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Top Treatment Options for Melasma and Brown Spots

Even the most minor irregularity or change in your skin can strike a major blow to your self-esteem. Melasma is no exception. This skin condition which most commonly affects women results in dark, discolored splotches on the skin, primarily on the face. Fortunately, melasma does not pose a threat to one’s physical health, though it can affect one’s mental and emotional health. So, if you suffer from melasma, you probably want to resolve the problem as soon as possible. Let’s discuss the top skin treatments for melasma and brown spots.

What Causes Melasma?

First, it’s worth noting what causes melasma in the first place. While researchers are still looking for a definitive root cause/mechanism for this skin condition, it seems to occur when the skin’s melanocytes (which produce color) become hyperactive. As for what triggers this reaction, dermatologists attribute the problem to excessive sun exposure (UV radiation), hormonal changes (which is why pregnant women are at greater risk of melasma), and/or the application of certain skincare products (which can worsen existing melasma).

How to Treat Melasma and Other Pigmentation Issues

Melasma may go away on its own, especially if hormones are the primary trigger. Many pregnant women who struggle with melasma during their pregnancy often notice symptoms gradually disappear after giving birth. Similarly, melasma triggered by birth control medication might subside if the patient stops taking it. That said, melasma does not always dissipate on its own. For these individuals (including women who wish to continue their birth control regimen), there are several treatment options available.


This topical medication may come in liquid, gel, cream, or lotion form and is applied to the affected skin on a regular basis (as instructed). Its primary function is to lighten the skin, which in turn can help reduce the prominence of brown spots and discoloration. Products containing hydroquinone can be purchased over the counter, but they are more diluted and less effective than prescription-strength options.


Tretinoin is primarily used to treat acne and sun damaged skin, but this retinoic acid can also help mitigate changes in skin pigment. If UV radiation seems to be the main factor causing your melasma, products containing tretinoin can prove effective. In many cases, dermatologists will prescribe both hydroquinone and tretinoin (or products containing both) to treat a patient’s melasma.


For more stubborn cases of melasma, doctors may combine corticosteroids with other treatment methods (such as hydroquinone and tretinoin). Topical corticosteroids can aid in decreased epidermal turnover, which can result in mild depigmentation. These effects are increased when corticosteroids are used in concert with the two previous treatments (triple cream).

Azelaic Acid/Kojic Acid

These acids can also play a role in brightening skin tone overall and mitigating melasma symptoms. Both azelaic and kojic acid can often be found in various topical melasma treatments, along with Vitamin C and other compounds.

In addition to the topical treatments outlined above, various cosmetic dermatology procedures can also treat melasma and other forms of skin discoloration. These include:

Chemical Peel — these acid-based peels remove the top layer of skin, helping to fade brown spots/uneven skin tone and promoting younger, fresher, brighter skin overall.

Microdermabrasion — this procedure also removes the outermost layers of skin but via a physical process of “sanding” the skin with an abrasive tool, which stimulates new skin cell growth and collagen production.

Laser Therapies — lasers like Fraxel essentially vaporize unwanted melanin and lighten skin pigment, as well as reduce wrinkles, scarring, age spots and more.

Regular Sunscreen Use — this is more of a preventative measure than a treatment, but wearing sunscreen and avoiding prolonged sun exposure can prevent you from developing melasma and keep it from getting worse.

Melancholy About Your Melasma?

Melasma can be mentally draining, but the good news is that you can do something about it. Some of the treatments/procedures listed here might be more or less effective depending on your skin type and medical history, so the experts at Premier Dermatology Partners can help you find the most effective method for mitigating your melasma. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.

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