentation, age spots, melasma vs. freckles, and melanoma, to name a few).
So, let’s compare the causes, appearance, and treatments for melasma with other types of skin discolouration.
What Is Melasma?
Melasma, sometimes called chloasma, is a skin condition that causes certain areas of your skin to become more pigmented than other areas, resulting in visible brown patches. It’s most common on the face, in areas such as the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead, chin, and upper lip, but it can also develop on your neck, arms, and other parts of your body if exposed to the sun.
What causes melasma? While it’s still under investigation, dermatologists believe it’s caused by hormones and exposure to sun, heat, or light, which can cause the skin’s melanocyte cells to produce more melanin in the skin.
Melasma tends to affect women more than men, especially pregnant women, which is why it has been nicknamed the “mask of pregnancy.” The condition can come and go on its own, which makes it difficult to predict when an outbreak will occur.
While melasma is not considered a serious health condition and does not cause any pain or discomfort, it can get worse in terms of appearance over time. Due to this, many people choose to have it treated with various laser treatments.
Melasma vs. Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation, which a broad term that refers to any darkening of the skin regardless of the cause, affects millions of people of all backgrounds each year.
Melasma, on the other hand, is a specific skin condition, which can sometimes be categorized as a type of hyperpigmentation.
One of main differences when it comes to melasma vs. hyperpigmentation is that hyperpigmentation is almost always caused by UV exposure, while melasma gets triggered by various other factors such as hormones, pregnancy, or genetics. Hyperpigmentation can also occur because of trauma to the skin, such as deep cuts, scrapes, acne, and eczema or psoriasis.
Hyperpigmentation can range in appearance from small patches of dark spots to large, more obvious areas of hyperpigmented skin. The condition manifests itself as random spots or patches on the face, neck, and other parts of the body. One of the most common types of hyperpigmentation is liver spots or age spots.
Meanwhile, melasma has a blotchy yet symmetrical appearance and it’s mostly present on the face.
When comparing melasma vs. hyperpigmentation, hyperpigmentation is a lot easier to treat than melasma.
Hyperpigmentation can be treated with over-the-counter and prescription forms of vitamin C, azelaic acid, and niacinamide, as well as with laser treatments.
Melasma vs. Freckles
Freckles manifest themselves as tiny, flat, and tan or light brown spots on your skin. Usually appearing in clusters, they are made up of skin cells that contain the pigment melanin.
Like melasma and hyperpigmentation, freckles are typically caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays or tanning lights. Sun exposure encourages the melanocytes to produce more melanin than normal, thus causing a build-up of melanin on your skin’s outer layer.
Freckles are more common in people with fairer skin, although anyone can get them, and they are usually genetic.
If you were to compare the appearance of melasma vs. freckles, you’d see that freckles are much smaller in size (3 mm in diameter) and do not have sharp edges. Melasma tends to appear in mask-like patches and has sharp-looking edges. Melasma is also much darker in appearance compared to freckles, which make it far more noticeable.
Freckles are usually more prominent in the summer, so they may disappear on their own in the winter months. Freckles that are genetic may also disappear with age.
Freckles are extremely common and should not be cause for alarm; however, some people may not like the appearance of these blemishes and would prefer to remove them. Freckles can be treated with laser treatments, topical creams that contain antioxidants, hydroquinone, or retinoid.
Melasma vs. Melanoma
Unlike melasma or the other skin conditions on this list, melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It develops in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin. Melanoma is uncommon, but it’s extremely dangerous, especially if it spreads to other parts of the body.
What causes melanoma? It occurs when something goes wrong in the melanocytes—the cells that give your skin its colour. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as environmental and genetic causes, but UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds is still the number one culprit behind melanoma.
Now to the appearance component of our melasma vs. melanoma comparison. With melanoma, an existing mole (a small, dark brown, and raised spot that is caused by clusters of pigmented cells) begins to change in shape, size, colour, or sensitivity. This form of cancer can also appear in new, abnormal moles. Typically, moles that can be classified as melanoma will have an uneven shape or unique colour, tend to change in shape and texture, and/or will bleed.
Unlike melasma, where the skin discolouration is flat and can come and go, melanoma appears in the form of raised moles.
The treatments for melanoma vs. melasma differ significantly.
While melasma can be left untreated or addressed with laser sessions, melanoma has to be handled by your medical physician or dermatologist. Treatment for early-stage melanoma usually involves surgery to remove the melanoma. Depending on how thick it is, you may also need to have some of the surrounding skin removed to ensure the cancer is gone. If the melanoma is in a later stage, it may be treated with biological therapy, radiation, or chemotherapy.
Anti Aging Toronto Clinic Provides Melasma Treatment
If you’ve been searching for a way to reduce or remove the appearance of melasma, hyperpigmentation, or freckles on your skin, the Anti Aging Toronto Clinic can help.
One of the most popular and effective methods we use to remove skin discolouration such as Melasma is the Carbon Spectra Peel treatment. We support our clients in being able to make informed decisions about how to pursue solutions for Melasma and other skin complications, and we are proud to employ some of the best treatments and practitioners in Toronto.